I know you guys don’t do economics. I found it miserable at school, taught by a bastard called ‘Happy’ who spent his time preening pretty girls, before running off with one. What put me off was it was so evidently a crock with numbers. I switched to another real science subject. Finding myself remaindered to teaching and researching management baloney , I got interested in why it was all so dire. The link above is to a fairly short piece of ‘economic deconstruction’ by the admirable Yves Smith (who could run away with me at 17 anytime).
Economics is actually religious rather than scientific. It’s run by priests who describe their work in ‘Latin’ to the god only they can communicate with, and its scriptures start with Adam Smith, Yves Smith is just one of many commentators challenging some of the principle tenets of the subject. The particular one around at the moment is the emergence of money from barter systems. There is no evidence of this, rather the contrary. Given economics is religious, it’s heresy to believe the evidence.
I don’t know how ‘non-economic’ any particular person is. I don’t do the religion myself,other than as a vampire hunter might learn about vampires. That a rich-political-economic class exists and sucks our blood, seems to follow from the evidence. Most people I meet can’t do economic argument, including most I’ve played some role in graduating. Intercourse the elasticity of supply and demand does justice to this particular penguin. Real masters of the subject, like Growling-balls Brown and Sniffer Osbourne sell gold just as the price is about to go exponential or cut public spending just when we need it most.
Trying to get a realistic public dialogue on economics is impossible, It’s like trying to develop chemistry from alchemy. It doesn’t even merit its sobriquet as ‘the dismal science’. It works by boring you to death and exploiting your ignorance.
Imagine you play cards for money and find the same bunch of people always win. I’d recommend you stop playing cards as a first rule (if I didn’t whip out a pack and rip you off myself). But let’s say you don’t feel you’ve been playing the people better at cards than you and this is true. We do an investigation and find marked cards and spot some of the players secretly swapping cards. We all know what this is.
Economics needs a similar police-detective style unmasking. I’d prefer to make the enquiry scientific, but I’m sure not enough people understand science and how it treats evidence. More than this, science can’t kick down the necessary doors to get at the fraud. What’s going on is organised crime, as those posing as ‘cops’ in the system are bent.
The first evidence in front of us is the rich, the people supposedly playing the same game as the rest of us who end up with nearly all the winnings. Just like card-sharps, they claim just to be better players than us or blessed with luck. I play bridge for money, I don’t cheat and rarely lose -some of us do play better than others. When I play in rubbers with only expert players i barely hold my own. Some are much better than me – though these players still screw up playing with novice partners, assuming competence that isn’t there.
The presence of these regular winners in our society needs investigation. A big block to such investigation is the ideology of meritocracy, though this has to be understood in our general state of ignorance. If we think of the world’s wealth as ‘jewels’ that arise from human toil, we’d find hoards of these jewels amongst the rich. If we’d been receiving, as cops, complaints about jewel thieving, we’d suspect the rich because they have the hoards of jewels. This is the actual economic situation. You can check this out at ONS, Wikkipedia or any source.
The rich may claim to have their own secret ‘jewel making machines’ or to have come across their wealth by fair means – just as the looter will tell you the plasma televisions stacked in a spare bedroom ‘fell off the back of a lorry’. I’m not trying to get you to think of all the rich as thieves – just to apply ‘police suspicion’. If you are family, friend or neighbour of a murder victim, you are a suspect on statistical grounds I did this to many people. It’s fraught with dangers, not least in skewing evidence to fit your suspicion. One reason we should treat miscarriages of justice much more openly is that they could teach us a great deal about our general incompetence and lack of understanding of evidence in all circles.
To follow my argument you need to know more about the rich and their wealth to understand the ‘jewel’ metaphor, but also what you take for granted about life so that this doesn’t cloud your thinking. This latter is very difficult. More on the ‘jewel thieving’ in part two – the dog is pining for a walk.
I should point out David Graeber has just commented that Yves Smith didn’t write the post at the link (her blog), so we can presume he did. I managed to miss David when I was a university academic swamped with teaching. His books are well worth a read and you can get a good glimpse at Amazon. The latest, ‘Debt: the first 5000 years’, is not only superb on its topic, but gets at the issues of thinking ‘history in the present’.