Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jack's Essay


I believe it is valid to call myself an economist. It is true that I am not a part of a group. What I mean is that there exists no group of scholars, nor any university program, that I am affiliated with. When I look at what I do, "economist" seems correct ---- a correct and workable method of describing it. More generically, I could say intellectual, and I could say philosopher. There seem to be a broad set of issues generic to the set of us, which is to say to the economists, whomever they be ---- it includes myself. I am like they are: an "economist" Yet although all are "economists" of same subject world (if not Dubai World) and hence interested in same topic or area I am not actually aware that this collective "we" know just what that area is. Hence the question as follows. What do we actually mean when we say it --- the word "economics"?

Now everyone in the field should just admit this and get over with it. The resultant situation means we have a word for the area studied but, Um ---- we're missing something. These may be no description. There may be no fleshing-out beyond mere moniker. I.e: name. Sign. There is a name for what the area of study is, but nothing else. There is nothing other than a term that serves as a signal or "sign." (That's semiotics but I'm not sure what it is, which makes two things --- two things that "we" are not sure of. Although, of course you may pretend if you like. No one can stop you.)

I don't know what "economics" really means and neither, I am pretty sure, do these other guys called "the economists." The thing that I submit as weird is that they do not seem to want to admit this fact that they lack a description of what it is that their field encompasses exactly. The many --the simple-minded --claim to (Have a scarce resource, buddy. And don't forget to pay me.)
This is the point where the whole thing becomes the study of ideology. Now we have to study ideology, it seems, and not just economics (whatever that was).

But I can try to find the description of what this field named economics is; I can try as well, and here it is. "My Turn."
The study of how humans use available resources. Ah. That was easy; it seemed really easy. How humans make use of what is available to them. Furthermore, and of this I am yet more certain, by which I mean more certain than I am certain that the economists who claim to know the description of their field dont, ---furtherMORE ---- these human beings are divided up into various social groupings. Oooooo..."socialism." Well, damn right it is. Capitalism is social, OK? I am sure of it. These humans that are making use of available resources are divided up into social groupings --albeit that a whole herd of economists, which is to say human absurdities calling themselves economists, deny that any such thing could possibly be relevant to their America, since the (American) universe contains, as all red-blooded real American morons know only "self-interested individuals" --Um, ... OK ... where was I? What I was saying when I was sane and feeling like a fair rational being, which I was, a moment back, was that, in all fairness, economics is probably about how human beings divide up some particular set of resource, which we can tweak further as the available potentialities for the production of, or for the use of, existing resources----now this in turn is to say short of hitting another person over the head or something, and stealing it, which would not be a very "economic" way of acting. Now would it? Also it's anti-social, get it? Economics is totally a social matter. But they never say it. So, that's where there is this twist, and ideology comes into it. (There are leftists who have said this, in the past. I even have a book by some mainstreamers, from the fifties, who preface their argument about ideology or business creed with the comment that what is called the "interest" theory is silly and should be dismissed out of hand, all of which, I thought when I saw this book, prefaces their own ideological look at the matter. The book then goes on to frame just such an argument. It was, indeed, not in the authors "interest" to say anything else. They were ideological. All of this is parenthetical, of course. You know?)

When I had a book proposal to offer to an editor, it was an academic press I chose, that I wanted to consort with. I thought of a university press. When I finally chose one, I did not choose one that puts out very many books specifically in my field of (you know) economics. I do not know if Indiana University Press puts out any economics books at all. I was picking an academic press. And the matter of whether this targeted institution of mine puts out economics books meant nothing. So, I guess that that shows how isolated I am or something. If other economists mean so little. Or that I'm not a good collaborator. In fact, it means a number of things. They mean little to me in terms of relationships, actually. These people should be my collaborators and colleagues. The truth is, there is no working relationship at all.

I do read some of them. Mostly the dead ones. How sad and lonely I must be! This is , OK?. There is some Latin word here, I think. Ennui? I haven't the vaguest idea of what the word is. It's a nice word for "alone." Alone in a sad, romantic painting painted by a lonely aristocrat of any European century whatsoever. Before the advent of capitalism's reign of hope. It's sad. I just don't know what it is----no education, you see.

So, OK: no school, no organization, no partners. Sad? So what. What does it matter? That I do not agree with anybody? That is not so unusual, my friends. Do Paul Krugman and Milton Friedman agree with one another? I think not! So maybe I'm right. To call myself "economist," I mean. Maybe that's what I am. (Also a comedian, but there actually is a Canadian comedian who started out as an economist. I bought his dissertation as a discounted book. I liked it.) There is no consensus between them either, although there may be some acquiescence to academic institutions, to get paid, to have jobs. (Which means something: they are all taking money from the same structure they are supposed to be studying.) There does not deserve to be any consensus between them. (Somehow that makes sense, but I have to analyze and edit, you know? Maybe I mean that we deserve to admit it to ourselves, or I deserve a break for calling myself an econo... oh I don't know!)

It is the same in similar fields, like psychology or political science and so forth. There are distinct schools there that do not agree with one another. You cannot artificially stitch that together. This is common in Western social science.

Am I worse than they? This great "They" (in addition to being the paid dignitaries of a collapsing civilization) could not even predict the recession. (I did. I was four years too early but I did. I was out of stocks entirely three years ago. I did not predict it would bounce back, though, and I do not think the banks should have been bailed out and I do not think it is necessarily good that "the economy"
whatever that is is bouncing back so fast. I think it is ominous. When civilization itself collapses we will be really, really shocked and awed. Then we'll look back and say, "but of course!" anyone could have predicted that!) Having not predicted the recession, they could not predict anything else either like for example how fast we would emerge from it. They take paychecks from the economy but is that related to the fact that they don't understand it? Don't want to bite the hand that feeds us, do we?

So I am no different----I mean I'm just another economist trying to make a go of it. I am no different, from the rest of the economists. There is no basis there to agree to. Am I the only one in isolation? Better ask John Lennon about that... but there is no consensus agreement in the field for me to be in isolation in comparison to. I am the same as the rest of them. I, too, am an economist.

* * *

The question is whether any of us know anything. I may not have my ducks all in a row. I may not have everything formally arranged. I may not have an audience for my papers, although I do have a few papers with definite ideas. I do have a set of ideas. These are, as time passes, emerging more and more coherently as a whole, constituting a genuine body of thought. My findings indicate that capitalism is an ever-changing arrangement that can either be self-generating, or, on the other hand, it can be consciously directed and intentionally modified. The modern world, so strongly based on capitalistic economic arrangements, is not at all something to be described as individual, or self-interested, although persons always describe it that way, but rather the world, with it's for-profit transactions, is a social world, and capitalism's economic arrangements are social arrangements, affecting all memebers of society. The requirements of capitalism are not merely requirements of individuals, for individual profit, and, if capitalism's purely social requirements are not met, the system will collapse completely. But, if capitalism is social -- or cooperative -- why is it described as "individual," especially in the United States? This is ideological. This is the function of ideology in society. What must change, then, is not only existing economic arrangements. Also, the wrong understanding must be corrected. Capitalism must be administered in an honest, democratic and transparent way.

Those are some of my conclusions. How I came to them is, of course, a story that is somewhat more involved.

What "genuine" means is that it could have some relevance. My ideas could create a better, more equitable economic arrangement, and contribute to security, in the real world. Correct economic theory should be relevant to the real world and not merely operate to rationalize and support whatever arrangements already exist.

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