Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Some Perspectives on Economics

Here is something about my views, as a preface to the piece that folows. The fashion in which the piece below begins declares of perhaps a negative view of economics and economists. (Here I have to take time to mention something intriguing: what we mean by "economics" or by "what economists study" is ambiguous as to whether it means ideas about economics or the actual trade practices and the "items" you put on trade.)  I eventually developed a unique and particular view of the "idea" side of the matter, or the economics profession, that is - yes - striking for being a negativity. It is true that it developed that way but I was not looking for this or striking out intending to be negative. It happened that way. First, there was the studying. There was some school work, too; I did it in school, first. Eventually, I have over the course of my study and investigation and my observing the (dual) world of economics (i.e. the ideas and the things all mixed up together) come to some conclusions. I see it as not being biased, although others may say that it is impossible to be without some biases. But I have the subjective experience of knowing how I did this: I looked at the field honestly, and my views developed over time. I think very few other persons would have done this in as honest and openhearted a fashion as I did. But of course that is not for me to judge.
     For economists the economy is not a system of human social relations but rather some kind of an exotic god.....    

 one that needs to be propitiated so we can all keep buying twinkies.

     The questions pertaining to the field of "economics" are in reality questions of authority amongst human beings. That being so, these are really political questions. They are social since they are not apolitical decisions of the individual. This later is the program of the orthodox, or neo-Classical theorists. It is all, therefore, social and political; and, what it is not, is a matter of "self-interest," the term used by the orthodox university economists -- they like to say: "rational self-interest." I do not doubt that people have rational self-interest; but I do not think it has a thing to do with economics. When working within the field of economics, if, as we suggested, questions are in fact political or authority questions, we also have to admit that these social or political questions do not merely apply to one society, but, a bit oddly, to a plurality of them, in fact, in the age of globalization, to all -- at any rate to all the societies that participate in the trade system. Which is just about all of them. There are questions, then, of relations between societies. It all gets very international. So, these matters are matters of trade "international trade" — and yet, they still relate to authority.
     The question of economics in general could be put: "why should one person have something, but another person not have something?" That is the question of economics. Economics has objects, too. The objects of economics are (matierial) wealth objects. The objects are desired generally, by everyone. Who is it that makes these decisions, then, decisions about the satisfactions others may have? That matter is the matter of "economics."     
     It occurs to me that "economics" may sometimes  (especially in earlier times) mean something like "authority over objects." The objects interpolating themselves into the functioning of authority. 

     If the matter is linked with authority, we should say "political." But ---- of course ---- Americans never say "political" economy. No. That's a pesky habit of the Europeans.

     In every human case, or every known human case, in economics or where we may begin to haltingly to speak of "economics," there is first a primitive phase, where everyone owns everything. This is the case for the primordial species members homo sapiens, on this planet. And, later---a condition, in any given society, where there are higher and lower classes. Capitalism is perhaps the phase that comes next, and in this phase anyone (although of course not everyone at once) can use economics (trade) to advance himself beyond what class would have ordinarily acceded him.

     But when the globe is covered, when the whole space of the geography of the earth has been covered by this capitalist phase --- globalization --- and the environment is stressed if not deeply threatened and man is even affecting the climate, "growth" can be seen for the absurd, overly simple concept that it is. 
     It is quite awful: denial of what has been called "The Limits of Growth" is a worse thing even than the other great denial, the denial of global warming or catastrophic climate change.

     Some people are winners and some people are losers. It is just the matter of how we figure out who to put where. And there will always be winners and losers—even if we need to make the biosphere the loser.

     As we have seen, at first everyone is the same --- the primordial man or woman, their infants, their elderly, their healthy and sick. But then --- I am not sure why --- "development" begins to take place such that there are a new kind of class-startified societies like Catal Huyuk, in present day Turkey, which I have read about somewhere. And then the next development, and then the next, and then the next, until we are where we are, in the present phase. And behind all of it, a struggle to develop a fair society—or perish.

                    perhaps you expected a bed of roses?

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