So all this bullshit about capitalism and progress and whatnot hasn’t changed the human condition over the last 300 years. Astonishing!
Some time last year I read an article in pre-Tina Newsweek that was essentially discrediting Paul Krugman and other economists for their activist stances. Yet the way that it was written wasn’t discrediting economics in general but the positions of economists with which the writer, a “conservative” economist if I recall, disagreed.
Then it occurred to me that economics, probably more than any other social science, is like religion. You might even say it’s replaced religion as the opiate of the people. All the way back to its roots you have capitalism explained as “the invisible hand.” If that isn’t faith-based education, I don’t know what is. I was listening to NPR this morning and they went through the “key economic indicators” that will be released, one a day, over the course of the week — kind of like a horoscope.
There is also incredible idolatry within economic circles. Krugman, Smith, Keynes, Friedman, Rand, Greenspan, Marx — they all take on this godlike stature, as if their knowledge wasn’t earned but divinely inspired. People pick their camps and that’s that — there is very little discussion in the middle. When times are prosperous, they all want to take credit. When things fall apart, they all want you to believe that they saw it coming. When the economy is clicking, it’s either the implicit good of the masses or brilliant thinking of business and political leaders, depending on the camp. When it goes to pot, it’s either greed and avarice or plain stupidity.
Certainly there’s a lot of value that you can derive from the rational study and practice of economics, just as you can derive a lot of value from the rational study and practice of religion, in explaining why things are the way they are in contemporary society. But to leave so much of it to what cannot be explained — or, alternately, to get it wrong so often and outrageously — it just seems like you’re leaving far too much to faith in an intellectual cult of personality that’s anything but faithful.