Friday, July 8, 2011
Potshots At Economics: Take One
A frequent and probably very accurate (depending on your hierarchy of values, your own axiology), criticism of capitalism is that it very conveniently and rationalistically disregards little things such as basic human rights, the environment, and common notions about social justice and egalitarianism. Some remarkable and magical Invisible Hand is supposed to make corrections when Things Get Bad; you need to look out for yourself, maximize your own utility...that's what The Market "wants." As if this system were a machine put in place by some Deity, and sure, it's messy, but really, if you take the time to open up the back and look at the marvelous little wheels and gears and meshwork...it's like a wonderfully complex clock!
This beautiful notion almost seems like a religion, so let us now bow our heads and pray for that Immaculate Clockwork Market-Land World to not bust another spring. Amen.
Aye, it's still the best system ever invented and/or handed down to us by the gods.
Except it isn't. Anyone: please show me how this isn't a fairy tale for rich people and those others gullible enough to fall for it.
I'm like Marx in a way: he was blown away-impressed by what the bourgeoisie were able to accomplish with their capital and their technology. But he wasn't fooled that, by 1870 or so, it was the end of history, that now we'd found the One True Way to bootstrap ourselves - the entire human race - into a capitalist paradise.
I'm pro-capitalism and pro-socialism. And pro-a lot of other ideas. In Unistat that's unthinkable. It's also, apparently unthinkable to know anything about the economy of Northern European countries if you're a Unistat citizen.
"There may even be several economic solutions to any problem." - the Mad Poet Ezra Pound.
As an Overweening Generalist, I not only study economics by looking at the environment, other people's misery, basic human rights and social justice, I cannot study economics without also studying history, sociology, anthropology, science and technology, philosophy, poets and poetry, "political science," and media ecology. And psychology!, which has surprised many of us by shedding laser-like light on the Dismal Science, and even seems to be getting at an experimentum crucis that may blow the "free-market" bullshit out of the water. (If only we had a decent media that would talk about it. Who reads?)
"[...] the 'hand' that determines supply and demand, cost and price, is neither invisible nor fully visible, but located in a shadowy world in-between, what Fernand Braudel calls the 'opaque zones' of capitalism." - That's Immanuel Wallerstein on p.36 of his book Utopistics. He's talking about the degree to which capitalists can control production, costs, prices...and therefore profits.
I don't understand the furious clinging to ideologies that no one seems to truly understand, except that it's probably based in a deep-seated fear of The Other. And possibly, deeper than that: if you're not destitute, a change probably means things will get worse for me/you, so let's not do anything, anything at all, that will make those little pieces of paper that mean the difference between paying the rent and being homeless and in the street, subject to a mean game of predator/prey. Too horrible to think about. Let us not understand, and maybe it will all get better, we'll play the lottery and one day win and the constant anxiety over having enough pieces of paper will be over!
It seems to me that before we "re-think" our economic assumptions we must "un-think" a lot of truly bad ideas we've accepted, seemingly with mother's milk. There are very deep-seated notions about "reality" that the physical sciences have demonstrated to be clearly wrong, but we cling to them, for some reason. This leads us epistemologically astray. The sun does not "go down." The notion of "up" is only relevant given our own inertial frame, and so on.
But, not given much press, social sciences have shown that Invisible Hand economics is wrong in just about every way also. I will elaborate in a series of posts henceforth. I will try not to be angry and instead use humor. Or failing that, sarcasm. Possibly satire, that blasted art? Economics is politics is personal is...a set-up for frustration. As a FFUI, I still have a POV, and I don't think I'm "right;" I merely will say what I think. I think it's high-time we got together to un-think some ideas so that we can re-think better ones. It will be from the point of view of the relatively unattached free-floating intellectual, an overweening generalist.
"Leafing through Forbes or Fortune is like reading the operating manual of a strangely sanctimonious pirate ship." - Adam Gopnik