When George Bernard Shaw decided to devote himself to the destruction of civilization (or, as he would have preferred to call it, the cause of socialism), he spent years studying political economy. As Chesterton put it in a book devoted to his longtime friend,
Here was a man who could have enjoyed art among the artists, who could have been the wittiest of the flaneurs; who could have made epigrams like diamonds and drunk music like wine. He has instead labored in a mill of statistics and crammed his mind with all the most dreary and the most filthy details . . .
Northcote Parkinson, who cites the passage in Left Luggage (appropriately subtitled A Caustic History of British Socialism From Marx to Wilson), concludes that, of all the British socialists since William Morris, Shaw was the only one with a gift to squander, the only one to have made “a tremendous sacrifice on the altar of socialism.”
There is another, less subtle conclusion to be drawn. Imagine, a man of Shaw’s brilliance and erudition, grinding away at thousands of passages of drab social statistics, year after year—and what is the result? The socialist platform of the British Labour Party. A child or, better yet, a libertarian could have told him he was wasting his time. Get off on the wrong foot (the left), and you can never get back to the right...