Books Economics - General

Darkness at Noon

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler is a unique novel which describes the imprisonment of Communist revolutionary Nicholas Rubashov. Rubashov was a loyal supporter of the Communist cause in Russia, but his subsequent imprisonment on bogus charges causes him to reflect on whether his fight to bring Communism to Russia was truly beneficial to Russian society. The book demonstrates how Communist idealist notions became perversions as Stalin took power and instituted a cruel dictatorship.

One of the main themes of the book is that philosophical generalizations and abstract ideals often lead to disastrous results when they are applied without regard to individual circumstance. As Ferdinand Lassalle once said:

‘Show us not the aim without the way./ For ends and means on earth are so entangled/ That changing one, you change the other too;/ Each different path brings other ends in view.’

One passage from the book may be particular applicable to economists whose solutions to mathematical problems may not prove to be fruitful in the ‘real-world’.

‘A mathematician once said that algebra was the science for lazy people–one does not work out x, but operates with it as if one knew it. In our case, x stands for the anonymous mases, the people. Politics mean operating with the x without worrying about its actual natures. Making history is to recognize x for what it stands for in the equation.’