Guest Post: Most Economists Fall Back Into Neoclassical Stupor … “If They Don’t Know Anything, Then Why Should We Listen To Them?”

Washington’s Blog

When the economic crisis hit in 2008, economists started to admit that neoclassical economics was wrong.

Specifically, they started to admit that the assumption that the economy is inherently stable is false, and that their models were faulty and needed to be adjusted. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

But now that – on the surface (here’s what you may see if you scratch below the surface) – things seem to be improving, most economists are falling back in their neoclassical stupor.

For example, two PhD economists – Steve Keen and Dean Baker – recently attended the annual meeting of the American Economics Association. They are both exasperated that most economists have not learned anything at all from the crisis.

Keen reported on his surreal experience on the Max Keiser show, stressing that most economists still use defective models and believe the fairy tell of the inherent stability of the economy.

And Baker writes:

The American Economics Association held its annual meeting in Denver last weekend. Most attendees appeared to be in a very forgiving mood. While the economists in Denver recognised the severity of the economic slump hitting the United States and much of the world, there were few who seemed to view this as a serious failure of the economics profession.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of economists in policy positions failed to see the signs of this disaster coming, and supported the policies that brought it on, did not seem to be a major concern for most of the economists at the convention. Instead, they seemed more intent on finding ways in which they could get ordinary workers to accept lower pay and reduced public benefits in the years ahead. This would lead to better outcomes in their models.


The willingness of economists to so quickly embrace this darker future is striking. After all, one of the reasons that we have economists is, ostensibly, so that we don’t get such unpleasant news about a “new normal”. This is like a football team calmly accepting the sports writers’ prediction that they would have a winless season, and deciding that their new goal was to minimise the margin of defeat.


If economists did their job, they would be pushing policies to get the economy quickly back to full employment. Instead, they just repeat lines about how “we” will just have to accept some rough times. Unfortunately, no one ever asks the economists who preach austerity how much time they expect to spend in the unemployment lines.

If they don’t know anything, then why should we listen to them?

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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. Joseppi

    Just because the views of “classical” economists are in print and TV doesn’t mean anyone is listening.
    It’s like the old Koan – If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did the tree really fall?

    1. sgt_doom

      I normally only pay any attention to actual economists:

      Michael Hudson
      James Galbraith
      Ha-Joon Chang
      Ravi Batra
      Steven Keen
      Dean Baker

  2. Jim Haygood

    ‘[Economists] seemed more intent on finding ways in which they could get ordinary workers to accept lower pay and reduced public benefits in the years ahead. This would lead to better outcomes in their models.’

    Sort of like prison guards for the plutocrats … shoveling sh*t for Satan.

  3. DownSouth

    The economics profession has pitted a system of dogmatic theory against the skeptical testimony of human experience.

    If one thinks of it as a priestly class, defending cosmopolitical doctrines such as nature has no history because the world was created only 4000 years ago, “inert matter” and the division of nature and humanity, one will not hit too far from the mark.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      And when is one of them going to sit on their local school board, or their local city council, and have to deal with the government budget ramifications of the disaster their delusions have wrought on the larger scale?

      I can only assume these econo-pontificators don’t have to bill by the hour, nor justify their billing statements to clients. If these folks were physicians, they’d be prescribing leeching to us all.

    2. sgt_doom

      Thank you!!!!!!!!!

      Normally I don’t read any of the American corporate pop-non-media, but the biz section of the NY Times happened to be sitting near me in the deli today, and I happened upon a column by some twit named David Leonhardt, who was clueless as to why the “recovery” had occurred — yet no jobs were forthcoming (he was also clueless as to the location of his genitalia, no doubt).

      Leonhardt, the twit, cites a faux econ named Katz, who similarly to Leonhardt is “mystified” and likewise is unable to find his genitalia.

      Of course, the fact that it is arithmetically impossible for any recovery to occur — since first there must exist an operating economy.

      Leonhardt — who unable to find his genitalia — who also ignorant about the GDP, ignoring the fact that the vast bulk of it is made up of the Fantasy Finance Sector — which only employs 7.4% of the work force (and who knows how many of that consists of Americans???).

  4. craazyman

    Holy Shit. I know deep in my heart that most human beings are totally insane. I know this from observation and channeling. I don’t mean that they can’t function in a job and do things like live in an apartment or a house and go grocery shopping or drive a car.

    I mean that they are blocked off totally from the Gnostic Consciousness. They are like clogged toilets. They cannot flow their own thoughts. They can only think as a herd of animals thinks, flowing the pilot wave.

    Maybe 1 or 2 out of 50 people is sane. That’s about 2% to 4% of the population.

    This is a good example of what I’m talking about. But my numbers are probably too high for that crowd.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Oh, my experience has led me to believe that 2-4% is a high estimate indeed for sanity.

      Rather, I believe everyone is insane in their own way. In fact, it’s probably more relevant to talk about the percentage of issues on which a person is insane as opposed to whether they are 100% sane (as such a person would be like a unicorn in frequency of appearance).

      Very few people recognize their own insanity. So the ones who recognize it may be more or less insane, I’m not sure. I think it would depend.

      In any event, most people can navigate their lives quite well. They tie their shoelaces in the morning, right? They make it work, no? So it does seem inconceivable to them that they might be insane and irrational in some areas. Oh yes, but they are. I’ve heard them talk.

      One of my old friends (we used to call him Knowledge, believe it or not) used to have a simple rule about this: “Everyone is crazy. The trick is to find out what kind of crazy they are … and then adapt.”

      I’m not sure exactly what kind of crazy I am. I have some suspicions, and many of my friends have theories, but I’m still generally agnostic about the whole thing.

  5. ron

    The trend has been replacing labor with automation and software, PERIOD!!! While endless discussion focus upon various economic theories nobody discuses the impact of technology on job creation in the United States. Dean Baker still believes that its 1934 and all we need to do is have the government generate demand/jobs via spending or others that believe jobs would be plentiful if regulatory rules were ended and corporate taxes reduced. Nobody seems to have noticed the leap in manufacturing and software development and how it impacts job creation other than some Disney approach that technology somehow creates more jobs or different jobs or higher value jobs, how about fewer jobs!
    Sooner or later economic theory needs to get beyond money velocity,data collection,credit,demand etc. We need less people to produce products then we did 10 years, 20 years or 30 years ago and it all adds up to a different economic mix but for some reason it is completely ignored.

    1. Lyle

      To start with economics needs to incorporate the lessons of behavioral economics in particular the herd effect. Second the trends you cite started in England in the 1820s, recall that Andrew Carnige’s father was a skilled weaver forced out of the profession because of the power loom. Or think of the folks forced off the farm. Or taking Carnige again, he reduced the skills required to make steel drastically.
      How about research on how we cope with a society where say 50% of the folks can produce the goods and services needed for the entire society.
      Recall that 130 years ago if you told an economist that 3% of the people could feed the rest you would have been committed to the insane asylum.

      1. ron

        Somebody discovered the wheel and on it goes but that is not the issue in today’s society rather we have evolved a system in the U.S.using credit creation to foster consumption that is suppose to make up the difference caused by technologies impact on job creation, the service economy. We seem to be coming to an impasse as debt service has grown to such a point that consumption via debt is no longer a positive in job creation so the FED is left with pushing on a string or just pushing up asset prices of various commodities/equities trying to create a consumption binge of sorts.

        The illusions of technology as a job creator needs some revisions maybe it should be viewed as deflationary from a jobs point of view rather then inflationary and given our rising population from birth and legal immigration I would say its going to be important going forward if we expect jobs to create a tax base or offer a stable society.

        1. DanB

          And what about the role of fossil fuels in this discussion? We’ve utilized them to do work with machines and other forms of technology. The irony is that peak oil is now destroying jobs -and exposing unpayable debt-but as this system based on oil declines the need for physical labor will escalate if we are to build a sustainable society. As for food, modern agriculture is dependent on fossil fuels in multiple ways -again, physical labor will be needed to feed people as the prop of fossil fuels declines.

        2. Ming

          Technology makes us more productive or gives us the ability to do things we could do before. Great increases in labour productivity must result in job loss, or else it wouldn’t be classified as labour productivity, but what is also necessary is a humane / dignfied response to those who have lost their jobs, indeed we want policies to encourage people to innovate and accept loss of their jobs but also protect their Income and dignity. It is Toyota’s (stated) attitude toward workers and robots ‘ we use robots to free people to do something better.’

          THe problem we have now is the benefits of increased productivity are not shared with those who lose their jobs.

        3. sgt_doom

          ron’s knowledge of economics, finance, history, US government and current events appears exactly related to the humans existing during the time of the invention of the wheel.

    2. Skippy

      Yep and economics lag behind tech / social change about as bad as all theoisms historically have see Galileo.

      Skippy…more ass covering than foresight…more *splaining* things away with the help of the ether it’s constructed of…me thinks…just like Big Bill O’Really…sun comes up, sun goes down, tide comes in, tide goes out…there the universe is reviled.

    3. aletheia33

      my theory for the day is that our entire society is at present in a state of deer-in-the-headlights fear, which explains the eerie apparent lack of basic awareness on the part of intelligent people of the current reality.

      i suspect that everyone really does sense, if only vaguely, that the society has moved beyond the beginning stages of fundamental crisis.

      but those on the bottom are focused simply on survival; all those who have not “fallen” to that level are terrified that they soon might; those whose resources seem secure today are busy building (metaphorical and real) castles with moats around them; and TPTB are uttering faint prayers in the backs of their minds that if they keep on using the same inventiveness that has worked for them for more than a generation, they can keep modifying the system to suit their gaming of it, at least long enough to allow them to exit before game’s end.

      1. purple

        i suspect that everyone really does sense, if only vaguely, that the society has moved beyond the beginning stages of fundamental crisis.


    4. Francois T

      We need less people to produce products then we did 10 years, 20 years or 30 years ago and it all adds up to a different economic mix but for some reason it is completely ignored.

      OK! Let’s accept the premise that, this time, it’s different. (See how mightily generous I feel right now to allow such an hypothesis?) We’ve reached a plateau in the maximum employment possible and everything can only go downhill from here: Unemployment can only become more acute in number, more chronic in duration, and Man! ain’t that so bloody sad?

      In such a context, harping on economists, or Dean Baker for that matter is a colossal waste of time, no? We urgently need to rethink the whole value system underlying the concept of work, nothing less. An extraordinarily difficult endeavor, fraught with endless culture wars and political disputes.

      Yet, all I can read in your post is a dismissive critique of Baker’s argument.



      1. ron

        Francois: I like Dean Baker and think he offers many good suggestions for improving our economics. The thrust of my post rather then beating down Dean was a closer look at our views towards technology change or productivity which has been touted as the answer to job creation. I just wanted to point out that maybe it produced fewer jobs in real time and or is creating a different economic mixture quicker than our data miner economic elite can understand.
        I retired from 30 years in manufacturing so I have watched this transformation from skilled labor to automation and have realized that automation has created many positives but in the end it has generated a faster process with higher quality outputs (usually)but in order to take full advantage of this the demand side has to exist to adsorb these high outputs at price points that reflect the large capital intensive cost required. This means high paying jobs need to be created and thats what technology seems to be eliminating both on the manufacturing floor and with software development throughout the business model.

      2. sgt_doom

        What this ignoramus, ron keeps harping on reminds me of the idiot CEO a few years back who held up an old chip board composed of very few, but very large processor chips — he then held up a modern motherboard composed of many more smaller chips.

        He said, “This is what has become of the jobs.”

        Of course, that douchebag CEO had just offshored 35,000 of his corporation’s jobs to China and India.

        ‘Nuff said…….

        If one doesn’t understand private equity leveraged buyouts, the tax system, hedge funds, ultra-leveraged speculation, labor arbitrage and economic systems, one will continue to prattle on like ron and his uneducated ilk.

        1. George999x

          “ignoramus… idiot…douchebag … prattle on….uneducated ilk.”

          What an unnecessary response to a moderate, anaytical post backed by expierience (not saying Ron’s right or wrong).

          YOU, sir, are the douchebag.

    5. gmanedit

      Yes, yes, and yes. This is where the discussion needs to go.

      I’m currently reading Martin Ford’s book “The Lights in the Tunnel” (, available at Amazon or as a FREE download at that site, which links to his blog). In (very) brief:

      Automation will replace people in most jobs. Without the purchasing power now derived from labor, the mass-consumption economy will fail disastrously. We need to support purchasing power without jobs.

      I’m persuaded. Let’s read and discuss.

  6. Justicia

    You don’t expect the “theoclassical” economists to recant, do you? Why, you might as well wait for the Pope and the College of Cardinals to become atheists.

    1. Crespo

      I think what Lambert is asserting is that the economists *are* doing their jobs. Their jobs just aren’t what we would hope they are.

  7. scraping_by

    Joining the upper class by serving the upper class. Economists as a tribe of rhetorical footmen.

    While reality-based economics would be jobs in a sustainable system, it’s faith-based explanations that tell us the best in the best of all possible worlds.That’s what brings in the money.

    Status and wealth, a heck of a combination.

  8. Hugh

    I echo lambert’s and scraping by’s sentiments. The economics profession is not about an analysis of our economy that can make reasonable predictions about it. Economics and economists are enablers of the con and validators of kleptocracy. They say the many must make do with less and do not say that the result of this policy will be the few will have more.

    These are not innocent, unworldy types tied to outdated and obsolete ideas. They are abettors and apologists for the greatest economic crimes in human history. We should call and treat them for what they are: criminals. Kleptocracy is not a some time thing. It is not a label you apply occasionally. Kleptocracy is a system. The looters can’t function without corrupt politicians, a complacent propagandizing media, or complicit enabling academics. With kleptocracy, there is no middle ground. You either stand with the looters or their victims. I think this is the critical choice we all must make.

    1. Strata

      Well said, Hugh! The question is: when do the looted come out of their fear induced trance and say “no more!”

  9. S Brennan

    From a couple of years ago when I blocked from posting comments on Mark Thoma’s site for saying:

    “But economics today isn’t about truth or near truth, it’s about justifying the rape of less fortunate and the planet itself. Religion once filled this role, but tiring of the indefensible, they’ve turned the dirty work over to “Economics”.

    1. DownSouth

      Yea right, we could do that. That is if we want to end up like Michael Serventus.

      Serventus escaped trial by the Catholic Inquisition in France and took refuge in Geneva, only to be burned at the stake there in 1553, at Calvin’s urging.

      Serventus’ crime? It wasn’t a belief in any particular doctrine, but his questioning of of belief in belief itself.

    2. studentee

      probably depends on which keynesians you are talking about. over the past 30 years, many keynesians were swallowed whole by neoclassicism

  10. Bev

    Since this is a group of co-conspirators, these banksters, economists, media, politicians, academicians, any way to RICO them into ratting each other out to turn this around?

    In case that won’t happen, I like the people who have workable effective ideas to improve our outcomes.

    I like the effort toward public/state banks to put into circulation ample debt free money to get people jobs and turn things around on a dime.

    Ellen Brown’s site:

    Bill Still’s site:
    which shows this great info now:

    State Bank of Virginia 2010 Study Proposal
    HJ62: Banks; joint subcommittee to study whether to establish those to be operated by State.

    * HJ62

    Offered January 13, 2010
    Prefiled January 11, 2010
    Establishing a joint subcommittee to study whether to establish a bank operated by the Commonwealth. Report.
    Patron– Marshall, R.G.
    Committee Referral Pending

    WHEREAS, the Commonwealth does not currently engage in the business of banking or own, control, or operate a bank; and

    WHEREAS, the state of North Dakota currently engages in the business of banking, owns, controls, and operates a bank known as the Bank of North Dakota; and

    WHEREAS, the Bank of North Dakota was established pursuant to North Dakota Century Code 6-09-01 for the purpose of encouraging and promoting agriculture, commerce, and industry; and

    WHEREAS, the Bank of North Dakota is not a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation but pursuant to North Dakota Century Code 6-09-10, all deposits in the Bank of North Dakota are guaranteed by the state; and

    WHEREAS, the deposit base of the Bank of North Dakota is unique in that its primary deposit base is the State of North Dakota and all state funds and funds of state institutions are deposited with the Bank of North Dakota, as required by law; and

    WHEREAS, the Bank of North Dakota accepts other deposits from any source, including private citizens, businesses, and the U.S. government; and

    WHEREAS, the Bank of North Dakota is overseen by the North Dakota Industrial Commission and advised by a seven-member Advisory Board appointed by the Governor that reviews the bank’s operations and makes recommendations to the Industrial Commission relating to the bank’s management, services, policies and procedures; and

    WHEREAS, the Bank of North Dakota administers several lending programs that promote agriculture, commerce, and industry as well as providing government guaranteed loans for lenders and providing community, rural, and regional development loan funds; and

    WHEREAS, the Commonwealth is expected to have a budget shortfall of between $ 1.8 billion and $ 3.6 billion in 2010 and North Dakota is expected to have an $ 800 million budget surplus by the end of 2010; and

    WHREAS, the Commonwealth would benefit from loaning funds to develop agriculture, commerce and industry in lieu of granting tax revenues to newly established businesses; and

    WHEREAS, by opening accounts in a bank owned, controlled, and operated by the Commonwealth, Virginians would be able to invest in the growth of agriculture, commerce and industry in the Commonwealth; and

    WHEREAS, Virginians with accounts in a bank owned, controlled, and operated by the Commonwealth would benefit from a return on their investment in the form of loan interest and other revenues earned by the bank’s investments in agriculture, commerce and industry in the Commonwealth; and

    WHEREAS, the purpose of a bank owned, controlled, and operated by the Commonwealth would be to invest in agriculture, commerce, and industry within the Commonwealth; and

    WHEREAS, a need exists to determine if the Commonwealth would benefit from the creation and operation of a similar financial institution; now, therefore, be it

    RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That a joint subcommittee be established to study whether to establish a bank operated by the Commonwealth. In conducting its study, the joint subcommittee shall consider recommendations for legislation to establish a state owned, controlled, and operated bank.

    The joint subcommittee shall consist of eight legislative members. Members shall be appointed as follows: five members of the House of Delegates to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates in accordance with the principles of proportional representation contained in the Rules of the House of Delegates and three members of the Senate to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules. The joint subcommittee shall elect a chairman and vice-chairman from among its membership.

    Administrative staff support shall be provided by the Office of the Clerk of the House of Delegates. Legal, research, policy analysis, and other services as requested by the joint subcommittee shall be provided by the Division of Legislative Services. Technical assistance shall be provided by the Bureau of Financial Institutions of the State Corporation Commission. All agencies of the Commonwealth shall provide assistance to the joint subcommittee for this study, upon request.

    The joint subcommittee shall be limited to four meetings for the 2010 interim, and the direct costs of this study shall not exceed $8,000 without approval as set out in this resolution. Approval for unbudgeted nonmember-related expenses shall require the written authorization of the chairman of the joint subcommittee and the respective Clerk. If a companion joint resolution of the other chamber is agreed to, written authorization of both Clerks shall be required.

    No recommendation of the joint subcommittee shall be adopted if a majority of the House members or a majority of the Senate members appointed to the joint subcommittee (i) vote against the recommendation and (ii) vote for the recommendation to fail notwithstanding the majority vote of the joint subcommittee.

    The joint subcommittee shall complete its meetings by November 30, 2010, and the chairman shall submit to the Division of Legislative Automated Systems an executive summary of its findings and recommendations no later than the first day of the 2011 Regular Session of the General Assembly. The executive summary shall state whether the joint subcommittee intends to submit to the General Assembly and the Governor a report of its findings and recommendations for publication as a House or Senate document. The executive summary and the report shall be submitted as provided in the procedures of the Division of Legislative Automated Systems for the processing of legislative documents and reports and shall be posted on the General Assembly’s website.

    Implementation of this resolution is subject to subsequent approval and certification by the Joint Rules Committee. The Committee may approve or disapprove expenditures for this study, extend or delay the period for the conduct of the study, or authorize additional meetings during the 2010 interim.


    Fleeing Vesuvius

    Fleeing Vesuvius draws together many of the ideas our members have developed over the years and applies them to a single question—how can we bring the world out of the mess in which it finds itself?

    Fleeing Vesuvius confronts this mess squarely, analyzing its many aspects: the looming scarcity of essential resources such as fossil fuels—the lifeblood of the world economy; the financial crisis in Ireland and elsewhere; the collapse of the housing bubble; the urgent need for food security; and the enormous challenge of dealing with climate change.

    The solutions it puts forward involve changes to our economy and financial system, but they go much further: this substantial, wide-ranging book also looks at the changes needed in how we think, how we use the land and how we relate to others, particularly those where we live. While it doesn’t discount the complexity of the problems we face, Fleeing Vesuvius is practical and fundamentally optimistic. It will arm readers with the confidence and knowledge they need to develop new, workable alternatives to the old-style expanding economy and its supporting systems. It’s a book that can be read all the way through or used as a resource to dip in and out of.

    And Max Keiser’s site
    for his effort to have people BUY SILVER coins/bars as protection against inflation, hyperinflation and as insurance in case public banks nor RICOs do not occur. Also, his forward thinking on what these co-conspirator economists envision as future electronic money via social media, gaming, etc. is worth paying attention to.

    1. Bev

      Yeah Science education! If this is effective (and used for the common good), it helps toward solving two problems–energy and climate change.

      An upstart firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts said Tuesday that a high-ranking official from both the Clinton and Obama administrations would be joining their board of directors, helping them further a project that may hold the key to saving industrialized society from a long-predicted energy crunch.

      The company, Joule Unlimited, was granted a patent in Sept. for their first in a series of microscopic organisms — genetically altered versions of the E. coli bacteria — that use sunlight and water in a process similar to photosynthesis to convert captured CO2 into usable crude oil.

      They called it “Liquid Fuel From The Sun,” which uses their “proprietary organism” to devour waste and defecate custom hydrocarbons. Joule ultimately hoped such technology could fill the gap in human energy needs as fossil fuel production declines worldwide.

  11. Toby

    “If they don’t know anything, then why should we listen to them?”

    We shouldn’t, which has been true for too long. If they fail on all counts, then fail to recognize those failures, they are no longer worth listening too. This applies more or less to all organs of the status quo — MSM, political parties, corporations — who are trying to sustain a broken system, potentially at the cost of us all, even if there appears to be short term benefit to those at the top of the pyramid.

    The challenge we face is to build an open and democratic system which prioritizes environmental and societal health above financial wealth. People and planet first, money demoted to somewhere below them (I’m not sure how low at the moment).

    I’m hardly an expert, but I believe this is the greatest challenge humanity has faced to date, that it transcends national borders, as well as cultural divisions, and that the very basis of our beliefs needs renewal. I believe this is about us as a species learning how to wield our incredible abilities creatively rather than destructively, in as cohesive (globally speaking) a way as possible.

    (I know, I know, I leaped from the breakdown of neoclassical economics to civilizational collapse, but they’re linked. Honest.)

  12. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    Here we go again… a link on NC from yesterday is brought forward and thrown out as bait. Well over 90% of the subsequent comments are little more than piling on, disparaging the high priests of the religion theorizing about the efficient allocation of scarce resources, goods, and services , aka ECONOMICS, regardless of whether its Neoliberalism or Keynesianism. For both are two sides of the same REACTIONARY coin.

    Then there are a few comments intimating symptoms or manifestations of what is wrong with the religion/politics of scarcity, aka ECONOMICS. Here the discussion stalls and we’re no further ahead today than we were yesterday. What was it Einstein said about repeating the same behavior and expecting different results?

    The important word is SCARCITY. What happens to the religion/politics of scarcity [economics] if the resources, goods, and services are no longer SCARCE in an absolute sense, but only in a relative sense because the private ownership of the material forces of production results in man-made, artificially-induced scarcities to preserve the social relations of production predicated on SCARCITY? I use Marxist terminology here because it fits and not because Marx had all the answers.

    Is it reasonable to expect that the “solution” to this problem is going to come from within the priestly caste with skin in the reigning orthodoxy? Or is it more likely to come from without? Or is it that we have been led to believe that without the “imprimatur” of academia, preferably from some pimp or whore tenured at an elite university, that thinking for ourselves is illegitimate and mere ignorance?

    Let me stir the pot: POSTSCARCITY! POSTSCARCITY!

    An umbrella concept intended to get in the face of ECONOMICS without any ambiguity or nuance. Even a blind pig stumbles across an acorn every once in a while… This blind pig thinks it time we begin thinking for ourselves. If POSTSCARCITY doesn’t work for you then come up with another concept, the specifics and details of which remain to be worked out and further refined. If we find ECONOMICS lacking, then it is incumbent upon us to find an alternative. Let’s get on with it!

    1. DownSouth

      Is it reasonable to expect that the “solution” to this problem is going to come from within the priestly caste with skin in the reigning orthodoxy? Or is it more likely to come from without? Or is it that we have been led to believe that without the “imprimatur” of academia, preferably from some pimp or whore tenured at an elite university, that thinking for ourselves is illegitimate and mere ignorance?

      I like that. It reminds me of this little missive from Martin Luther to the Pope in 1520:

      But thy See, which is called the Roman Curia, and of which neither thou nor any man can deny that it is more corrupt than any Babylon or Sodom ever was, and which is, as far as I can see, characterized by a totally depraved, hopeless, and notorious wickedness—-that See I have truly despised… The Roman Church has become the most licentious den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the kingdom of sin, death, and hell… They err who ascribe to thee the right of interpreting Scripture, for under cover of they name they seek to set up their own wickedness in the Church, and, alas, through them Satan has already made much headway under thy predecessors. In short, believe none who exalt thee, believe those who humble thee.

      The Protestants weren’t any less dogmatic and authoritarian than the Catholics, but there’s little argument that they were far less corrupt, at least for a while.

      1. Siggy

        There is a Gresham’s dynamic that develops as an idealogical system grows. The Catholic Church bifurcated into the Roman and Orthodox sects. The rise of the prostestants is the system response to a theology that became less a system of belief and more a system for the exercise of power and the search for lucre.

        The arena of economic discourse and thought is heterogeneous because it is the nature of societies to be hetrogeneous. If the truth be acknowledged, there is no one explanation for human action. In that light it becomes clear that the body politic will seek food, shelter, clothing and housing and commerce by those means most expediant.

        1. DownSouth

          Siggy said: “…a theology that became less a system of belief and more a system for the exercise of power and the search for lucre.”

          Well maybe that’s the glue that holds the Christian Right together: “the exercise of power and the search for lucre.” It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with a consistent or coherent theology.

          After viewing Adam Curtis’ two films The Power of Nightmares and The Trap, it struck me just how odd it is that a religious denomination could embrace them both. After all, the underlying beliefs that underpin neoconservatism and neoliberalism couldn’t be more different. They are highly incompatible. And yet we find them united under the banner of the Christian Right. There is nothing remarkable about the marriage of religion and neoconservatism, since both have to do with the celebration and interests of the group—-the church in the case of religion and the nation in the case of neoconservatism. The marriage of religion and neoliberalism, however, is quite a stunner. Neoliberalism has to do with the celebration and interests of the individual. It promotes the atomization and alienation of the individual, not the connectedness, sense of belonging and devotion to a group that religion does.

          Being the polar opposites they are, it’s peculiar enough that we find neoconservatism and neoliberalism both being embraced by the Republican Party as well as the Democratic Party. But neoliberalism is the antithesis of religion. What sort of religion embraces it?

    2. DownSouth

      On a more serious note I’m very much enjoying reading Stephen Toulmin’s Cosmopolis.

      According to Toulmin, the Renaissance spawned the Reformation which in turn spawned the Counterreformation. The result was the Religious Wars that took place in the latter half of the 16th-century and first half of the 17th-century. These in turn provoked what he calls the “Counter-Renaissance” in the first half of the 17th-century, its overriding goal being to end the wars and restore and maintain stability.

      Classical Economic Theory fits very neatly within the doctrines of this “Counter-Renaissance.” However, the principal elements or “timbers” of the “Counter-Renaissance” have slowly been felled over the last 400 years.

      As the timbers were knocked out from under it, the rickety Counter-Renaissance structure almost gave way in the 1910 to 1945 period. But the structure was salvaged and the status quo maintained. With every passing day, however, the structure grows more and more unsteady.

      1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio


        “With every passing day, however, the structure grows more and more unsteady.”

        I’m not so sure. The Austerians may still take us backwards into the future as the religious-psychological impetus to repent for past “sins” plays out. This is where the fusion of religion and politics combines to reinforce the dominant neoclassical economic orthodoxy. That purgation and sacrifice are good for the soul… by the more than “willing penitents” seeking redemption. Bless me Father for I have sinned… mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

        Of course, the proponents of this medicine have usually been wealthy and not known poverty firsthand. It’s easy to tout the “virtues” of poverty and austerity if one eschews them voluntarily. But to espouse these virtues from firsthand experience is another story. This theme of religiosity and its role in American politics mentioned by you a while back got me to thinking about how it comports with the agenda of economic AUSTERITY touted as the solution to our economic woes.

        If not countered and repudiated, the AUSTERIANS may win the argument with their “zeitgeist”.

  13. Billy Bob

    I was in a discussion recently regarding my contention that importing aliens, whether legally or not, helps depress wages, especially at the bottom of the scale. My interlocutor said that economists of all political stripes agree that this is not so as if it were a conclusive argument. My retort was that if all economists agree that something is true, that would be a good place to begin to reexamine our assumptions. As far as I can tell, both professional and academic economists have done almost no reexamining of their truths. Apparently, a worldwide catastrophe is a statistical outlier, and 35 years of wage depression in the US is beneath their consideration.

  14. Philip Pilkington

    “[C]ertain dogmas, assertions about facts and conditions of external and internal reality which tell one something that one has not oneself discovered, and which claim that one should give them credence. Religious concepts are transmitted in three ways and thereby claim our belief.

    Firstly because our primal ancestors already believed them; secondly, because we possess proofs which have been handed down to us from antiquity, and thirdly because it is forbidden to raise the question of their authenticity at all.

    Psychologically speaking, these beliefs present the phenomena of wish fulfillment. Wishes that are the “fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind.”

    – Sigmund Freud ‘The Future of an Illusion’

    1. Gentlemutt

      Holy Cow, Freud!

      Good quotation, and a healthy reminder that even a stopped clock is right on rare occasions…not unlike the caste of econo-pontificators (love that assemblage!)…

      1. Philip Pilkington

        I dunno – I think the idea that neo-classicals might derive their stodgy and unflinching belief in their ideas from primitive infantile fantasies of the mother-figure, coupled with a fascination of the anal erogenous zone, might actually hold water…

        I’m kidding… or am I? Actually, maybe I’m not kidding – it certainly says a lot more than a utilitarian psychology could…

  15. Mike

    Reminds me of Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles. Mel as “The Gov.”;… “Hurry boys!We’ve got to protect our phony-baloney jobs!”… Yes, I know the correct spelling is balogna.

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