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Disestablishmentarian Economics

April 2, 2009

THE CONVENTIONAL wisdom is this:

We have to do what’s necessary to restore growth and to pursue the reforms that can stabilize our financial system well into the future. We have to reject protectionism and accelerate our efforts to support emerging markets.

What is this devotion to almighty “growth?” Aside from our financier priests’ obvious fetish for profit taking through exploitation, the Mammon of easy, oftentimes supernatural, wealth accumulation I mean.

We are a human race run amok, facing overpopulation and scarcity around every corner, creating an environment for ourselves everyday less and less suitable for our own habitation. At the same time we put on our soberest airs and express reverence and continued faith in things that are Too Big To Fail. We love us some BIG.

“Too big” is the problem. Restoring growth is not the solution. Establish shrinkage instead! Take Too Big To Fail and make it Small Enough To Devour.

Is it possible to topple the mythology of currency as governor of the universe? Money is but a hollow placeholder, a conduit for financial power. Yet the devout worship at its feet with cultlike spirituality.

Acknowledge the wealth of your own human labor, for goodness! (There’s a valuable commodity for you.) It’s past time to embrace a sort of protectionism that recognizes the value of the potential, of ourselves and neighbors, to do productive work growing, making and creating things that are, you know, useful.

Essentially the opposite of the conventional wisdom quoted above.

PS: Blog Against Theocracy (the other kind) is coming up in a couple of weeks and should be remembered.

  1. Leo permalink
    April 2, 2009 9:08 PM

    Who decides what’s useful though? Is an iPod useful? How about a Kindle? On the face of it, both seem frivolous. Yet both can counter environmental destruction by vastly reducing the amount of plastic (CDs/Cass. tapes/LPs) and paper used and the energy required to produce them. And who knows what someone with just the education, experience and just the right frame of mind that comes from carrying around 100s of books on their Kindle while listening to their favorite tunes might come up with?

    Or how about a less tangible example… Are TV scifi programs useful? Maybe not, but how many scientists and engineers were inspired to become scientists and engineers by Star Trek? Based on anecdotal evidence alone, one guesses quite a lot.

    The thing is, you can’t predict inspiration. In fact, you can’t even predict what’s useful. Who knew the Jacquard Loom would lead to the modern digital computer?

  2. April 3, 2009 6:08 AM

    the “useful” thing was intended to be more of a dig against the vast amount of human capital a system that values currency above all else sucks out of the economy. i’m looking at you, the insurance industry.

    i certainly believe that books (and a medium to read them on) and movies (sci-fi included,) all of the Arts really, are useful, valuable and worth producing.

    if everybody needed only work 10 hours a week on producing/maintaining food and shelter, rather than, say, working 40 or more hours in a cubicle farm, they would have more time to engage in intellectual pursuits and find their inspiration.

    this involves, i realize, things that will never happen, like putting money in its proper place and the rethinking of land ownership.

  3. Leo permalink
    April 3, 2009 8:37 AM

    Personally I wonder if we’ve finally reached that magical place that the 1930s futurists thought we’d arrive at in the 1940s — the point where technology has so amped, or outright supplanted, personal productivity that there just isn’t enough work anymore for anything remotely close to full employment. So we must contemplate a future where a 20 or even 10 hour work week is the norm. How does one earn a livable wage under such a scenario? And if people can’t afford to buy all the wonderful creations of our technology then who can afford to produce them, and for what reason? I think the solution is to revisit another trope of 1930s futurism — the guaranteed living wage, sometimes called reverse income tax or citizen dividend. How we get there I have no idea though.

  4. April 3, 2009 5:15 PM

    ahh, see in my Utopia the concept of “livable wage” is moot. once you put in your 10 hours, your food and shelter is taken care of. then: freedom.

    to bridge the gap between the potential condition you describe and my Utopia we might consider paying people for their increased productivity.

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