Home > Uncategorized > Why do economists never mention power?

Why do economists never mention power?

from Lars Syll

Trumpian trickle down | LARS P. SYLLThe intransigence of Econ 101 points to a dark side of economics — namely that the absence of power-speak is by design. Could it be that economics describes the world in a way that purposely keeps the workings of power opaque? History suggests that this idea is not so far-fetched …

The key to wielding power successfully is to make control appear legitimate. That requires ideology. Before capitalism, rulers legitimised their power by tying it to divine right. In modern secular societies, however, that’s no longer an option. So rather than brag of their God-like power, modern corporate rulers use a different tactic; they turn to economics — an ideology that simply ignores the realities of power. Safe in this ideological obscurity, corporate rulers wield power that rivals, or even surpasses, the kings of old.

Are economists cognisant of this game? Some may be. Most economists, however, are likely just clever people who are willing to delve into the intricacies of neoclassical theory without ever questioning its core tenets. Meanwhile, with every student who gets hoodwinked by Econ 101, the Rockefellers of the world happily reap the benefits.

Blair Fix

  1. bruceolsen
    March 30, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    Although racism, sexism, and all of the rest genuinely exist, to the powerful they are mere tools.

    Most people would consider it fair if (for example) 18.5% of U.S. billionaires were Black; such is an indication of how thoroughly citizens have been brainwashed by neoliberalism.

  2. Edward Ross
    March 30, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    Many people who want to rule the world or even individual people want power over others to boost their self image. In the case of economists in particular power is often used to suppress
    anyone upsetting their self important image of themselves and their cultural group. HENCE as in history change can only come about when power is taken away power hungry despots. Thus from my simple perspective power has to be taken away from the ruling mainstream economists, who in effect are the servants of the real mandarins of power who have achieved their power , because of their wealth. here i think it was Dean who made the point that attacking wealth by taxation without examining how they got their wealth is proving to be counter productive. Ted on his eighty fifth birthday.

  3. March 31, 2021 at 12:27 am

    Yes, I followed the links and read the longer version. Very impressive. Thank you Blaire Fix. Thank you Lars Syll. Accepting the premise of premeditated brainwashing in econ 101, the Chicago ideology is, therefor, not to be confronted but instead supplanted by ideologies springing from evolution accelerating with each new idea communicated. Now we know something like this;

    Axiom 1: An economy that does not take into account all costs claims the wealth of the Earth at the expense of the health of life.

    Axiom 2: Citizens who represent society in governments or corporations and who are paid more than the normal wage are loyal to money without regard to society or Earth’s life support systems.

    Axiom 3: Although the germination strength of an emerging society cannot see what it is becoming, it can organize itself to set a path away from known dangers and also away from those who promote problems.

    If there is a fourth it is military empires cannibalize their host nation at the end, 100%

    I have put a mandala of political economy 2021 at https://www.constituentassembly.org Blaire Fix and Lars Syll please fix it up, a few minutes would be great. I put it behind contests.

  4. Econoclast
    March 31, 2021 at 12:41 am

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.”
    — Frederick Douglass, 1857

    Good post, Blair. And correct, Ted, echoing Douglass. My own metaphor is that market fundamentalist economics functions as the emperor’s clothes. But all the discussion about power is badly needed and bears repeating, to achieve what Douglass is saying about words. That’s all we have in this battle.

    And, happy birthday, Ted. You are 6 months younger than I, so we’ve seen a lot in our time that bears on the question of power. Where power abuse is concerned (which I think is what most people who fear power are referring to when they use the word “power”), that loser who recently occupied the White House almost makes us long for the unique Richard Nixon, doesn’t it? Almost, but not quite.

  5. Craig
    March 31, 2021 at 5:06 am

    There is a hierarchy of power, and finance stands astride it like a colossus.

  6. Ken Zimmerman
    March 31, 2021 at 11:36 am

    It is correct that power plays a large part in economic arrangements. Always has. Perhaps in the last 40 years more so than at any other time in history since the disparities in power and their consequences are now so large. However, most economists seem to show little interest in studying or understanding power in economic arrangements. Perhaps this is due to their conclusion, honestly held that economic factors (whatever those are) are the only determinants of results in these arrangements. Or, even if the former is not true, power is still just a minor factor in these arrangements. Or that studying power in economic arrangements provides little opportunity for career advancement as an economist. Or that power is just too difficult to study or the methods for its study are insufficient. These are just guesses on my part. However, it is also my view that economics, if it is to be a stand-alone social science must study all aspects of economic arrangements, including power.

  7. March 31, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    What a splendid blog, picture and set of comments. Being only 84, Ted and Econoclast make me feel like a spring chicken!

    I disagree with the semantics of power talk, though I agree with Econoclast’s Douglass about our giving up our own power to those who demand it. What is not being even thought about power is that we need food to sustain power (which is physically a rate of use of energy), and that self-control is about NOT using power by developing our abilities to choose (e.g. to “give way at roundabouts”). Finance only stands astride power like Craig’s colossus if we believe the capitalist lie that the emperor is wearing new clothes, and not Blair’s MMT position (proven by Werner) that banker’s IOUs indebt not their borrowers but the ones who write them.

    Christian mercy, the logic of the double negative and avoiding the release of often justified but uncontrollable mob anger against financiers, all suggest letting the punishment fit the crime: writing off money-makers’ debts too by choosing to believe that money is simply worthless. Most governments at the UN, having experienced austerity by submitting to IMF restructuring, will be glad to get the money monkey off their back and may be open to the “credit card” alternative of valuing credit-worthy locals who, one way or another, try to earn their keep. Put another way, that’s very much about how to realise Garrett’s Axiom 3, with its lemma that we can know in advance what changes more slowly than the events which concern us, like the evolution of life as against the economy. Billionaires attracting mates to their yachts are still the equivalent of birds displaying their plumage.

    Here’s another interesting thought. In our own era the power seeking lie actually started with Hayek projecting it onto the communists, who of course blamed the capitalists. It seems the first biography of Hayek is as recent as 2001. I wonder what he was trying to cover up?

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