1841. The way forward for economics

Provocation # 82

Here are  two key points to be developed further.

1. causes. The US was in a special situation after WW 2.. We could sell almost anything, – all business made money – till some time in the 60’s profits started to decline. The elite moved, through Wall Street, the big corporations, he media and the Reagan Presidency, to keep the curve of profit from declining. The path chosen was to take income and wealth (pensions, welfare, infrastructure, selling public assets, outsourcing, privatization of functions) to keep the curve up (in the background neo-colonialism, neo-liberalism. ). Historical embedding could go fruitfully further,

But the country was not integrated and then split. We had never been one country. What of the perspective that the country was always split? The Europeans and the people who were here first, more indigenous by a few thousand years, were certainly split. And later the people dragged here from Africa and never allowed to integrate, Then we have the divide between the New England settlers with their religious motives and the Virginia settlers: different religion, different class, different motives. The rurals who came from europe and moved west, never settled in the established communities. . The urban/rural divide was there from the beginning (Boston, Philadelphia, New York). Only part of the rural, as it was being destroyed not by factories but by finance, moved to the factories, not integrated into the north but in new cities, again split in industrial cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh and the older cities of finance, media, trade and culture..

The embededness of our analyses could go further if we want to explore causes: from industrialization back through the rise of Napoleon and Lincoln and their impact on bureaucracy, and the tendency of western civilization since the Greeks to follow materialist values, thereby enhancing power and downplaying the human, and the split between Europe and Asia the Gordian knot of Alexander. More relevant than ever.
2. What to do?  The idea is powerful and drives a lot of “hope” that the only good future is a high paid job in the tech sector and its supporting professionals. More education when work is disappearing is only a very partial solution and that actually maintains the split, integrating a few of the children on the periphery of professional class. Tax the rich? OK, how? What politics can get us there?
Can we imagine beyond the split? A society more decentralized, more democratic, where the highway planned in Washington does not cut our town into decaying pieces?

I think there is a growing consensus that we need to face the interdependencies of automation, environment, migrations, governance failure – all at the same time. We get taught as children, solve problems by dividing them Perhaps this is wrong. To solve a problem within its definition is not strong enough because the forces that created the problem lie outside its definition. Only by expanding the scope of the problem can solutions be worked on.My own way of thinking is to take an issue and embedded it in larger issues.

We have in Trump a corporatizing while simultaneously privatizing the government. The only possible outcome of continuing Trump, who is creating a well funded dynasty, will be war. Is it possible to take this Trump regime apart? We have a rabid Republican Party, a self-serving Democratic elite and no party for the vast majority of the people. (From NYT yesterday Now, Macron is taking advantage of current circumstances to blow up the tripartite system. Macron’s great insight, which few initially recognized, was that the right-left divide was blocking progress, and that the presidential election amounted to a golden opportunity to move beyond it, without the help of an organized political movement. At a time when the French people are increasingly rejecting the traditional party system, Macron’s initial weakness quickly became his strength.)

I think the 1% or the top 10% however are more nervous than the interview suggests. If we just take today’s (last Friday) NYT editorial page with the critique of Kelley as destroyer of security and David Brooks on the end of Western Civilization, and the article about LePen. I Have to ask, does Temin/Paramour go far enough?

And what is the role of economics and hence INET, in extending Temin/Paramour in the future for 1 and 2? I say we just take it on.

A few thought on reading

Lasch, Christoper TheTrue and Only Heaven. He shows that decade by decade since the Revolution the social critics have been penetratingly correct about the state of the US, and decade by decade the critique made no difference

Handlin’s   The American Home (Oscar’s son) Shows how decade by decade since the Civil War American movements toward regeneration caught on, and then failed, as larger forces tore through the rebuilt villages.

I just read the wonderful book by Joe Earle, Econocracy. He was interviewed by Rob at
Curriculum Reform is Vital if Economics is to Serve Humanity

I am torn reading this between an approach which repairs economics from within, kind of like the goo inside a puncture proof tire, or do we need to break out and consider literature which violates economics, that makes us uncomfortable, that says economics is the wrong, or perhaps incomplete handle for imagining a better society or trying to manage one?

In that background Sheldon Wolin’s Politics and Vision shows painfully how much we have lost by shifting from political economy to economics. A forceful rereading of economic history is in Geoff Mann’s In the Long Run we Are All Dead. He shows that Keynes was not a blip in the history, but that we have all been Keynes, not just since Nixon, but since Adam Smith, and always will be.


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