Economics - science, religion or ideology?

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ReeferMadness
Economics - science, religion or ideology?

This has to be  one of the most rational analyses of economics I've ever seen in the MSM. And from the Globe and Mail, no less.

Quote:

“It’s not easy to give up (such a cherished theory) without changing your entire world view,” says David Orrell, a Canadian mathematician who has delved deeply into the world of economics and found more holes in it than in your average slice of Swiss cheese. Even its most revered rules, like the law of supply and demand, don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny, he says. “Like unicorns, the plot of supply and demand is a mythological beast that is often drawn, but never actually seen,” he argues in his latest book, Economyths.

Quote:

“Current economic theory is less a science than an ideology peculiar to a certain period of history, which may well be nearing an end,” he concludes in his book.

Link

I'd argue that economic pursuits and disparities are at the root of most of the significant problems we fave.  Many sciences don't deal well with complex systems (the surprising sockeye salmon returns, for example) but economics is a parody that epitomizes human propensity to oversimply things that we just don't understand.  In economics, we've created a monster we cannot or will not control.

Fidel

I think that whatever the flavour of capitalist ideology has been since 1400s Italy, the central core of the ideology is that it has to be built around the needs of an elite few rich people. Their version of market ideology is only ever a ruse to funnel immense wealth into the hands of a few while referring to it as the mathematical science of allocation of resources and whatever. Their ideology says that rich people are the only ones wise enough to invest in the economy and select winners over losers using some kind of superior sense that democratically elected governments can never possess. In effect, the ideology says that democracy with input from labour and workers on a whole can never perform as well as the sum total of the train wreck that we have today with financial markets, which is really just a parasitic system of banking and finance enveloping the productive labour economy. But unregulated markets have no stop or off button. Markets by themselves have no incentive to use less of the world's resources. It's not ordinary people who consume too much so much as it is the richest and most powerful who have no real desire to save the planet from their own self-interest manifest as runaway greed. People just want leadership on the environment and for someone to fix the appalling inequalities and injustices produced by an abominable economic and social systyem.The antithesis to bullshit capitalism is democracy. Socialism or barbarism? Capitalists have chosen the path for us, and it's now a matter of how much of this will people put up with? But it's a staggeringly huge lie that the current system is what billions of people have created by democratic choice.

Pants-of-dog

I think many economic policies are based on ideology rather than applied econometrics, but that does not mean that economics itself is an ideology.

I think it would be more correct to say that the current economic paradigm is too ideological to be pragmatic.

sknguy II

The saying about “lining up all the economists in the world” is true because much of economics is guided by the things you’ve noted in your thread title. Pants-of-dog summed it well. Economics is often a tool for ideology and prognosticators mistakenly trust in the reducibility of humanity. Economic imperialism makes for interesting reading (don't confuse it with the imperialism of nations though).

donOld

Economics is really nothing more than an attempt to interpret statistical data. It's alot like polling. The accuracy of the conclusions are highly dependent on the scope and quality of the data. Careful manipulation of the scope and quality of the data can lead to conclusions that appear to be valid (based solely upon that one set of data). Both economists and pollsters can be hired by parties who desire a certain interpretation of reality to appear as being true. The first question you should always ask yourself when an economist or pollster presents his interpretations of reality to you is who paid for the study and do they have a vested interest at stake in influencing your beliefs?

George Victor

Richard Parker's bio on the late John Kenneth Galbraith takes you through the application of the three major approaches to economic theory folks experienced in the 20th Century.  The study had always been about scarcity until the 1960s when - Galbraith Realized - something had changed! The Affluent Society had emerged.  It's all been about gluttony since, with emergence of the Chicago School,  to Galbraith's and our despair. "Institutionalists" like Galbraith seem to lose out to those handiest at making others richer while screwing others in their society and the environment in the process.

donOld's take on growth and why it is "necessary" in the current scheme should be messaged to David Suzuki immediately, since for him it represents  our  specie's bete noire. It has certainly avoided by academic economists since the early 1970s.

siamdave

donOld wrote:

Economics is really nothing more than an attempt to interpret statistical data. It's alot like polling. The accuracy of the conclusions are highly dependent on the scope and quality of the data. Careful manipulation of the scope and quality of the data can lead to conclusions that appear to be valid (based solely upon that one set of data). Both economists and pollsters can be hired by parties who desire a certain interpretation of reality to appear as being true. The first question you should always ask yourself when an economist or pollster presents his interpretations of reality to you is who paid for the study and do they have a vested interest at stake in influencing your beliefs?

- I think you are being much too kind, although your imprecation to be sure to note who is paying for any parituclar study or interpretation is certainly a necessary starting point. You might go a bit further - "Economics is really nothing more than an attempt to interpret statistical data **in favor of certain interests**. I think modern 'economics' is a complete fraud because of this - really, to some extent, for the same reasons, it has been thus for most of the last 150 years, with the very odd honorable exception, but certainly culminating in the so-called 'Chicago School (which really, sometime in the future, will be known as 'the Chicago School for the advancement of fraudulent economic theories justifying capitalism and rule by the oligarchy' or something. Rather than taking data and impartially examining it and seeing what conclusions follow, as any real 'science' does, they have started from an end point - justifying capitalism - and they twist all data to that end, ignoring and even trying to bury what does not fit their desired endpoint. Just as a for instance, they talk about 'the natural rate of unemployment', a viewpoint clearly prdicated on capitalist ownership of the means of production, and intended to justify capitalist profits - but, just for example, a 'we the people' perspective might consider another theoretical idea - what might be the 'natural rate of capitalist profits', considering the necessity for all citizens to have decent work and pay? Any non-capitalist economics would also put money creation and control high on the list of things to watch out for, as private control of the money supply is obviously very antithetical to any kind of democracy - but of course, capitalism more or less precludes democracy, and since everyone wants to pretend this is a 'democracy' to keep the peasants quiet, it can't be talked about. etc etc

Fidel

'Natural rate of capitalist profits'? I like that idea. There should be a ceiling, and especially so when it comes to taxing profits of warfiteering fascists whose profit margins are said the be anywhere from 300% to 1000%. Economists will say that if we want less of some activity or result, then tax it. If that's true and politicians are aware of it, then we can only assume that politicians desire more aggression leading to war.

I believe the golden rule for corporate rate of profit for North American capitalism was at one time, 12 percent. Anything below that was considered chump change by North American standards. And after the inflation and stagflations of the 1970's, capitalists came up with a grand plan to screw workers and catapult themselves into new roles as masters of the universe that they always knew themselves to be.

siamdave

Spectrum wrote:

 

What is the "Noble lie" in Economics??

.......

- there's nothing whatsoever 'noble' about it - modern capitalist "economics" is a self-serving lie, nothing more and nothing less. Plato may or may not have been pulling the same trick in the Republic - it is certainly possible to imagine altruistic people of greater ability who rule for the common good - but certainly the modern capitalist has nothing altruistic in their objectives - they, and their 'economics', are nothing more than excuses for great privilege for the few, wage slavery for the many. Same gang, really, as the French nobility prior to the Terror - and whilst I wouldn't wish them all to be guillotined, I certainly would like to see them all behind bars for the rest of their lives for the crimes they have committed.

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Hi Dave,

 

Just trying to finish up  above so you can see the whole context of what is being brought forth for examnation.

 

Best,

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Quote:
"Plato made clear that merit and not heredity defined the gold man and that gold could be found in all parts of society."

What is the "Noble lie" in Economics??

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The Guardians were to be men of Gold....while the "stratification of society" was to assigned their metal attributes?

The Noble lie would be to uncover that Lincoln meant "something more" as to the use of "crucibles mentally used,"  were to find that perfection could be more then the guardians of society, but more the search for the truth of character? Not to use "Debt" as a form of slavery?

Quote:
“ Man is the most composite of all creatures.... Well, as in the old burning of the Temple at Corinth, by the melting and intermixture of silver and gold and other metals a new compound more precious than any, called Corinthian brass, was formed; so in this continent,--asylum of all nations,--the energy of Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles, and Cossacks, and all the European tribes,--of the Africans, and of the Polynesians,--will construct a new race, a new religion, a new state, a new literature, which will be as vigorous as the new Europe which came out of the smelting-pot of the Dark Ages, or that which earlier emerged from the Pelasgic and Etruscan barbarism.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, describing American Culture as a melting pot in a journal entry, 1845

The oligarchical society is the demise of democracy gone to far. An unruly mob? How shall a gold standard used by position, in politics or economics,  advantage the course set by the Guardians of that society? It will announce the provisions toward a police state in order to keep democracy ruled, while this perpetuation seeks to remain covered by an extremism manufacture by opposition in that society?

Quote:
A just society must be governed by men of reason.Inventing a new social myth to replace the old. Socrates calls those who rule for the benefit of the whole society and not to it's detriment golden men: in his myth they rightfully govern the men of silver and bronze.
This is the myth of metals(415a ff.) the centrepiece of a second accusation that has dogged Plato through the centuries. Plato made clear that merit and not heredity defined the gold man and that gold could be found in all parts of society. Nonetheless, Plato has never escaped the charge that he imposes upon society an elitist and authoritarian rule. The charge is pressed even though in Book IV Plato makes justice in the individual the condition of justice in society.--Pg 16, Para 2 and 3, of Plato the Republic Introduction by Richard W. Sterling and William C. Scott.

So "extremism can exist" in both perspectives about which a society has extended itself? Capitalism's one form of that extremism  toward this stratification of society maintained. It said nothing "about the character" because it does not want to encourage a "subjective look" at what it can do by "using numbers" in which to propel advantage, by consumers buying into.

They know what you need, yet they do not realize that once it has become common knowledge, the shift in society can be as little as "choosing a competitor"  whose moral backbone is devised on character building rather then seeking to use this stratification in society to maintain the "metal standard?"

 

ReeferMadness

Capitalism is the most egregious offender of the misuse and opportunistic manipulation of the "science" of economics; but it isn't alone.  There are plenty of progressives out there who argue for growing the economy on the basis that the larger the GDP, the richer we all are.  The GDP measures what we spend, not what we get for it or what we have; and certainly not how happy we are for it.  Measuring progress using GDP is a lot like measuring how good a party was strictly on the basis of how much money was spent on it.

At the root of the problem with economics are a bunch assumptions that are either false, self-serving, self-reinforcing or some combination of the above.  Treating people as rational, maximizing consumers is simultaneously a self-fulfilling prophesy and an empty lie.  And it's fundamentally wrong.

Fidel

I can appreciate Linda McQuaig's Keynesian point of view on the matter. Religion at least has the afterlife to promise the faithful when things don't work out in this earthly realm. Neoliberal economic theory, OTOH, has only the economic long run as a reward for the faithful. As Maynard Keynes said about that hollow promise: In the long run we're all dead.

George Victor

I don't believe rational people would diss the work of people like Keynes, Galbraith and Krugman, quite so easily. The application of Keynesian thought did help bring an end to the Great Deporession, and it is being used again to try to prevent a second collapse of equal proportions.

Suzuki - biologist, scientist - just says that economists cannot logically go on requiring economic growth on a finite planet showing signs of breakdown.  And yet there seems no easy way of halting the juggernaut without piling even more misery onto already miserable (dying) people.  Sachs tells us all about that.

There are some marvelous alternatives being offered hereabouts (based also on economic theory), but like all Utopian solutions, the difficulty is getting from here to there...intact.

 

 

Fidel

I read something Galbraith wrote a few years ago. He said he didn't think New Deal solutions would suffice if capitalism was to endure  another deep depression. Galbraith said that what's needed now is a global frade agreement for workers to level the playing field. I think so too, that we need a NAFTA type agreement for workers and free labour markets. We don't  have free labour markets, and that's because we have creeping fascism if not the full blown variety. Capitalism is fascism with the mask on.

George Victor

We've gone from a few people in Marx's day living off the avails of "coupon clippling" to 10 per cent of the population of Canada directly involved  with the market at war's end to just about everybody, if not "coupon clipping," at least concerned about the market's  health. Being able to write thiis without concern for the sound of jackboots on the stairs (they're carpeted anyways), I feel we might have a couple of days grace before the "full blown variety" brings our limp democracy of disinterested twenty-somethings to a full halt.