I’m off to the land of milk and honey in a couple of months. That’s the US of A – the place where those participating in a recent Gallup poll showed the highest level of confidence in an economic recovery in a year. This is in a country with nearly 13 million unemployed, 46 million people on food stamps and with roughly 29% of the country’s homeowners whose mortgages are under water. They might find it hard to subscribe to the poll’s sunny conclusion.
On the other hand, there’s no getting away from a bevy of seemingly increasingly favourable economic data, which, more recently, includes falling weekly jobless claims, four consecutive monthly gains in the leading economic indicators, somewhat perkier retail sales and a pickup in housing starts and business permits. President Obama has to be elated at this widely perceived peppier economy. His approval ratings are on the rise.
I’ve long since given up on any of this shit. Sure the Dow Jones has hit 13,000, the footsie may be at whatever – but is there a factory job done the road? Is there fuck! I now believe this economic muck is as real as police crime figures. There are some factory jobs in Bulgaria, where the Chinese are finding it cheaper to build cars than at home (really – there are – you likely to be getting your Tebbit-cycle out?).
The numbers now make no sense at all. It looks like share prices are higher – but the money chasing them has been inflated to god knows what in the bank bailouts – and these continue with European banks now able to seize gold deposits from the people. Greece is no longer a nation.
I’ve just ploughed through several EU reports on Greece. I could barely read the muck, full of vile language that pretends Greece will bounce back after its flogging. It reads like the kind of drivel on ‘transition economics’ that the World Bank peddled in Eastern Europe after wallfall. One particular bit of that started with the promise transition would take only 500 days, later reduced to 100. The Wall fell in 1989 and transition might just about be at an end of its beginning and coinciding with the collapse of the myth of the land of milk and honey (democratic capitalism). That’s that democratic capitalism – the stuff loons with Japanese names that sound like fuck you over told us had triumphed so securely history itself was at an end!
What we are in the middle of here is a mad playing out of the Emperor’s New Clothes in a peculiar state in which there are no children around to point out we are all pissing about freezing our bollocks off in naked frenzy. Even the dullest can sat that economics is a crock of shit. The trouble is, it is and anyone who says this can be treated as in idiot. It now seems the ‘faster than light neutrinos’ are down to faulty wiring at CERN (or travelling even faster due to a GPS error). The problem with economics is that it’s all based on a system with faulty wiring and didn’t bother to train any electricians.
It’s often said we vote on the economy. This is clearly a crock given most voters aren’t even numerate. We might be voting for bread and circuses. I’m giving up my right to vote – it hasn’t worked in 40 years and the only protest now is to make it as plain as I can it is worth less than nothing. Our lives are not any freer than those of most in the dictatorships I’ve worked in. I visit a US institution soon that has an alumni fund I know is responsible for evicting African farmers from land bought through a London hedge-come-vulture fund. Some of these people died. Thoughts of my Scottish ancestors who were victims of the Enclosures lay heavily with me taking lecture fees on this one. At least when I taught in the old Soviet Block I was a subversive! In Bahrain I was expected not to mention the funding of its royals (people already knew – the phrase was ‘being eaten from the inside’). What am I not expected to say in the USA? In the UK one is expected to teach economics with no mention of banking theft or that the country is one big offshore tax haven. The difference lies only in likelihood of arrest. Everywhere one loses the next gig and is left to make a niche living on the Samizdat trail.
The truth to tell is hideous, but this is not the problem in-itself. One is in the position of telling a bunch of religious zealots their god doesn’t exist. The truth is everything we have done in economics was a cover for much more basic human activity. Sure, we can point out, like Steve Keen, that the dominant model neglected debt – but even this necessary task neglects the pathetic and vile nature of human condition under high-level theory. Karl Popper got somewhere with this in recognising the theory becomes an excuse for everything. Disagree with the Marxists and you are in false-consciousness; with the Freudians and you’re in denial; with religionists deny god and you can’t have any morality; as a Nazi one must steel oneself and do utterly vile things to the weak, disabled and non-believers in order to be a good Nazi; as a Wahabi terrorist you end up killing Muslims because they aren’t pure as you are and thus not Muslim. In the West, what we haven’t done is recognise what our vile ideology actually is. The question is what has happened on our watch, good and bad, and must in any sane view, have been caused (admittedly this is complex causation) in our name. Instead we have excuses as vapid as that of an Italian captain accidentally falling into a life boat long before the passengers he was responsible for had been made as safe as possible. One is not telling truth to power. One is telling people they have been conned and that they have conflated their identity and individuality with the soaking up of a lying world-view, that what they thought were their normal lives are lies. Some are not so dumb as not to know this; yet even most of those who know, know too they claimed to themselves they were hopeless to do anything about it. One has to keep the wolf from the door afterall and all the rest a mortgage slave will say to keep the idea of responsibility away. The CEO, safe with his years of mega-bonuses taken for all the ‘hard work’, ‘genius’ and ‘being in control’, now knows fuck all about what his company was doing, now the Enron-fraud is outed. My grandson will play with his i-Phone toy (it’s a real one, but less face it they are toys) with no ‘responsibility’ for Apple’s vile manufacturing practices. I don’t wish the guilt on the lad – but the issue is that we have brought massive and unnecessary suffering because we can displace responsibility to “theory” – as surely as any suicide bomber.
These words, sadly, contain the seeds of yet another high-level theory, another grand-narrative we need to remain incredulous towards. Human beings in history have preferred to kill each other and die in droves rather than suffer this Kantian sublimation! I will no doubt take my American fees. The only plan I have is to be retired abroad when the trouble really starts.