You’ve heard the mantra “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” I think it’s a federal requirement that this quote be repeated at the beginning of every history class everywhere. It’s like the thesis statement of history. This is held up as the reason to study history. I happen to disagree though. I think there’s a far more important and practical reason to study history and that is that you cannot understand where you are today, unless you understand how you got here and where you came from. History informs the present. Unless we know history accurately, we do not know the present accurately. This is why Orwell said, “He who controls the past controls the present. He who controls the present controls the past.”
There is so much out there today that either blatantly ignores history or is trying to rewrite it. I found another example today. This is just one of a million different entries in the file of “Capitalism caused our current crises and has been proven false.”
This article is mostly discussing the fact that Goldman Sachs is not going to be prosecuted for their misdeeds because apparently they didn’t break any laws. That’s not quite what I want to focus on. Rather, toward the end of the article, the author includes a quote from President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address:
In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior. It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag … We’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.