Home > Uncategorized > Needed — a dystopian economics

Needed — a dystopian economics

from Stuart Birks and the WEA Newsletter

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) are noted examples of dystopian literature. In contrast to idyllic utopian literature, they describe what might be considered to be seriously flawed societies. The authors wished to warn of potential dangers that might arise in the future. Huxley later published a follow-up collection of essays, Brave New World Revisited (1958) (BNWR). In it he warned that, his prophecies in the earlier book were coming true much sooner than he had anticipated. He wrote this in the 1950s, but his points seem particularly pertinent today as I will illustrate below. However, first I will give some context.

While not an economist, in BNWR Huxley made some points of particular relevance to economics:

“Omission and simplification help us to understand – but help us, in many cases, to understand the wrong thing; for our comprehension may be only of the abbreviator’s neatly formulated notions, not of the vast, ramifying reality from which these notions have been so arbitrarily abstracted.” (P. xxi)

And (bearing in mind, rationality, atomism, the efficiency of markets):

“Under the influence of badly chosen words, applied, without any understanding of their merely symbolic character, to experiences that have been selected and abstracted in the light of a system of erroneous ideas, we are apt to behave with a fiendishness and an organized stupidity.” (p.136)

Of course, the 20th Century was not the first time that utopian views have been challenged. A disastrous earthquake struck Lisbon in 1755 accompanied by massive tsunamis and widespread fires. This greatly affected Voltaire, among others, and a few years later he published Candide (1759). This satirical fiction challenged the view of nature and society being orderly and resulting in “the best of all possible worlds”. See here also. Anyone supporting neoliberal views or basing their opinions on the desirability of perfect competition would do well to consider Voltaire’s characterisation of Dr Pangloss.

So what was worrying Huxley in 1958? He argued that:  read more

  1. February 8, 2017 at 2:50 am

    Cosmic powered biology manifest as human started when the first quarks solidified and began discovering that various attractive combinations produced interesting offspring with opportunities for evermore interesting combinations. Evolution is thus seen as accelerating along with the accelerating cosmic expansion of a big bang still banging. Humans now see and appreciate Cosmos.

    Okay, that sets the stage. Next.

  2. February 8, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Orwell also wrote ‘down and out in paris and london’ i think. he also was said to have ‘outed’ some stalinist spies in UK.
    he helped create Newspeak. ‘war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is truth etc.’ . I think these were used as basis for Us Constitution, and US Declaration of alt-Rights.

    logan’s run was a nice distopian book. once you hit age 25, get off the planet.
    times up.

    one of those books also had some conflict between an oppressive regime and dictator, and an opposition underground movement led by somone else. for church, everyone went to the 60 second or minute hate–they showed the opposition leader and everyone screamed at Him.
    Later they showed the leader of the opposition was also the leader of the regime. makes things simple. hate what you love.

    see on youtube ‘hate on me’ by jill scott.
    . .

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