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Some critical responses

from Peter Radford

It’s the kind of thing you will read in any well-selling textbook.  I have never asserted, however, that standard economics is an impenetrable monolith.  There are shades of grey within it sufficient to accommodate a great percentage of practicing economists.  It was to help encourage the creation and spread of an even greater plurality of ideas that I re-engaged with economics a couple of decades ago.

  1. Edward Ross
    June 2, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    As a non academic i like your “poking fun at the standard aspects of theory because from my position in the real world, it supports our concern with the standard theory, as being dissconceted from the real world Ted

  2. June 7, 2020 at 7:49 pm

    As an information scientist I think you are missing the point that the pluralism in economics is like the selling of patent medicines in the days before (and indeed since) germs were discovered: empirically addressing the symptoms and not the cause. You should be looking for root causes – basic science. In Aristotle’s day it was opposing forces. Newton’s dynamics added centrifugal to centripetal forces and Locke brought these into political economics with his notions of Balance of Power and Countervailing Forces. Since Hume we have been back with Aristotle but countering (equilibrating) the pressure of need with legal and military force, seeking norms of minimal resistance and/or maximum efficiency. That’s what we have 101 varieties of, what Smith’s “invisible hand” purports to automate. What economics still lacks is the basic information theory that yielded the theory of automation, which aims not to maximise operational efficiency but to use redundant information for detecting and correcting deviations.

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    June 21, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Even when economists claim otherwise, the main factor in distributing the resources (including money) in a society is ritual. What is the ritual or rituals in a society dominated by neoliberal culture? Or what Charles Derber calls a “Sociopathic” culture (Derber, 2013). “Any discussion in the United States of sociopathy typically turns into a conversation about people with mental illness. The real derangement is in the failures of our ideas and the success of our sociopathic society in undermining the very language for critiquing it. In this book, I develop a concept of sociopathic society that is structural, rooted in the political and economic system rather than in psychiatry. It shows that sociopathic individuals in the United States are often successful and well-adjusted, most of them sane and socially integrated. They are more likely to be conforming to the values and rules of conduct in our society than violating them. It is the rules and values that are at least metaphorically ‘sick.’” By now the story of the “redesign” of American culture (values, not technique) beginning in 1970s and speeding up till the present time has been told multiple times in multiple venues. Derber’s focus is the current state of that redesign and its current consequences – the sociopathic society.

    Derber uses the term “surplus strategy” to identify the current American rituals for resources distribution. It has led to a “surplus people crisis.” As Peter describes it. The American capitalist economy is inherently surplus producing. Its main product is twofold. First are exceedingly high short-term profits based increasingly on global production, and second (and related to the first) is the rising mass of US surplus people themselves. While not new in the history of economic arrangements, America today faces a super-crisis of surplus populations. The crisis flows from the current structures of our capitalist systems. As economies “age” they produce more and more surplus people. This is connected to long-term tendencies in capitalist economies toward protracted crises and decline as well as intense short-term profit-seeking strategies taken by current US elites. It is also connected to contemporary shifts in the global economy, and to the decline of the US relative to other rising economic powers.

    Currently we are experiencing a new phase of this crisis. The US elites have embraced a comprehensive business strategy that transforms the nation itself into a surplus people. Profit today has become inseparable from the manufacture of American surplus populations. Already representing most of the American people, this is not a “rational” long-term strategy for the country, nor even most likely for US elites. But corporate leaders have committed to it and government allies have made it stick, despite the enormous short-term and long-term costs.

    Which begs our final concern. Corporate leaders embrace such an absurd and destructive course of action for obvious reasons. They can make immense short-term profits and do not have to incur the short-term or longer-term social costs. All these costs—whether of high unemployment or prisons or poor health—are borne by the government and the population itself.

    Why would the government embrace this decision when it must confront the enormous costs to the society and the population? The answer to this question relates to the power of money currently in politics. Government has become, to a frightening degree, a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate elite. Politicians follow policies benefiting corporate elites even when they harm US voters and people. This is not new in capitalism, but the control of money over politics has deepened and led to far more lethal consequences for the nation and US workers in a globalized age. US corporations now seek profits and become profitable largely through mechanisms that increase all six of the surplus groups.1 This represents a potentially terminal social as well as economic phase. If it is not reversed through major social movements of the surplus people, such as the Occupy Movement and the current Black Lives Matter protests, it will lead inevitably to rapid and permanent decline of the US itself.

    This strategy is now institutionalized and extremely difficult to reverse. Corporations, political leaders, and the media are all complicit. And it is part of a worldwide economic transformation that has developed its own inexorable momentum. Donald Trump is a part of the plot but more as a sideshow than main plotter. The current phase involves a shift toward mass surplus people production tied to a new globally systemic profit strategy. It carries more lethal consequences, namely, the creation of a “surplus nation” in which, in the language so commonly repeated today, the 1% render the 99% of America “surplus.”

    1 (1) those who lack work entirely or lack sufficient work to eat and live; (2) those forced or pressured to leave the workforce and are warehoused in custodial or surplus-absorbing institutions; (3) those who work only to control those who lack work; (4) those who do “make-work,” that is, jobs that have no real economic or social value; (5) those who engage in profitable work with market value but with jobs that are socially unsustainable and destructive; and (6) those whose jobs are unnecessary, often with inflated pay, and are a disguised surplus population. This already encompasses the majority of Americans.

  4. Ken Zimmerman
    June 21, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Sorry, above misposted.

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