Paul Krugman refers to Looking Back on the Spanish War in a post about Republican attempts to re-write the history of the financial crisis. I hadn’t read this essay before, but have just read the whole thing.

One thing that jumped out at me was this:

Could you feel friendly towards somebody, and stick up for him in a quarrel, after you had been ignominiously searched in his presence for property you were supposed to have stolen from him? No, you couldn’t; but you might if you had both been through some emotionally widening experience. 

“Emotionally widening experience.” I like that expression. The value of such experiences is generally underrated, but it is high. That is why I always advise young students to take gap years, for example. Time devoted to doing something emotionally-widening is time well spent.

Is trading emotionally widening or emotionally narrowing? In many ways it is narrowing: it does not bring you into contact with many other people, or different types of people, and the constant experience of taking your own view and backing it with your own money inevitably has a psychological effect: it makes you less open to other people and other points of view. I suppose it is widening in other ways, but I haven’t given much thought to them.

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