Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Feeling the itch just a bit

I find myself feeling the itch to rant just a little bit about what is wrong with economics.

I don't mean the High Theory of salt water v fresh water, or the academic politics of orthodoxy v. heterodoxy.  (Much of that is wrong factually and morally, though I just don't care.)

I mean to find fault with the intuitions of "Econ 101", that all-too-familiar rhetorical framework used in the Media and in political shout-fests about political issues plaguing our "market economy" and as the foundations for neoliberal "there is no alternative" (TINA) preaching.

I created this blog in a brief but ephemeral moment when I was particularly incensed by the way I see people on the internets continually getting sucked into the same fruitless cant-filled "debates".

"Just stop!" I want to say.  "Be quiet for a while, and then try to say something real."

I am not sure that I, myself, have anything "real" to say, beyond the imperative, "Stop!"  But, maybe, I can usefully explain why "Stop" is the right thing to do.

To summarize, many of the meaningless conventions and clichés of economics that we repeat endlessly and which we use to engage in conventional discourse on political issues that turn on economics -- well, those meaningless conventions are meaningless.  That's my whole point in a nutshell.  (cliché)

Using the conventional frameworks and vocabulary of economics, aka Econ 101, doesn't so much connect you with the genuine expertise and deep thinking of the academic profession of economics as it simply neuters your politics with meaninglessness.

So, what is such a convention?  You want an example.  Well, "market economy".  That's a convention.  It is also a Big Lie, a propaganda technique.  As soon as you utter this conventional phrase, your economics IQ plummets into double-digits and there's really no coming back into the realm of normal adult functioning.

A market is a possible economic institution and relation.  You go out to a market and exchange with others on a basis of rough legal equality and to mutual benefit by bidding price and quantity, transacting freely with those willing to agree to transact in accord with a proposed bargain.  Grand really.  But, not the way we live and work.  Not anything like the truth about the way the economy is organized as a system.

Professional economists have used the market system metaphor to organize their "thinking" both formal (analytic, theoretical) and intuitive (informal, ideological) in quite an elaborate way, building up formal analytic models as is their rigorous wont, and also building up a lot of informal intuition which is not rigorous at all mostly by talking repetitively among themselves and selling their apologias for the rich to the rich as a protective ideology, but that investment of over a century in various related ideas all organized around the notion that we live and work in "a market economy" is a pile of stinking crap and its purveyors should be hooted at and humiliated in the streets as frauds and fools.  Imho, of course.

These people, even with the best will in the world -- and some are well-intended and politically liberal enough, though others do not care and are in it for the money and there's plenty of money in defending the interests of the very, very rich -- these people are locked into a big lie.  They become liars even when they intend to be honest and to serve a public good.

Best to free yourself from such myths and give these fools and frauds a wide berth.

Now, we will see if I have anything more to say, both in the way of critiquing the lie "market economy" and about the actual economy.  There's quite a number of useful bits of insight floating about in economics, once you have pried them free of the central, organizing metaphors and away from the conventions that prevent critical thought from prevailing.

Nothing I write either in critique or in highlighting what I regard as worthwhile bits of economic insight is likely to be original in the smallest degree.  Except of course insofar as I may manage to make some original mistakes.  But, in my experience, even my mistakes are not original.  I am not that guy, that genius guy.  I like to think, but I am not strong or brilliant, just persistent in searching for system and mechanism along these few lines.  I've returned in my mind to these themes many times over decades and have trodden this path so many times, parts of my course have been compressed into solid ground.  So, though I will not be original, given that I am ranting and railing against a common, though bankrupt conventional wisdom, I think some might feel they've learned something.

Assuming, of course, that I feel like following up this post with a series.  We shall see.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Well, it has been more than a year . . .

And, what is wrong with economics is still wrong.

And, what is wrong with our politics is still wrong.

We've had a global financial crisis, and five years later,
  instead of effective reform, we are looking at . . . a global financial crisis.

What's wrong with this picture?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Larry Summers Speaks

I have a fantasy, where I am at a conference, where the featured event is a Q&A with Larry Summers, and I get to ask the last question.

My question, I explain, is really to the audience, but I will direct it to Professor Summers:  "Why the hell are you up there, you stupid, failed fat f***?!?"

This morning the Financial Times inaugurates a series of commentaries, it calls the A-List, with a column by Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary in the Clinton Administration and former economics adviser to the Obama Administration, on the topic, "How to avoid our own lost decade", arguing for Keynesian remedies for our current economic malaise.

Larry Summers was one of the chief architects of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, and the chief architect of the Obama Administration's response.  He's responsible.  He did this to us.

Larry Summers is what is wrong with economics.

Monday, April 25, 2011

no coherent picture whatsoever

Discussions like this really disturb me; they indicate that there are a lot of people with Ph.D.s in economics who can throw around a lot of jargon, but when push comes to shove, have no coherent picture whatsoever of how the pieces fit together.
Welcome to my world, Paul.
Do economists, generally, have any clue as to how "the pieces fit together"?  If they do, they disguise it pretty effectively behind that jargon.  More on that in future posts, no doubt.  To the matter at hand . . .

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Maestro Speaks!

Alan Greenspan:
 "Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s 'invisible hand' that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global 'invisible hand' has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates."
unredeemably opaque?  notably rare exceptions?

Monday, March 21, 2011

What Atrios Said

Atrios, recovering economist, says, ". . . the ignorant bullies took over the profession . . ."

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Moral of the Story

Man is a story-telling animal, and what matters most to humans, is the meaning of the story.

If you wonder why someone tells a particular story, it will generally be because that person is invested in the particular meaning that the story conveys. "The dog ate my homework," is valuable to the teller, for casting the teller of the tale, as blameless victim.

Economists tell tales, and, sometimes, they tell us why their favorite story is their favorite story.