Economics and politics turn nearly everyone off,including most who allege to study the subjects as students. I can barely stand the stuff as a long-term adherent as a teacher and researcher – though a few classes make the material come alive, nearly all mature students. The positive side of this is that most of us really want a world without the muck, in which we can just get on with our interests, friends and families. This really ought to be the aim of politicians and those involved in the gears of economics. Sadly, they are even more self-interested than the rest of us!
One question I set in attempts to make the subject interesting to those signed up for the qualifications on offer from universities concerns turning arguments on their head. This is it – ‘Winston Churchill was an American plant in the British political system and bag man for JP Morgan. Investigate and discuss’.
I have no idea whether this is true. No more so than Robert Harris’ novel on Blair as CIA (watch the film). Truth is not directly the issue. The idea is that there are no sacred cows in thought and that “evidence” can be adduced for almost any point of view, and that all taken for granted (Churchill was a great man etc.) locks us into certain kinds of thinking. If one travels to the Middle East, for instance, one finds the Crusades alive and not well in thinking there about the West. One also discovers they think of suicide bombers as ‘their F-16s’ and so on,.
Deeper in anthropology of discovers tribes who deny male parentage (instead it comes via ‘ghosts’ from maternal brothers), who conduct actively hostile ‘manners’ and expect them from others – the list of ‘not like us’ is almost endless. In history, one can find convincing accounts that WW1 did not start as the result of the assassination of a minor Balkan dignitary but with a British ‘invasion’ of Iraq in 1913 – and so on. Science can be told as a story of stripping away the Idols (Bacon) of society,
The idea is to get away from what Conrad Waddington called COWDUNG – the conventional wisdom of dominant groups in his book ‘Tools For Thought’. Many don’t like disruptive thought much and immediately conclude I support suicide bombers and the like. In fact, the more one looks into such matters, the worse one finds.
It’s safer, of course, to teach economics as business textbooks report it (falsely) and through sums using cut down versions of its elaborate spreadsheets and techniques like Gaussian copula. Few can hack this, lacking numeracy let alone maths; but one can set them sums they can do with practice on worked examples. One can teach science in much the same way – and more successfully as there is a real base and a technical education to be had. I don’t believe this of any business education.
Science is still promoted as “value-free” – a total nonsense. This matters little in science itself (at least to start with), but it’s the crucial flaw in the non-scientific disciplines claiming to be scientific like economics, psychology, sociology and so on. I’d say a criminal lack of morality,masked by political correctness is at the heart of these. Science is actually replete with values, including the notion that truth matters, however much our theories may change in following the evidence. It’s trite to say this hardly matters to our politicians.
Bacon’s Idols are neglected today, perhaps because he got induction wrong, but mostly because they demand something moral from us and his writing is dross. There were about eleven of the Idols and four main ones. I take his basic assertion as being about having to stand up against the Idols – a moral stance. Our politics and day-to-day are still riddled by them. I see them as modern ‘instruments of torture’. One no longer needs the kind of ‘guest showing’ given to Galileo by the vile Roman Catholic Church. These days we would demolish any such obvious show – or more likely turn the site into a tourist museum. Today is all about ‘stealth effects’ through governance of the soul.
In modern terms, Bacon’s Idols translate to:
1. Crap soaked up in your family (the Idol of the cave)
2. Crap soaked-up in your culture (the Idol of the tribe)
3. Crap around in public life and other gossip (the Idol of the marketplace)
4. Crap taught in education (the Idol of the theatre).
I use the term ‘crap’ technically – these matters sting my morality and I don’t seek to deny that – later I will argue that ‘manners’ are a fifth Idol – one well discussed in sociology (e.g. ‘face-work’ in Goffman and ‘manners’ in Elias). I suspect our whole notion of argumentation-in-public is screwed by hiding more than is said in its messages.
You may, like me, find the practice of rearing suicide bombers (sometimes from birth) utterly disgusting. Nothing wrong with that – though what of the people who accept this as a necessity in a world they see as dominated by western interests. Is it right to dismiss them as evil without hearing their story and understanding it in their terms? I’ve met some, am not convinced of any virtue in suicide bombing, but also know most of them were ordinary Joes like me (harder to meet the women though I have) who live in the personal conflict of wanting peace and dignity,
One of my mates, prepared to show me around his culture (in which martyrs are revered) because I wasn’t sensed as a crusader, described the vile despots running Bahrain as ‘eating the people from the inside’ and that ‘soon they would be through to the skin’. With a population the size of Bolton and Bury this country has leaders with personal wealth so vast that that of two men (King and Prime Minister) shared would make each individual a millionaire. Bahrainis mostly live poor. I found that many of my students has recently been subject to imprisonment and torture in a land that claims no crime and to have no jail (it’s a huge white-walled thing nears Jaws). Fakilaki and ‘wasta’ were everywhere – typical of the Middle East, including Greece. Suicide bombing is crap, but this didn’t stop me feeling I have more in common with these people than their King or the monsters of American Psycho running Wall Street – and apparently British foreign policy.
Our teaching is not based on truth or trying to find out what the truth is. The truth is that there is no technocracy because no human activity outside some science (definitely not all of it) and this claim is a lie. It’s based in another lie – that of science as “value-free” – a lie I suspect told to free science from religious intolerance. What could be less value-free than the pursuit of truth in the face of blinding intolerance and the corruption of organised religion and its instruments of torture?
Our own economics is now being revealed as “Bahraini”. We have been just slower on the uptake than my unteachable Bahraini friends. Many of them wanted something from pure Islam and could only see western business teaching as puerile. It was something of a shock to find that I largely agreed – despite my entrenched atheism (their Islam was mostly about a fellowship and solidarity I do understand, even if I don’t like the homosocial society).
I don’t hold with terrorism or using suicide bombers – yet we should remember the days of the Red Brigade and its splinter groups are not that distant and our society is much less equal and fair than it was 30 years ago. I fear what is coming. And I fear it’s coming because we have no economics, only paid justification of organised crime similar to that in Bahrain and other parts of the Middle East I’ve traveled that were broadly much worse.
A fortune has been spent on “education” across the oil-rich countries of the Middle East (they don’t all have oil) – nearly all to no effect (see the UN HDR). We too have been “educating” ourselves to serfdom. People could expect better paying jobs in the 30 years after WW2 than now without all the school and university muck. I think what’s been going on is the creation of “Chinese bureaucracy” and an immoralising of our people. The enemies of open society are in ascendance.
I value the person who tries, in virtue of knowledge of her own fallibility, to sort right from wrong, ahead of someone who can do the maths or rhetoric of technocracy. This doesn’t leave me with many to value! No, not really – there were plenty in Bahrain and still enough down the pub. Yet in more ‘public’ life I doubt anyone is left. The farce in Cardiff of a trial of former police officers over what started as a murder 23 years ago is an example. We have no clue what the former officers are supposed to have done, only that justice has become a farce. We are in wars we can’t explain. “Economics” tips all the money into the pots of a super-rich few and their entourages of functionaries and we are heading to “Chinese serf” wages and conditions of employment. I’m not teaching the mathematics of this for a living. I’d rather die. Easier to say at 60 than 30.
In Britain we now have a sump-class of “families” living on benefits and through dismal-level crime. If you get this scum next door you are doomed. They are worse than Gadget describes, though hesheorit gets what’s going on wrong, as indeed most of us are, These people are not being policed in any way that protects us from them, or is likely to reform them. This would need Gadgittos to tell the truth to power and they are only as unconrrupt in this as in prioritising the next mortgage-serf payment. To raise the idea of teaching a moral economics would be a similar move to telling the truth about the fate of decent people faced with trouble from sump-scum by police officers. We are sunk in the corruption as mortgage-serfs. Some rationalise it away like Gadget, others suffer.
I believe we might start regarding the sumpees like subsistence farmers in Africa. Many of these Africans only grow enough for themselves because their crops are subject to grand-scale thieving by “government” (those with guns) and the land is thus under-utilised (aid plays a significant roles too, as does crop dumping from the EU and elsewhere). Our sumpees don’t even have land, so they follow a way of life as easy as possible and their labour would be effectively stolen from them if they worked. I mean to give them no pride. This view may be as ridiculous as Churchill as a JP Morgan bag man.
We are constantly being told there is no money to do anything in public services – though this is a strange statement when one thinks about all the … er … money being wasted on the banks. Do you know how much? Of course, you don’t – now let me ask you what you think about gutter-scum welfare sponsored criminals again and why you hate them more than banksters and the crooks running the show! I’m sick of both sets of crooks, but one set knows what it’s doing and the other doesn’t. One lot costs us in millions, the other in trillions.
Ambush Predator carries some stories on the hapless bottom today – and there are many more around the Net talking about the serious crime. Most people I meet just don’t get what it means to have gutter scum moved into your street, let alone next door. You discover police and the courts don’t work, your local representatives and MP are scum and you have to take matters into your own hands or move (my MP more less threatened that we should). The authorities are worse than the problem. And I believe economics and politics is this bad and about to make us all serfs. I’d say it’s nearly as bad as the time of the Nazis and we can’t see why – just as they couldn’t then. What we refer to as the Depression only got called that later – so what are we in now?
The plan we need is one of a world of straight finance without money making money with no labour value. They are stealing your money through inflation as I speak but you don’t know. They come as if in the night like rats to the corn store.