Archive for March 1, 2020

Demystifying Economics – Or, Rescuing Humanity From Death By Shared Delusion, Part One

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2020 by jtoddring

To start with, it should be made clear that it is unwise, to say the least, to disparage mysticism. Mysticism, in the true sense, means to dive into, and deeply examine the mystery of being: it means, to cultivate a direct experience of the true nature of being and reality. It is a philosophical-ontological-epistemological investigation that is not content to rest with second hand opinions or mere conjecture, or the castles made of sand that are ideological constructs of ideation and philosophical speculation – an investigation into the nature of being and reality which is radically empirical, or in contrast to virtually every other approach, including the “scientific”, the only truly empirical approach. Direct contact with reality should appeal to us, not be something we scorn. Hence, mysticism should not be disparaged, but investigated, and plumbed. Which is to say, being should be investigated and plumbed. Mystification, however, is another matter entirely.

While mysticism, in its true sense, is a positive and direct investigation of the real; mystification is something altogether different. And mystification reigns in modern society – particularly in “the dismal science” (which is profoundly unscientific, and more medieval than it would ever dare to admit) which is the (pseudo-academic) field of economics.

Mystification means, of course, to obfuscate, to muddy, cloud, or confuse – whether intentionally or unintentionally. Mystification does not help us. Demystification does.

After three a half decades and fifty thousand hours of study, research and reflection in the areas of philosophy and politics, and the realms these are connected to – which are all realms: including science, world religions, history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, mythology, ecology, and economics – I have begun to decrypt the puzzling palace in the sky which is known as “economics”.

I am not formally trained in economics, I hasten to say. And for those of us not formally trained in economics, economics can seem impenetrably baffling, cryptic, obscure, arcane, esoteric, filled with hopelessly vague jargon and jingo, and steeped in a veil of deep, thick, all-concealing fog. For those who are formally trained in economics, I would say, the fog is thicker still – for the training is one of indoctrination, rather than education; as is the norm in modern society, but only more so.

Why is economics so layered in fog? I propose that there are several reasons or causal factors involved:

1. The profession must guard the gates, lest too many join, and the price the high priests (“economists” and economics professors) can charge for their services, be reduced. This is common among many professions. And the mystification unintentionally created around the “discipline” is intended, however unintentionally, to keep out the riffraff, so that those working in the field can keep their prices for their services high. Lawyers, accountants, engineers, doctors, psychiatrists, stock brokers, investment managers and hedge fund managers….many befuddle themselves and others by unconsciously keeping to obscuring and counterproductive jargon and jingo, rather than speaking or writing in plain words. But as it has been said of physics, and science more broadly, and it applies to all fields: the measure of your understanding of the subject is whether you can express it in layman’s terms that a general audience can understand. Philosophers (I am embarrassed for my field to say it) are among the worst for this fault. And economists are no better. Their vagueness does not indicate extreme competence, much less genius; but more commonly, shared delusions, and profoundly sloppy thinking. But all this must be hidden, so that the ranks remain relatively closed and small, that is, elite, and thus the failings are hidden while the price tag of their services, however dubious, remains high. It’s a matter of artificial scarcity, public relations and marketing, in sum, which causes a large part of the obfuscation in the field – and obfuscation is its “profoundly abnormal norm”.

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But there are other reasons for economics to be obscure. The subject matter is complex to begin with, and in reality. This is the case in many fields, including economics. If economics is the realm of human material interactions, with or without the use of currency or money as intermediaries, then it is naturally complex. Coming to clarity in such a field is therefore unsurprisingly challenging, as with most fields – but far from impossible, even without formal training; and especially so without formal training (like a poodle) and “education”, since the indoctrination factor is typically far less.

There are now seven billion human beings on Earth, roughly speaking, and trillions of other living creatures, all interacting within local, regional and global economies, within local, regional and global ecosystems, on a small, fragile, beautiful, life-giving planet that is home to almost infinitely intricate systems of interaction and interdependence.

Ecology is the broader study of this field of interaction. Sociology, anthropology, history and political-economy are subsets of this global field of interactions – among others, such as systems theory, chaos theory, physics, biology and psychology.

Political-economy in particular cannot be separated into separate fields of study – politics and economics – without both being lost in utter confusion. And nor can economics be separated from ecology, which is the greater system in which economics, as a subset, is embedded, without severe confusion, illusion, delusion, and disaster ensuing.

From this simple statement of facts we can conclude two further things, as a start:

2) Economics is going to be riddled with confusion, illusion and delusion if it is studied in isolation from the larger fields of political-economy, history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and above all, ecology. Since this is how orthodox economics are practiced, we can see why orthodox economics is not only layered over with mystification – it makes no sense, because it truly makes no sense: it is steeped in delusion, arising from a radical disassociation from, and denial of reality. Economics is confusing because it is filled with confusion, quite simply – radical confusion, to the point of sheer delusion.

3) Further, since the interaction of seven billion people and trillions of other living beings within interlinked and interdependent local and global ecosystems makes for essentially incomprehensible systems complexity – for any supercomputer, cloud of supercomputers, or any human mind (the latter being, by the way, not just at present but probably forever, far superior in analytical and synthesis ability, not to mention categorically superior in value assessment, to any computer or hallowed AI).

Therefore, the study of economics, like the broader studies of political-economy, sociology, anthropology, history or ecology, must be approached with an ever-attentive balancing of both confidence and also humility. Hubris is our current downfall, in both the narrow sphere of economics, and in the broader spheres of hard and “soft” sciences and humanities, and in our general modern society.

That hubris will be corrected in one of two ways: either our civilization will collapse, under the weight of its orthodoxy and shared delusions, which is to say, under the weight of its hubris; or we will rediscover an open-minded sense of wonder and awe, as Einstein recommended, and with it, a kind of balancing of confidence, dignity, and yes, humility, which Renaissance society understood to be essential to a good society, or even a sane society, or a sane or decent life.

But at present, the pervasiveness of hubris in both economics and the broader society makes for widely shared delusions, and that means mystification, and dangerous levels of denial, and hence, a pervasive fog.

4) Neoclassical orthodox economics tells itself, and tells the world, that a) the orthodoxy is correct and true – like an unquestionable medieval religious doctrine, upheld and spoken by the mysterious high priests; and tells itself and the world that b) the global economic system of neoliberalism is beneficial to all human beings, or at least the great majority – and to all people in the long term; and tells itself and the world that c) the economic orthodoxy and global economic system are at least neutral in terms of the planet we live on, if not actively improving it.

(Note the legacy of John Locke, and the idea that nature and the wilderness have no value, until the forest is cut down and turned into lumber, or toilet paper, at which time it is redeemed and “improved”. Note also that neoliberal economic imperialism, or corporate globalization, follows the history of previous empires: “This is for your own good. We are on a civilizing mission. We are helping you.” No wonder Thoreau remarked, “If I knew someone was coming to help me, I would like to get as far away as possible.”)

All three assumptions, or holy dogma, are simply untrue, demonstrably false, and based on lies, illusions, delusion, and a radical dissociation from reality: economic orthodoxy is not based in reality and not sound; and the global neoliberal economic system is not aiding the great majority of the people, but looting and shackling them; and it is not neutral toward nature, or improving it, but looting and razing it. Unless one is a dedicated ideologue – or an orthodox economist, which is the same thing, as well as a secular fundamentalist – these things are becoming quite obvious, and undeniable.

The result is that economists have to lie to themselves systematically, and believe their own lies – which means, to delude themselves, and render themselves functionally insane. If they did not, they would have to, not only question neoclassical orthodox economics and neoliberalism, but reject the lot entirely.

Few are courageous enough, either morally or intellectually, to question or challenge their profession, their holy dogma, their society, or the hands that feed them – whether directly or indirectly. (Careerism, dedication to a paycheck over basic sanity, integrity, conscience or common sense, and unwavering obedience to authority, along with conformism, tend to rule the academy, and particularly the economics department, which couldn’t say “shit” if it had a mouthful, but would only smile and say, “Yes, master.”) Therefore, mystification is the inevitable result of an intellectual system, doctrine, and field which is based in lies, willful ignorance, denial and delusion.

There are many who will argue against the claims I have made here, of course. Most of them are economists, naturally, or members of the ruling business elite or their loyal servants in politics, academia and the media. And many will cite figures and statistics to back their dismissal of what I have asserted here – that the economic orthodoxy is based upon lies, delusion, self-serving rationalizations and self-deceit, and a radical denial and dissociation from reality. But we should remember, numbers, figures and statistics can be massaged, fudged, wildly distorted, or simply made up.

A forensic accountant who was interviewed by Canada’s public state media, the CBC, said that most of the books and economic reports issued by corporations belong in the fiction section.

“Creative accounting” is now the norm. Moreover, both big business and big government utilize highly fictional accounting and economic reporting practices. 2+2, we are supposed to believe, equals five.

Governments now routinely lie about employment rates and inflation rates, for example. Job creation figures are also more fiction than reality, considering precarious, low-wage “McJobs” are the mainstay of most “job creation” figures reported – jobs which no one can live on.

Employment rates don’t account for the growing and vast ranks of the working poor. And unemployment rates don’t count the growing underclass, a large percentage of which have given up on finding regular paid jobs.

And while official inflation rates run at 3% or lower, those official rates leave out giant increases in housing costs, rent, home heating, transportation, education and health care costs – these things are not considered essential to life, we are to suppose, so they are not counted into the official inflation numbers. Real inflation rates are typically closer to 6-9%.(See Gerald Celente, Trends Journal, and Shadow Stats.)

There has supposedly been an economic “recovery”. (Remember that I predicted the 2007-2010 economic crisis, when virtually everyone was saying things are just rosy.) The “recovery” has driven the stock market to new highs. But the stock market is now radically out of touch with the real economy.

What was done was to inject trillions of dollars of money-printing into creditor’s pockets – banks “too big to fail” and economic elites too big to jail – with the promise that it would trickle down. Well, the people have been lied to, swindled, and trickled on. The billionaires got richer, while poverty and inequality soared.

This was not a recovery. It was a blood-letting: the super-rich accelerated their devouring of the middle class, the merely affluent, the planet, and of course, the poor. In the process, the debt bubble, the asset bubbles, and “the everything bubble”, simply grew exponentially bigger. When it blows, as it will, it will be greater than the Great Depression. And “the recovery” has only made it so that the coming crash will be far bigger.

(Don’t wait until your money is worthless before diversifying, moving your money out of paper money, and building real resiliency, by the way.)

By some official figures, world poverty rates are falling. But, is being driven off the land and rural farms and into shantytowns and slums, to go from subsitence farming to desperately poor, precarious workers in cities, a decrease in poverty? In many cases, if not most, the opposite is true.

The newly urbanized poor, driven off the land and into the slums, in general have more income, yes, more precarious paper money, of ever more dubious value or worth; but their lives are more precarious, less secure, and in general, more impoverished, degraded and degrading – and more desperate, not less: exactly as with the land enclosure acts of Europe, generations ago, which was a feeding frenzy of the aristocracy, the elite, upon the peasantry, the great majority; which gave rise to what is called the industrial revolution, and “progress”.

God bless the robber baron parasites! They are our salvation!

Poverty is rising, and inequality is soaring, while precarious work and living conditions are becoming the norm for the overwhelming majority of people world-wide. This is progress? This is a rising tide lifting all boats? No, this is rape and pillage economics, economic imperialism, economic apartheid, or simple cannibalism of the middle class and poor, along with the planet, by the super-rich billionaire, plutocrat class – the rentier class.

Remember what Mark Twain said: “There are lies, there are damned lies – and then there are statistics.”

The fact is that neoclassical orthodox economics and neoliberalism represent a body of thought which is radically out of touch with reality, in radical denial of reality, and is radically delusional – at best, if not simply deceitful, and based upon lies. (In part, it is simply Machiavellian, but cannot admit it.) As a result, the pseudo-intellectual field of economics, and the actual real-world global economic system which it upholds and perennially defends, like guardian high priests, or deranged holy war paladins, is causing exponentially growing human suffering and ecological devastation, and will result soon in neofeudalism, crypto-fascism, and a new dark age, followed by the collapse of human civilization.

These are the facts that the majority of people, who are not economists, nor among the self-deceiving business, “intellectual” or political elite, are coming to perceive and to realize. In short, the people must trust their instincts more: the emperor truly does have no clothes – and the elite and their high priests are quite insane.

To puncture and rupture and pierce this bubble of shared delusion is thus a moral responsibility, not only of economists, but more importantly, of all thinking people – before we create, or allow to be created in our names, a global sweatshop, a global plantation, a global gulag, and a global fascist neofeudalism, that will make the Dark Ages look like a picnic; and will lead, in the end, and very soon, to the collapse of our civilization, in either nuclear war or ecological holocaust.

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Awake now, people. The emperor has no clothes. The elite are robbing us blind, looting and pillaging the planet, and amassing vastly excessive powers, leading to both global fascism, and global collapse.

We must stop this madness now. Think, question, read, listen – and hear; then speak, and act.

As Thomas Paine said, “It is in our power to begin the world again.” Well, we simply must, or else perish, slowly and painfully, by result of our own hubris, or inability to question the high priests of the reigning orthodoxy of a delusional society that is clearly off the rails, and headed for disaster.

As the Canadian environmental scientist and geneticist, David Suzuki said, “Orthodox economics is a form of insanity.”

Well, the madness must end now.

JTR,
March 1, 2020

 

For further reading, talks, interviews, videos, and general clarification, in terms of economics narrowly, but critically, and other inseparably inter-related areas, see:

Max Keiser
Gerald Celente
Paul Craig Roberts
Matt Taibbi
Susan George
Michel Chossudovsky
Steve Keen
Ann Pettifor
Joseph Stiglitz
Yanis Varoufakis

And equally important, for critical context and perspective:

EF Schumacher
Gregory Bateson
Joanna Macy
Rianne Eisler
Murray Bookchin
Bertrand Russell
Peter Kropotkin
Marx (of course – because he was a brilliant sociologist,
despite being a terrible political philosopher)
David Suzuki
Jared Diamond
Ronald Wright
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Vandana Shiva
Naomi Klein
Jeremy Rifkin
Aldous Huxley
Alan Watts
Allan Wallace
David Bohm
Erich Fromm

And perhaps especially:

Michael Hudson
Ellen Brown
Daly & Cobb
John Perkins
John Ralston Saul

 

 

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