Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crashing Economics

My concept in thinking about the future has been that of a complete collapse in either a) the economy or b) the actual society. This is my thinking that I am choosing to share. In my thinking an economic collapse is relatively good because of the alternative. The alternative to economic disaster is a social disaster. Or as the rock band Nig Heist called it, the "fall" of the society ... of the constructed, coordinated social world.

If we lost the ability to coordinate any support services for the population, thousands of persons, most persons will die. This means us; the bankers of course will survive in their bunkers. I guess. Not everyone want to think about this but if you choose to do so, this makes sense: because whereas an economy can be rebuilt using culture, the culture itself cannot rebuild itself ... without itself.
The upshot, in my thinking, is that if something has to fall and the economy does not then it will be the culture, or the social world. You could also call it the social base. (Chomsky has used that term, in his book in conversation with a French lady.) That social base is not something we understand very well at all. But its function seems to be independent of its being the recipient of any understanding. It functions. It has been functioning for - let's use a ballpark figure - a thousand years. I think that we could include two thousand if we want to identify with Romans, or only three or four hundred, to just cover modernity: on the theory that modernity is all we know anyway.
Now how does the social base function? The humans use money to make it function - somehow. Of course, Martians might use something else but humans use money. It's all kind of hard to explain. According to what I call traditional conservative schools of thought (it is social thought; social philosophy) the phenomenon of society relates to a sort of voluntary or given (hmmm..did I mean involuntary or voluntary?) social cooperation, or the "traditional" element of culture. I sure hope this shit makes sense. But, at any rate: It is human. It happens by itself. And therefore it is neither possible nor necessary to rationalize, modify, intervene or in fact even to totally explain it. So they just say "hands off" "don't interfere" "no government interference!" And it makes perfect sense that culture or tradition is one thing that is not amenable to rational explanation.

So, there is something suspect about the govenment (or any force at all) modifying the culture. However it also seems to be true that no one ever thinks deeply about economics. At least linguistically, "economics" is a different word: both as signified and signifier (or sign and signifier or however that stuff goes). Consider now that the basic cultural system and the economic system are today closely related. This, however, does not necessarily mean that economics "takes care of itself," just like it is asserted that society or culture does, since there must be some reason for the introduction for the term "economics," laid over the idea of culture or traditional society. Economics swamps culture and takes it over. They tell us not to see the usurper as a beast, but as natural, as rational, as friendly. There is really no reason to believe it if they tell us that not only that mysterious entity of "culture," but economics as well is by nature not open to any modification, interference, "government interference" and so forth. These are in fact just assertions they make. We may summarize by suggesting that any part of culture is indeed subject to investigation (or intervention, etc.), while it is only "the" culture, as an organic entity, that is not subject to certain interventions, analyses, liberals' interferences and liberal programs, etc. If this were the way we understood the semantic differences between "culture" and "economics," it would upset the conservatives' whole apple-cart.
This brings up an interesting point which is that of the appearance of a contradiction. I mean on my part. This is because on the first posts of this blog it says that capitalism goes down its path regardless --- i.e. of commentator or commentary --- the commentator in this case being F. Hayek (or else Reagan and Thatcher). This would seem to support the view suggested above that conservatives apply to the artificially doubled up category of culture as well as capitalistic free market economic phenomena. One could also, at this point, ask just what we mean by "interference in markets," the result of which is to show that certain interventions go on all the time and are quite necessary, so then I must have meant some kind of larger pre-destination of the overall cultural phenomenon.
But if we accept that I did say in the first posts that capitalism goes on its way, then now I seem to be saying the opposite. Now I am saying we should understand it. (Which is what economists try to do.) I seem to be saying that economics does not go down its own path at all. Rather, we should intervene. We should understand and intervene. So which do I believe? The problem is easily solved. It simply depends on the context. Up until now, capitalism had a path to go down and nobody could have interfered with it. In that part of the blog, there is a criticism of Hayek, it seems, saying that his comments are not really relevant in any profound way at all.
The time to intervene in capitalism has come. There is nothing like an idea whose time has come.
My first two posts give the idea that capitalism goes down its own path regardless of what commentaries persons make. The present post opposes this same belief, this because times have changed. Thus, it is not the case that economics in our day somehow takes care of itself, all by itself (which the reader will note was exactly what Hayek thought).
On the one hand, capitalism has its own path to take; no one can interfere with it. So in that case, we can follow the conservatives' advice and not talk about it at all. On the other, where is the harm in one's attempting to understand one's times? To refuse knowledge is one of the worst sins of all. Because: the time has come to intervene in capitalism, and if we do not investigate we'll never find that out. Now, to say that this matter of understanding economics is only a matter of "understanding" that lasseiz-faire should rule and we should stop "interfering" is completely inadequate. It is of the absurd. It is absurd because it is saying that to understand is to understand the fact that we do not need to understand. No one would go for that. The question, then, is that of where understanding comes into economics at all.
Yet I did say was that the traditional conservative belief that culture takes care of itself, by itself, may have something to it. I just do not believe that we should presume for any reason that what holds for culture in general holds for the application of our minds to the matter of economics --- which our intelligensia today fail to think skillfully about.
The dominance of culture by economics is something quite new. Economics turns out to be an invitation to understand, one that we turn down only in order to prove that we all deserve to perish. That is what we can demonstrate by our failure to understand our world, and that abysmal failure will be merely cheer-led, by the benighted later day followers of Hayek.

Right now, it's true, the economy seems to be collapsing. Better we let it happen; there are plenty of alternatives --- plenty of ways to go about building up a new economy. This is about creativity, and the human capacity. There are already plenty of ideas floating around out there. We can call it the capacity to make money. It is about the capacity to make money doing more than exploring the wacky world of high finance. It is about actually working. Is that offensive? It is an open secret that many persons have been, for the past twenty or more years, making more money doing nothing than people who work.
I think maybe the truth is that it is only persons who have been doing wrong all their lives who fear the changes that would come. We need reassure them and make it so they feel less fear. There will be a place in the new order for them, too. They probably think we are going to come and get them. No, no, no. These freaks should be given small condominium apartments, and taken for walks once a week if they aren't afraid of grass. But why should we fear a bunch of insane persons? We should just let the economy collapse. That's my opinion anyway.

(You might want to look at one of N. Kristoff's Sunday Oct 18 columns, on his NYT blog --oh god I have now mentioned them twice -- for my comment. It comes in on the blog part, not the original column, as number 95)

That blog seems unweildy, so here it is directly:
“… These beneficiaries tend to be low-income families, thus in this respect the poor may benefit. Likewise, a recession lowers prices of gas, oil and food, which disproportionately affect the poor. …”

"That makes sense. If the rich are basically partying on the corpses of the poor, and the party becomes diminished, the poor get a little breathing space — the few that aren’t already dead." You could still read Kristoff's column, of course, on either the NYT website or directly on the NYT Kristoff blog thang.

(Special to NYT: I'm sorry I couldn't force readers to your blogs directly. I'll send you a refund. For now, pout.)

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