Philip Pilkington: Economists – An Anthropological View

Yves here. While Pilkington is a bit leisurely in setting the stage for his anthropological take on the economics tribe, rest assured that the post is both amusing and instructive.

By Philip Pilkington, a London-based economist and member of the Political Economy Research Group at Kingston University. Originally published at his website, Fixing the Economists

Life Among The Econ‘ is a satirical paper written by the economist Axel Leijonhufvud and published in 1973. In the paper Leijonhufvud refers directly the great work of cultural anthropology The Savage Mind by the French Structuralist anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. Before moving on to the paper it is probably best to understand something about Levi-Strauss’ work as I think that the content of the paper would otherwise be lost on many economics-oriented readers.

Levi-Strauss argued that cultural life in primitive societies rested on haphazard and rather arbitrary organisation. People would create symbols and systems of organisation the only purpose of which was to facilitate smooth social relationships. While the members of a tribe might imbue the symbols with seemingly enormous value — and people who violated them might be severely punished — looked at from the outside they seemed rather arbitrary and changed from tribe to tribe mainly based on chance.

Anthropologists had long recognised that tribal structures — indeed, all cultural structures — require norms and myths which to live by. Myths are stories that give life meaning, while norms are somewhat like laws or prohibitions. Perhaps the best way to think about this is to take a recent law in our own societies that now seems antiquated but which was taken seriously only a few decades ago: namely, laws against homosexuality.

Why were there laws against homosexuality throughout most of the 20th century? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Today I would say that most people would say that it does not. So, why the laws? Simply because our cultures developed in that way. Other cultures did not. In Ancient Greece, for example, homosexuality was by no means against the law. The laws that remained in place until the end of the 20th century mostly derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition that we inherited. There was nothing functional about them. Things just happened that way. (Indeed, readers of cultural history will know that our own culture is basically unique in attributing to homosexuality an actual sexual identity. In most cultures sexual activity is dealt with based on acts, not proclivities that are supposed to be immutable).

The point is that much of cultural organisation is arbitrary. It often serves no real purpose. Evolutionary psychologists might tell you otherwise, but they are just modern day myth-makers telling stories that try to give us meaning and, ultimately, justify certain cultural patterns that we hold dear by appealing to the narrative structure of evolutionary biology and imposing it on cultural development metaphorically much in the same way as marginalist economics transferred metaphors from physics to the social sciences. Levi-Strauss introduced the idea of the ‘bricoleur’ as the person who engages in such constructions.

The bricoleur is not a person conceived of acting in line with a plan or toward a goal. For example, if I go to the shop, buy foodstuffs and cook food I obviously have a plan and a goal. A bricoleur — or, more accurately, a person partaking in the process of ‘bricolage’ — just throws things together in line with how he or she sees fit. There is no real point to the activity but it persists in all human cultures and makes up a key component of our cultural organisation. Perhaps the easiest way is to think of a child playing with lego bricks or an artist painting an abstract piece of art.

Society bestows upon bricoleurs important roles. In primitive society shamen or priests or some other caste are typically anointed to serve this role. They come up with stories of various kinds, contact the spirit world and even engage in fake healing in societies without medicine in which people feel like they need to do something in the face of illness and disease. Basically their role is to give meaning to those around them. In order to do so they are imbued with a certain aura that we do not find in, for example, the case of a modern dentist or the advertiser.

This aura allows their interpretations of the world to be accepted largely without question as these men are supposed to possess abilities and traits that the lay person could never understand. Obviously, modern day religion serves basically the same function, as do cults and even con-men who sell fake medicine to desperate and gullible people.

Leijonhufvud’s paper is written as a satire. But like all the best satires it serves a serious purpose. He makes up a tribe that he calls the ‘Econs’. He is referring to economists, of course. He is perfectly correct in doing so, economists do indeed serve basically the same function in society as shamen do in primitive society: namely, they tell stories about how the economy works and about how society should organise itself. He then goes on to say that the economics profession has actually developed as a sort of micro-tribe within society. He particularly notes the fetishisation of the model — which he jokingly refers to as the ‘modl’. He writes:

economists as a tribe

Anyone who has dealt with economists will be all too familiar with this. The model is actually part of the person’s identity. They internalise it and, when they engage in rivalry with other economists, they compare their models.  Viewed from the outside with a critical eye it is actually a very strange process. But if you have an appreciation for anthropology you will quickly see what is going on. The whole thing is about group formation and social alliances. Because the economists have long turned away from the real-world (unless it is viewed through the model, of course!) they need another way to argue about things (after all, aren’t academics supposed to argue about things?). So, what they have done is formed into various social groups that then build and compare models. It is really rather amusing when you have a sense of irony about the whole thing.

Leijonhufvud also noted something more ominous though. He saw clearly that the tendency was actually moving further and further away from empirical reality. He wrote:

second exceprt on economists as a tribe

For a while economics survived the turn to weird ‘savage mind’ style behavior. People who were more inclined toward the reality of doing practical work had a set of tools that were at least somewhat workable. But Leijonhufvud could see this changing especially with the rise of the general equilibrium theorists. Today this has completely taken over. DSGE models are claimed to be cutting edge for policy analysis and some even believe that Real Business Cycle models say something about the real world. Whereas the likes of Frank Hahn knew well that the general equilibrium framework was just an intellectual game, the students took it literally. That is when we entered what we might call the ‘dark age of economics’ and that is where we remain today.

You need only read the altogether strange defences of model-based forecasting to see that something properly weird is going on in the land of the Econ. It is well-known that the models don’t do much better than ‘intelligent guesswork’. (I would say they do worse than ‘intelligent guesswork’ but then I do not apparently have the authority to decide who is doing guesswork and whether they are ‘intelligent’ enough to be considered…). Wren-Lewis, for example, comes up with the following justification:

Take output for example. Output tends to go up each year, but this trend like behaviour is spasmodic: sometimes growth is above trend, sometimes below. However output tends to gradually revert to this trend growth line, which is why we get booms and recessions: if the level of output is above the trend line this year, it is more likely to be above than below next year. Using this information can give you a pretty good forecast for output. Suppose someone at the central bank shows that this forecast is as good as those produced by the bank’s model, and so the bank reassigns its forecasters and uses this intelligent guess instead.

This intelligent guesswork gives the bank a very limited story about why its forecast is what it is. Suppose now oil prices rise. Someone asks the central bank what impact will higher oil prices have on their forecast? The central bank says none. The questioner is puzzled. Surely, they respond, higher oil prices increase firms’ costs leading to lower output. Indeed, replies the central bank. In fact we have a model that tells us how big that effect might be. But we do not use that model to forecast, so our forecast has not changed. The questioner persists. So what oil price were you assuming when you made your forecast, they ask? We made no assumption about oil prices, comes the reply. We just looked at past output.

Woah! What the hell just happened there!? If I were working for a central bank and someone said to me “what will happen to output if oil prices rise substantially?” I would dutifully go and examine the relevant statistics. I would look to see if the data showed that large oil price increases had large effects on output. If the data showed that they did I would return to the person and say “after examining the evidence it looks to me like there is a good chance that a substantial rise in the oil price will affect output”. If I had a little more time I would then go and try to get data for countries and see what it said to substantiate my findings.

Wren-Lewis, on the other hand, would consult his model which would give him whatever result that he himself had built into it. Do you see the difference here? I hope you do. What I would be doing would be evidence-based research. It would be by no means perfect for any number of different reasons. But it would at least be evidence-based. Wren-Lewis would consult a model that comes pre-built with an estimate of how oil price increases should affect output. This is absolutely ‘savage mind’ behavior. Wren-Lewis would have us construct what anthropologists call ‘totems‘ and then consult these totems when we need insights into our social problems.

This is what I mean by the fact that the economists have come to believe their own fictions. It is very strange stuff altogether. They build the models based on the a priori assumptions that they hold. Seemingly they then forget these assumptions. Then when they need an answer they consult the model which spits back at them what they already built into it. This output is then assumed to be Truth because it comes imbued with a sort of aura. In more practical, real-world sciences this has a name: its called GIGO which stands for Garbage-In, Garbage-Out. In more primitive societies this is similar to constructing altars to supposed oracles and then going to these altars to find out about the future, only to find a Truth that you yourself have already built into the altar. (For a more colloquial example think of when people read images into clouds).

Sometimes after a few beers some of my friends — many of whom have PhDs — ask me about this modelling stuff and how it all works. They really do view it as being a sort of opaque practice, albeit one that they are inclined not to trust. When I explain it to them they literally don’t believe me a great deal of the time. There is one exception though — and he is a rather well-known anthropologist. Make of that what you will.

Print Friendly
Tweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn3Share on Google+1Buffer this pageEmail this to someone

39 comments

  1. John

    The economic profession is the only profession that can be consistently wrong — 100% of the time — and still have a voice — and a very powerful one. Heaven forbid someone counter one of their positions. You get a deluge of ad hominem attacks from the Brotherhood of Economists to blunt the real issue at stake: a realization the profession is flawed to the core and earning a living from such flaws could be in jeopardy.

    1. John Glover

      In my experience, being a foreign policy advisor is another profession that can be consistently wrong and still have a voice.

      All you need is to tell the elite rulers what they want to hear. Whether you are right or wrong is irrelevant.

  2. John Hope

    The economists who produce this stuff can be seen as the singer songwriters and the rest of us their audience . And how psychologically is the connection made ? By attempting ( and succeeding very often otherwise we would have done away with them by now ) to elicit feelings of either optimism or pessimism about our situation, but like Kipling’s success and failure these are chimeras . However they have the effect ( for the economists ) of justifying their existence and so they are able to continue spewing forth nonsense in the face of all evidence to the contrary, as they did after the Crash of 2008 following which, if we lived in any kind of sane world, all the Economics textbooks would have been burnt and the very subject itself reinvented ( or not ) .

  3. mmckinl

    Indeed a very lighthearted look at the “economics profession”. When one looks closer as to economists real impact it is much more serious, after all don’t economists run the Fed and control our money supply?

    Hasn’t in fact the Fed (economists) been in bed with financial industry banksters for well over 40 years now. This has lead to nothing but bubble after bubble leading to the crash of 2008 which is still unresolved?

    The fact is economists are propaganda tools for their respective interests be they banksters, industrialist, tech companies or poltical / foreign policy interests.

    The Fed is the locus of all accepted economic theory. Through the Federal Reserve System, Academia and private enterprise economists are screened for tenure, publishing and promotion …

    The “economics profession” has become yet another propaganda tool for TPTB. It has only been through the internet that this tribe and their preeminence has been questioned. Thanks NC … but more is needed …

    1. JEHR

      And Canada is in the unfortunate position of having an economist as the Prime Minister! Can things get any worse? I can plainly see that his “economic modl” does not contain environmental risks or how money really works. Will Canada survive?

  4. paul

    There was a very convincing computer model recently of a panda who could talk and was a highly skilled martial artist, yet the organic versions do not seem to conform to these.
    The former was clearly superior, the latter lazy and ill adapted to the modern world.
    More research must be done to find an example that matches the model.
    This will obviously require hard choices about funding research etc etc.

  5. jrs

    “Anthropologists had long recognised that tribal structures — indeed, all cultural structures — require norms and myths which to live by. Myths are stories that give life meaning, while norms are somewhat like laws or prohibitions. ”

    American myths make life *MEANINGLESS* at least if you aren’t a “winner” (which is definitely not strictly about money as some would say, but money plays a part). One answer is getting depressed about that. The other is that contentment and meaning may require a complete mental rejection of all American cultural (I mean the whole culture not just the “right” or the “left”) myths especially if you aren’t a “winner”. And I’m only talking about earthly meaning, but some turn to religion, which is at least better than American myths in making life for non-wininers meaningful. Secularist who don’t even understand *that* offer equal meaninglessness.

    “The bricoleur is not a person conceived of acting in line with a plan or toward a goal. For example, if I go to the shop, buy foodstuffs and cook food I obviously have a plan and a goal. A bricoleur — or, more accurately, a person partaking in the process of ‘bricolage’ — just throws things together in line with how he or she sees fit. There is no real point to the activity but it persists in all human cultures and makes up a key component of our cultural organisation”.

    So what Graeber with a play-ethic called play. Wait is he the well known anthropologist? But I though he was a well known anarchist!

    “This is what I mean by the fact that the economists have come to believe their own fictions. It is very strange stuff altogether. They build the models based on the a priori assumptions that they hold. Seemingly they then forget these assumptions.”

    Maybe they’re just not very bright, if one was to believe in IQ (likely another myth) economists would be below average maybe. I mean one may not always use their brain this way and instead do quite a lot of bricoleurism, but it seems anyone WHEN doing serious critical thinking would always keep track of the assumptions they started with and how they influence the result. And they’d have the wisdom to know the difference in exactly how seriously versus frivolously they were thinking about a subject.

    “In more primitive societies this is similar to constructing altars to supposed oracles and then going to these altars to find out about the future, only to find a Truth that you yourself have already built into the altar”

    So you are saying economists might as well use Ouija boards?

    1. Moneta

      , but some turn to religion, which is at least better than American myths in making life for non-wininers
      ————-
      Not necessarily because religion is full of rules that served a purpose a long time ago but make absolutely no sense whatsoever today.

    2. susan the other

      Oh no, no! Ouija boards would be far too creative. Economix is a very retro-language. It uses (as described yesterday in links about animal vocabularies) “grammar-words.” Big clunky chunks of blunt grammar without any clear descriptive value. No?

  6. jgordon

    I have been sort of intuitively aware of the above all along, although now I have a nice word, “bricoleur” to put to the intuitive understanding. I think it’s highly amusing that various “liberals” congratulate themselves for needing to cling to their “guns and religion” in order to get by, but then run to eagerly lap up whatever drivel Paul Krugman or the New York Times is spewing while reassuring themselves that they are just being “rational” and not at all as dumb or conceited as the poor or conservative.

    Actually they are all the same though. A well-armed Baptist minister in rural West Virginia is on the exact same intellectual plane as a NYT-reading urbanite extolling various “progressive” economic and social theories.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘Now I have a nice word, “bricoleur” ‘

      ‘Bricolage’ [tinkering] was one of those useful words my neighbors taught me in France, that one hadn’t learned in high school franglais. With the rise of box stores, you can build your own backyard volcano.

      Even as we speak, our august Federal Reserve poseurs et flâneurs [posers and idlers] are enjoying a ZIRP-financed group wank in Jackson Hole, as these inveterate dirigistes plot their next wacky multi-trillion-dollar monetary bricolage.

      Ayer un nice jour!

    2. different clue

      Is survival-knowledge considered a branch of “knowledge” on the “intellectual plane”? If so, are the two personal types mentioned really on the same plane? If the lights go out and civilization collapses back to Kunstler’s Dream Heaven level, which one has a better chance of getting or growing food . . . the well-armed Baptist minister in rural West Virginia or the NYT-reading urbanite in Big Cityville? Both on the same plane? Really? That may get tested in the next few decades.

  7. diptherio

    Phil is on point regarding the economists. He is, however, woefully incorrect about the nature of shamanism. His ethnocentrism shows through in this sentence in particular:

    They come up with stories of various kinds, contact the spirit world and even engage in fake healing in societies without medicine in which people feel like they need to do something in the face of illness and disease.

    Fake healing. Of course, anything Phil doesn’t understand must obviously be fake. This is what every single “serious” white commenter thinks, the attitude they adopt when considering people of different cultures, which they dub “savage” or “pre-agricultural” or some other epithet which, however ceverly disguised with PC language, always means the same thing: “childish.”

    Western science is, to this way of thinking, the only universally legitimate way of obtaining knowledge about the functioning of the world. Other systems of knowledge creation, designed by non-white cultures, are held to be universally invalid and based on nothing more than credulity and placebo. That this attitude mirrors precisely the mindset of white Christians towards other peoples and their religions in previous centuries seems not to bother our present day seers of science.

    Phil no doubt finds wars of religious conversion appalling (as do most all of us), but he has no problem being a soldier on the battlefield of ideas, fighting a war of intellectual conversion on behalf of the same imperial powers that the Conquistadors and Jesuits of old served. It’s a common blindness among the intelligentsia, not being able to see how they are continuing the White People Uber Alles motif that’s been going on for centuries, and which finds its justification first in one place, then another; whether it be religion, democracy, divine right or a (supposed) monopoly on legitimate knowledge.

    Must read for Phil and others similarly afflicted: The World We Used To Live In by Vine DeLoria, Jr.

    1. The Black Swan

      +1
      ‘Science’ has become such a dangerous tool. Disconnected from nature; painfully arrogant. Those amazonian Shamans have discovered some amazing things, and none of them resulted in: GMOs, nuclear weapons, biological weapons, industrial farming, petroleum based industries, strip mining, aquifer pollution, etc.

    2. craazyman

      How Can He Be So Wrong When He’s so Right??

      Dude, check your momentum! You’re so right. So right about 90% of what you’re saying, but the racist ranting disfigures your entire thesis. Your like a well-dressed man in a bespoke tailor-made suit with a perfect tie and subtely complementary pocket square, hand-crafted leather belt, socks that convey your mastery of style (enough color to bloom like a subtle flower and confer attention to your . . . shoes? . . . what are those debaucheries? . . . something made on a cheap machine in an Asian sweatshop . . . glued together? . . . are they black or is that asphalt with laces? . . . a catastrophic demolition of your entire “look”. Oh my! Where to go from here? . . . Probably here . . .

      http://www.edwardgreen.com/

      Come back wen yur serious and let’s talk. :-)

      1. diptherio

        As a white person I reserve the right to decry the actions of my own ancestors and my complexionally-similar contemporaries.

        I was channeling Vine there though, just a little… ;-) His book God Is Red is another great read. If a person is interested in a Native view of white anthropology.

        1. susan the other

          No other culture has made such a fetish of profit. We live and die by concepts like ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘It’s good to be rich,’ and etc. Because we westerners (for lack or a defining gene – we could simply be insatiable…) have been so aggressive, like a nation of badgers, we have managed to create the illusion of “superpower”. But superpower only exists insofar as it is maintained and it is far too expensive, not to mention embarrassing, to maintain this image much longer.

        2. craazyman

          i’d be more empathetic if they walked the walk but they don’t. They just talk the talk.

          Just the other night on Youtube I watched a 1 hour show on the Iroqouis before they became a nation. They were warring tribes. They’d raid, enslave, torture, kill and even eat each other. The whole place was run by a shaman who had snakes in his hair and a crazy wife. When a gang got sick of him and tried to take him down, he made arrows shoot out of the woods at them in every direction but there weren’t any people with bows. The arrows just flew out of nowhere.

          it’s like that. There were certainly some peaceful natives but generally they’re as crazed as anyone. Even as crazed as the Germans. or the Indians, or the Arabs, or the . . . OK, the Eskimos aren’t crazed unless you’re a seal. People in general are pretty crazy. Haven’t you noticed? Now that I wear fine gentleman’s attire it really sinks in. The savages on the streets in all sorts of sartorial catastrophes. One wonders how they even feed themselves. Oh, I forgot, McDonald’s!

          1. craazyman

            Here it is. I’m not just making this up! Watch it then we can have an informed discussion, but right now it’s just narrative noise on the screen — “white noise” no pun intended. Noise from a white man’s brain. bowhahahahahahahahaha.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFIgq8D3oRk

            It’s actually pretty entertaining too.

    3. James Levy

      Plenty of non-whites contribute to science on a daily basis. If we are to believe Zionists, Jews are all from Asia and therefore “non-white”, as are a host of other brilliant Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and other “non-white” scientists. Science has nothing to do, per se, with “white” people, whatever that term may mean to you (it sure has been, historically, mutable, as 100 years ago Italians were not considered in the US to be “white”). And the Conquistadores and Jesuits had nothing to do with what anyone today would perceive as science (with the exception of a small number of very capable Jesuit astronomers).

      If you can demonstrate that shamans can do better than my nurse practitioner in diagnosing and treating what ails me, then I would be glad to give that shaman a try. As for insight into human psychology and motivation, I am sure that shamans can be as penetrating as other type of people (military commanders, priests, political leaders); although that knowledge is important, it is not the same thing as physics and chemistry, any more than what the Mayans, Celts, or those 16th century Jesuits did was the same as modern astronomy. And all evidence leads to the conclusion that our pre-agricultural ancestors lived in a constant state of low-level intergroup violence that, if the bones they left behind are to be believe, presented them with a greater chance of meeting a violent death at the hands of another human than people do today (see Gwynne Dyer’s excellent book War: the lethal custom and its supporting sources).

      1. diptherio

        Look man, I’ve got a big ol’ hard-on for science of all varieties. All I’m saying is that claiming implicitly, as so many do, that Western Science is the only valid way to gain knowledge is a continuation of cultural imperialism under the guise of rationality.

        And I wouldn’t expect a shaman or Native healer to be able to help you much, but studies show that they are far more effective when treating members of their own groups. Different strokes for different folks. The mistake we in the West have made is to assume that because non-western practices don’t work for us, that they must not work for anybody, regardless of what they themselves report.

        My plea is for acceptance of a model-agnostic view of the world…or at the very least, not denigrating the knowledge systems of others.

        1. different clue

          You know, I have begun to wonder whether there is a selection-element at work here. Any particular group of people would have its own medicine knowledge and medicine-practitioners.
          Those patients who survived better from the healing administered by their own culture’s healers would have had more reproductive success than those who survived worse from those same treatments. Over thousands of years, could squeezing an entire population of hundreds of generations through a certain shamanistic-practice selective filter select for
          those people who actually benefited bio-materially from the certain shamanistic practices?

    4. Moneta

      This is what the last few decades of materialism have generated… too many people thinking, that hiding somewhere close, there is a little black book with all the solutions to our ills… someone at the top needs to find it but not them.

    5. different clue

      I noticed that too. The shamans and shawomans of the world apparently know enough about the real-world effects of wild-land medicinals that pharmaceutical collector/explorers are travelling to all these places to obtain that knowledge. To patentize and profitize it. Big Pharma clearly thinks the shafolk know something worth finding out.

  8. John

    Confusing map with territory is an ancient human failing that probably began with language. The word is not the thing.
    Most econs have totally lost themselves in the map and have no sense of the territory.
    Architons are another tribe where models are forced on the real world with many negative results. Read any critique of modern architecture…dehumanizing, over scale, etc
    Medicons of the cut burn poison tribe are also lost in their models with varying results.
    All advertising is about manipulating the model to change the behavior…and it works!

  9. elbridge

    In an effort to comprehend the evolution of the culture of economists, there is one aspect of our modern economic history that cannot be ignored in any explanation of the outcomes derived, whether from modeling forecasting or just looking, and that most-critical aspect is how money, and capitalsim, are managing ‘economics’. Did you expect a different outcome?
    In our present, unworkable system, capitalists create our ‘money’ and then accumulate that money to create ‘foundations’, and then use those foundations to fund ‘endowments’ to academic institutions who teach the dominant economic paradigm to their students…… the main thing to learn about both money and economics is to not rock the boat that brought us here: money.
    Don’t mess with the money.
    Or, no money.

    Minsky was one who came to disagree.
    If there’s something ‘amiss’ with money and banking, then have a public discourse about that, and fix it.
    w.p. No. 127

    “”The radical changes now underway in technology, computing and communication mean that much of what we might have now may be obsolete. The sluggish economies of the past decades, combines with the apparent reluctance of the federal reserve to give full employment a chance can mean that our financing structures are not consistent with the needs of a progressive democracy.
    In the past serious changes were the result of serious public inquiries. I suggest that enough is amiss in our financial and banking structures that it is time to go back to the drawing board an determine what the monetary, financial and financing arrangements should be in the 21st century. A late 20th century National Monetary Commission should be on the agenda.
    Minsky’s Modest Proposal
    Working Paper No. 127
    Financial Instability and the Decline(?) of Banking : Public Policy Implications
    October 1994

    Minsky called a spade a spade 20 years ago.
    A new monetary commission and a new money system.
    https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr2990/text

    That, or deeper anthropology.

  10. Lune

    While I enjoyed Pilkington’s analysis, I think he still gives economists too much credit, namely by attributing to incompetence what could be better explained by malice.

    Economics is nothing more than the study of power as expressed through a monetary system. The desire to increase one’s wealth is the same desire, psychologically, as the desire to increase one’s power. As such, it should be better considered a branch of political science. To paraphrase Clausewitz, money is the extension of politics by other means.

    Economists who couch this fundamental struggle / conflict for power with the legitimizing (or disguising, according to your POV) garb of science and math are no better than generals who talk about “surgical strikes”, “collateral damage”, and “targeting efficiency” to hide the mass slaughter that is the basis of any war. And just as generals are promoted based on their ability to create more effective war plans (at least ideally…), so are economists promoted based on their ability to create more effective “models” that implement the political goals of their masters.

    This isn’t merely tribal identity. This is class warfare. And the economists pick sides just as consciously as soldiers.

  11. ogee

    WHO are the “economists”?
    They are people with jobs given to them by various powers that be. Their assumptions and postulations are supported and given acceptance by other people with jobs given to them from the powers that be.They are the orthodoxy. They are the priests of the money religion. What they teach is “stay the course”.
    Why should we be surprised that is so?
    In fact, the rather simplistic history of 19th ,20th,and 21st century economic orthodoxy should tell everyone all they need to know. To not trust the priests.For whatever it is they know or do not know, will not be represented in what they tell “the masses”.
    There has never been a “heyday” of economic truth. Two hundred years ago and before, the only ones who had voices were the elite/wealthy/powerful.
    Over a hundred years ago, there became a dominant hierarchy in the western world, the Anglo-American axis out of London and new York, whose prodigy extend to every corner of the earth today. What began as the british roundtable groups, who created the economic elites for over a century in America,britian,germany,canada,australia,france,russia,south africa and elsewhere. In America they created the council on foreign relations, which was a nexus of the American establishment in new York and Washington dc area in 1919. In britian it is the royal institute of international affairs, also created in 1919. There were other epicenters of “establishment groupthink”, started in the other capitals of importance and where they had influence at the same time. These were the same group of people who were acting in concert to get the league of nations birthed. they are the ones who got the UN established. They were the predominant force in Bretton woods. They were the creators and beneficiaries of the federal reserve. They created for their network, monetary creation powers endowed by the 16th amendment. The council of foreign relations and the royal institute were created as a “circle of helpers”, not a controlling faction.In these circles of helpers, you will find most of the authoritative economists of the last century. You will also find most of the American ruling political class.
    What is missing, are the anti-establishment academics who have been shown to be “more right” by the history of the last 100 years. Those who argued for a “public monetary system”, as opposed to the bankers’ monetary system we have now. Those who were on the right side of history, fall between the cracks of what is taught to students in the establishment controlled academic institutions.
    What “Eldrige” pointed out above is a completely tried and true ,working model.
    They create the money. They use it to create industrial empires. they fund foundations and great pools of wealth. they own the media, they endow the colleges, they teach the children… and on it goes. These false assumptions are taken by generation after generation as ‘fact”…. because all the ‘people who know”, say so.
    It is all about the propaganda. the group think…. the action of the masses,persuaded to follow their masters wishes… whether they know it or not.
    And this is not a conspiracy theory. it is a working fact.
    Look at the case of the council on foreign relations. Its history of assumption is laid out nicely be carroll Quigley in his “Tradgey and hope” a history of the world in our time (published in 1966/74).Also in his “Anglo-American establishment”. Which just shows the working influence of these groups/ people for over a century,in the Americas,britian and its commonwealth, and in Germany,france,russia,pacific region etc.These roots were the influential in capitalism of the west and in communism of the east, all with their fascist tendencies that worked well in the confines of british federalism.
    a snapshot for the un initiated in who is who is in this link;
    http://www.stopthenorthamericanunion.com/CFRMembers.html
    But remember, one of the groups using the facts of history, to propagandize their own agenda was an original Koch funded group, “the john birch society”. Remember, fred Koch was run out of this countries oil business by standard oil(the rockefellers,pratts,buckley’s,baker’s,etc), and made his way to build the soviet oil industry for stalin,in the thirties. He had a beef with the standard oil groups,and their banking fraternities(Rockefeller,morgan,dupont,mellons,carnegies,whitney’s,vanderbilts,etc).
    Now the Koch family has its own money network where it espouses propaganda for the nation to run on. It has created their own legion of think tanks,schools,”grassroots” organizations, political factions and the like to subvert and pervert the will of the people. This some would remember from the progression of the “powell memo” 1971 to this very day and ” Heist:who stole the American dream”. The workings of how americans are fleeced, is not owned by any one group. But the masses pay, and pay. In lost possibilities. A stolen century. Wars,oppression and diversion of natural resources. We are destroying the planet we live on, and the people and animals who rely on these ecosystems…..Because we believe the priests of this ghastly religion.

      1. ogee

        that link was interesting.There is truth in that story. Just like the bible.Just because people make things up, doesn’t mean they are not also true.
        But the fact remains, what that april fools story laid out pretty well, is something that has been true forever. Making the fact that people still listen to the priests, all the more alarming/perplexing. Go figure.

  12. nothing but the truth

    i’m afraid the role of the economists, at least the vocal public ones, is dark. To mislead, confuse, obfuscate and eventually deceive about the actual political economy. This has become painfully obvious since the “tribe” has taken over the Fed, and especially since Bernanke openly espoused the “wealth effect” and then said that he did not contribute to the widening gap between the wealth owners and the wage earners.

    nothing reveals this more than the propaganda about inflation. The political economy of inflation is that it is a tax on the lower earners who have no capacity to bargain or protect themselves from inflation. Yet inflation is marketed as a panacea.

    The reason is obvious – cuo bono – inflation is a boon for the politically patronized inflation protected ones. Inflation is a way to channel even more wealth to the wealth owners. The same people who own the media and hold power. Yes they may read NYT or WSJ. That matters little.

Comments are closed.