New York stops the revolution in economics too?
from Peter Radford
Yesterday’s election result in New York State effectively ended Bernie Sander’s tilt at the Democratic windmill. Here’s what I wrote to a friend who was intent on parsing the numbers:
And, the point is?
We can analyze all we want. It doesn’t alter the result. It provides nice fodder for coffee shop talk, but doesn’t help anyone.
It’s time to move on. Bernie will keep going. Clinton will become even more annoyingly patronizing. Her surrogates [like Krugman] will gloat. She will likely win in November. And America will struggle on regardless.
Clearly 2016 is not the year of change. It is a year of upheaval on the right, complacency in the center, and only the beginnings of rebirth on the left.
I never imagined that the Democrats would be the party of centrist corporate establishment thought. Or that it would be the Democrats enforcing the wishes of big business over and above those of the working people. But that’s where we are.
I suppose none of this is a surprise. The total dominance of social/cultural issues as a defining line in politics has obscured the equally powerful dominance of right wing economics across the board. Neoliberalism is the monotone ideology of both parties.
The revolution will have to wait.
Buried in there is my attitude towards economics. By enabling neoliberal ideology, and following the lead of Hayek and Friedman, economics debases the role of liberal democracy and representative government. This casts a long dark shadow across the subject.
Never has it been more clear to me that, notwithstanding the professed personal positions of individual economists, contemporary economics has become a profoundly anti-democratic project.
This is ironic only with respect to longer history.
The 1930’s were critical in the demise of the democratic tradition within economics. The setting into concrete of its severe limitation as a subject dealing primarily with the mathematics of choice and allocation was masked only temporarily by the superficial victory of Keynesian macroeconomics. The intellectual catastrophe of the 1970’s and 1980’s, which saw the emergence to superiority of the formalized ideologically anti-democratic version of economics that now dominates, was merely a logical extension of the 1930’s limitation.
The subject finally emerged as a tool for performative reconstruction of society. Its methods were exported to ensure the elimination of alternative viewpoints. Its dogma was translated and accepted into the prevailing faith for business strategy, economic policy, and many other aspects of socio-economic life.
Even the supposed schism between various flavors of macroeconomics which gives great life to the academic elite and provides large numbers of hand-wringing articles about the state of the discipline is trivial when set beside the socio-political stranglehold neoliberalism has on our society.
When the major debate about ‘what went wrong’ is being conducted by the same people who led us into error; when that debate is conducted entirely in the same theoretical framework as that of the error itself; when the policy outcomes are only relatively modified; and when the entire discussion seems so unrelated to the day-to-day actors who populate – or are supposed to populate – the markets and economies that economics is meant to understand we know that nothing will change.
Until economics rids itself of the fantasies of equilibrium, maximization, and the pursuit of an efficiency that cannot be located in an uncertain world, it cannot be much more than an narrow academic pursuit. Right now, by convincing itself of the efficacy of its method, and by the unethical exportation of that method into subject matter where the simplicity of economics has no relevance, economics has managed to make itself into nothing more than a technology for the exact opposite of its original intent: it is no longer trying to understand economies. It trying to invent them.
It is social engineering.
And like a lot of twentieth century social engineering it has become a very sinister undertaking.
Let’s take it back.