Sunday, March 20, 2016

(economists) Get a Job

Job and his friends
Industrialization, buy imposing an economic structure on productive social relations, created the modern era of political revolution. Industrially transformed economic relations, integrating what had been local craft production distributed through local credit into a national monetary/market based system, required political transformations of equal scope to be sustainable, even in the short term: wherever market values manifest they externalize onto the weak and the environment the negative consequences of the changes they impose, they make of populations and the planet, "sinks", reservoirs to absorb unintended consequences. Without revolution markets will eventually exhaust these "sinks". Change always contains both good and bad, the bigger the change the more of each. Economists call the bad that can't be monetized "externalities"(and there is a current vogue to calling the bads that can be monetized "profits" when they are nothing of the kind, "liquidating" as they are the world's stock of real wealth). Revolutions reallocate the distribution of both good and bad in order that the larger political organism, including both beneficiaries and victims, or at least most of them, can continue to exist.

Because sinks are finite, for market based systems there is no alternative to revolution but collapse. A properly functioning Political Economy has as many feed back channels as required to mediate between winners and losers, profit streams and sinks. It ensures frequent revolutions, the smaller and more frequent, the less painful. The more nimbly adjustments are made, accounting for needs of the weak and ecology, the healthier both the economy and underlying environment are. Should such adjustments not be made, as they haven't in the last forty years, the weak, a majority of the population, and the environment, on which we all  depend for life itself, will simply die.  After four decades of choked feedback from the weak and the environment, willfully ignoring both, revolution approximately commensurate with those constipating forces resisting change is now required to prevent collapse.

What the Sanders campaign proposes as revolution is close to being the least that could possibly succeed, and probably among the best precisely for that reason. Excess cannot cure excess. Periodically dammed up to change, as we are now, the process of economization, of rationalizing life around the logic of markets through revolutions of technology and Political Economy, externalities and all, started with a population of around 600M in 1700 in a world about two degrees cooler, and now involves a warmer 8B souls. Along that exponential demographic curve, our unaccounted ecological externalities have been tracking: nature won't necessarily find a new equilibrium with us in it.

In these decades, the political forces stifling adjustment have benefited enormously making an ideological point of denying that the ecology can be harmed, and even in the event it might be that there could be no important consequences, or in the event there are, there's nothing to be done anyway. They call this suicidal stupidity "conservativism" and hold it at the center of our politics with the Republican front runner promising the elimination of the EPA while the Democratic front runner has been an active participant in neutering it since 1992. This willful ideological blindness, an Orwellian abuse of the word conservative, is propagandized by abstruse rationalizations of academic and professional economists.

A useful Economics would be a sociology of money. It would be the study of how people achieve the power to command resources, including other people, through the manipulation of credit relationships, i.e. money, a socially constructed power relationship between people. As sociology, the most it could hope to explain would be how distribution of life's essentials, as mediated by accruals of power in increasingly asymmetrical credit relationships, is political: if honest