The Thunder of World History

As you grit your teeth and bear down in these the last hours before Tax Day, remember this: Taxes, according to Joseph Schumpeter, are “the thunder of world history.”

The spirit of a people, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare, all this and more is written in its fiscal history, stripped of all phrases. He who knows how to listen to its message here discerns the thunder of world history.


  1. Ken April 17, 2012 at 1:32 am | #

    Speaking of Austrian theorists … do you still plan on leading a reading of Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty?

    • Corey Robin April 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm | #

      Yes! Just been slowed down by various things. I’m hoping to start it now in the summer/June-ish. Corey

  2. Foppe April 18, 2012 at 9:02 am | #

    Apropos of just having read your book: do you have any have any thoughts on what the liberal analogue of the private life of power is? The idea of living in a meritocratic world?

    Secondly, I was wondering if you’ve ever read David Graeber’s essay “Manners, deference, and private property” (1997) (and if not I’d like to take the liberty of pointing you towards it by asking this question here), because it seems to me interestingly complementary to your argument in the book.

    thanks, in any case, for writing it. found reading it quite worthwhile.

    • Corey Robin April 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm | #

      I haven’t written much on liberalism and the private life of power. In my first book, I noted that certain liberal notions of the private sphere certainly reinforce and support this private life of power. But that is very much a contested position within liberalism, and a good deal of late 19th/20th century liberalism, beginning with Dewey here and people like T.H. Green and Bernard Bosanquet in Britain, were trying to break down some of these barriers. Also, if you take someone like John Rawls as the epitome of American liberalism, he wasn’t much for meritocracy. So it’s tricky. Haven’t read the Graeber piece.

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