1683 . Change and narratives.

Provocation #30

Curves in economics (eg supply demand)assume no change in everything else. This gives a false picture of reality. In a gravitational field, most of what is real is constant. (Mass, force of gravity). In economy, everything is changing. Why does economics opt for the image of constancy? Easier to calculate, and implies conservative stability and that the leaders are in control. So easy to find counter examples to stability. Prices down production goes up. Not if buggy whips shift to cars. The supply demand assumes there are buyers waiting, and workers willing, no technical nor managerial change, and the same number of people with the same interests today as yesterday.

Economies are about change. Entrepreneurs are struggling to shift the curves with distruptive innovations as often as possible, and they are often successful. What then is the purpose of the curves, or straight line slopes? It is to say what will happen if you don’t create anything, no new product, no new management, just change the price or cost.

The curves are a not description of the economy but a description of passivity.

It feels like inside of a glass snow globe with mock snow, up, down. As if desires snd passions and fads remain fixed. An economy is more like a tepid pond with myriads of creatures.


And things are changing. One view is that the apocalypse is not coming, we are already in it. We are in climate change, migrations are happening, move towards war accelerating, population already at 7 going to 9 billion, the bank system more fragile, pension funds already emptying out, politics moving to authoritarian. Not might happen, is happening.

We need good narratives because numerical analysis, which usually compares a number with its change over time, cannot reveal the interdependencies. Studies that correlate a few numbers sith a few others, is just too slow to give us a better sense of what is happening.

“Foxconn Replaces 60,000 With Robots”


Are we prepared for such numbers? Are we prepared for this to have already happened?

We need stories. People like Varoufakis, Steve Keen, Quiggin and many others are creating those stories. Further out, but maybe right on, are writers like Nick Shrenik and his Inventing the Future, or the site https://socialecologies.wordpress.com

What is happening in major economics departments? Any sense of urgency? Are students allowed to bring the new stories into discussions with standard econ in the required courses?
On the Positive side, we still need good analyses, but in the context of fuller stories. Autonomous cars (cars already once called auto-mobiles!) for their impacts on energy use and parking real real estate. . Fewer cars sold, and many through fleets like Uber, so fewer dealers, and with many fewer accidents the insurance companies go broke snd the hospitals face a financial crisis (how big? Any models out there yet?) Fewer police, fewer road repair crews, a crisis of unused parking lots, far fewer accidents means lighter cars. Suburbia rethought. And then add autonomous fleets or trucks, and buses, and planes!

We are moving toward an all-lease society, a no-ownership society. The only ownership is of leasing companies, and guess who owns them.

Lots of stories urgently needed.

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