Yelling about economics makes you irrelevant

Who’s team are you on:  Republican or Democrat, Hayek or Keynes?

According to The Last Psychiatrist – and he’s a doctor so we have to trust him – the faster you answered this question, the less your opinion matters:

media manipulates you to hate some things by linking them to other things: it polarizes you, which means it makes you irrelevant.  E.g. when an election “is determined by” one particular group of “swing” voters– whom you deride for being too stupid to have made up their minds yet– it doesn’t mean your vote has been factored in but that you are so predictable that you don’t count.  Power never thinks of you as an individual.  Power never thinks of you at all.

I quibble with the idea that “media” or “power” is an all-knowing Wizard of Oz controlling the levers of culture. My personal perception is that no one is in control but some, like surfers, can harness forces that are largely exogenous to their own benefit. Surfers don’t control waves, they just ride them in front of the cameras. Media doesn’t control behaviour, it tries to direct it – most often unsuccessfully – by appealing to base instinct.

But the point about polarization and irrelevance stands and, since polarization and intransigence are arguably the dominant traits of the current culture, we should try and figure out why.

Theory: The failure of scientific method is behind the recent lack of political progress.

You didn’t see that coming did you? Let’s go back a few hundred years to the beginning of the Era of Science and Reason. Technological and intellectual advancement, highlighted by Galileo, led to the widespread questioning of God and our place in the universe. The first order of business, like Adam in the garden of Eden, was to rename and categorize everything.

“Hey Chuck! Mr Darwin! Is this thing a mollusk or crustacean?”

“Two pairs of nerve cords? Mollusk”

“Chuck! WTF do we do with the Platypus? It lays eggs”

“Umm. Leave that one out”

And there’s the problem – leaving shit out. The scientific method proved insufficient to encompass everything, as economists are now painfully aware. Neat categorizations began to pull academics away from the real world rather than promote fuller understanding.

Consider the following model of scientific era thought, originally drawn up by the late professor James Leach, the Smartest of All Time (SOAT):

postmodern blog

The all-male thinking brigade of the 17th and 18th centuries assumed that because the natural world appeared to divide between male and female that this was the correct way to start. They shoehorned almost everything into this construct. Inconveniences, occurrences that did not clearly fit, were repressed and ostracized as “other”. To the bigoted minds of the time, homosexuals – who tested the male/female divide – were the obvious examples.

For professor Leach, post-modernism was a process of declassification and re-assembling. (He spent a lot of time on Freud who’s primary achievement was discovering that the mind worked in metaphor. Our brains actually classified things as this AND that, not this OR that).

What we should be thinking about is what post-modern economics would look like, blowing up the existing structures and re-assembling them. Is it possible to believe simultaneously in smaller government and huge stimulus? Of course – it just doesn’t fit the current template. There’s no team for that.

What we’re doing now – splitting into mobs and screaming at each other – is tragically stupid and unproductive. The banner quote on this blog only hints at the depth of my disgust at the modern shoutfest. The crucible of spirited opposition has rendered every side inflexible, unhappy and desperate enough to seriously consider trillion dollar coins or destroying the legislative process.

And the Last Psych is right – the louder you scream the more irrelevant you are. Not because you’re wrong but because you have fitted yourself so deeply into an outdated template that it is unlikely you are thinking as an individual. Quit it

25 thoughts on “Yelling about economics makes you irrelevant

  1. Rohit says:

    bang on. A little bit of “introvert-ism” and self doubt is good.

  2. Richard says:

    The fact that one’s beliefs fall into one camp or another may make them predictable, but it doesn’t make the irrelevant or wrong. Of course, the belief that one is in possession of the truth might be dubious in direct proportion to the strength of the belief.

    And policy may require compromise, but truth itself is never a compromise between two positions.

  3. kris says:

    LOL. Not bad, not bad at all.

    That’s why I haven’t had a TV since 2001, it’s been 12 years.
    I don’t want to be brainwashed.

    I think on my own.

  4. kris says:

    I’ve said it over and over and over on FT Alphaville:
    Slavery is a choice.
    Not bothering to have an independent opinion is the beginning of slavery.

  5. Finster says:

    Theory: The failure of scientific method is behind the recent lack of political progress.

    This is an assumption. If you take the USA with its advanced political struggle, based on an 18th century constitution, I daresay that never before quantitative methods have been used more effectively and encompassingly in the struggle for power.
    Politics is the struggle for power. Not for national happiness or wellbeing, but for power. The US features a highly advanced, resource rich political battlefield. The failure the author describes stems from the rules of engagement, institutions and laws which govern it, which in turn are the product of the eternal struggle for power in a republic.

    The American soldier on German ground in 1945 could admire around him the finest, most advanced military machine ever built, the rubble and debris of the cities were just the backdrop of the success of this manifestation of power.

  6. Skwosh says:

    You say: “What we should be thinking about is what post-modern economics would look like, blowing up the existing structures and re-assembling them”, but how will we know – in this post-modern age – if we’ve re-assembled it right? Who is to say any new way is right or wrong? It may be right for some, and not for others, and even if it is right for some how can we even know this without some sort of measure, some sort of test or criterion (which we obviously can’t have any more because that would be like scientific method). I mean, even if we aim for a new economics which most people say they *feel* it is somehow ‘right for them’ we are presumably going to have to count these people in order to determine if they’re in a majority – or maybe do some sort of weighted average – which is a bit horrid and methodical and logical and male, isn’t it? Maybe we let everyone have their own personal economics that is ‘right for them’? You say “Splitting into mobs and screaming at each other is tragically stupid and unproductive” – but what if we *feel* it is the right thing to do – what if our unique and precious intuition’s tells us that it is somehow appropriate to be in a mob and scream at each other – who are you to say this is *stupid* – perhaps it is some sort of Jungian collective catharsis – a connection to a deep indigenous pre-logical cultural root that will facilitate the internal re-organisation of the societal super-organism by processes beyond the capacity of understanding of any single individual?

  7. […] Yelling about economics makes you irrelevant.  (Interloper) […]

  8. Finster says:

    The goal is not a more productive, generous society. The goal is power and the votes to achieve it. I find the struggle between the populares and the optimates of the late Roman republic a very enlightening parallel. Every faction was mercilessly pushing their agenda, but contrary to todays PAC’s, parties and lobbyists, you have names and actors attached to the ambition. It’s Pompei in the east instead of General McCrystal and the Pentagon and the military industrial complex. There are the populists and the extremely wealthy, who unify almost all claims to debt and property to their name.
    None of these acted for the greater good or were interested in higher quality institutions. Each and everyone of them appealed to money and votes to further their grip over the republic and its resources, provinces and tax revenues.

    Whoever thinks this is off topic is not capable of enough abstraction in thought.

  9. madasafish says:

    But in the US a fair proportion of the population is not “scientific ” thinking.

    After all, 46% of all Americans believe in Creationism. 20 % believe in aliens, and 49% do not believe in Global Warming.

    So most Americans are either dumb or crazy or ignore scientific findings.

    And the writer expects rational behaviour from a country full of people like that?

    • brit says:

      and that we’re all supposed to neglect our “side” in favor of allowing them equal standing in the economic sphere of thought?

      • kris says:

        Crushing “beliefs” is called totalitarianism.

        Communism crushed belief in God, only to end up creating belief in the leader.

        A human being is born religious. It’s inevitable.

      • brit says:

        You can believe whatever you want. My point was that it should not inform economic policy, and we (the informed, rational thinkers) should not take views shaded by creationism/climate change deniers seriously as “debate,” but rather, “noise.”

      • kris says:

        As an example, if President Obama is trying to crush ‘belief in God’ which is actually happening, it will lead to only one thing, that President Obama becomes god instead in people’s minds.
        It is inevitable. People are religious by birth.

      • brit says:

        @kris, As an example, using your example, the proper response would be to say, “LOL, ok, pal. Move along, the grown-ups are thinking here.” And then ignore you, and go back to framing economic policy based on sound economic principles.

      • kris says:

        brit
        Everybody has his/her FREE WILL.

        Once you understand the importance of free will, the term ‘economic policy under sound principles’ becomes almost useless, unless totalitarianism is self imposed by the people.

        Everybody has the right and should have the right to be stupid.

      • brit says:

        Yes, but I have the right to pursue my own self interests by safe guarding myself against others’ stupidity. That includes advocating laws and policies that act to prevent someone else’s stupidity from imposing on my life.

  10. […] Raise your hand if you are sick of the screaming mobs of economists and political pundits.  (Interloper) […]

  11. David says:

    I enjoy your thoughts very much along with the Nietzsche quote below the title of this blog. But how about Nietzsche’s thoughts on the failure of the enlightenment. Isn’t it true that the search of philosophers for truth since Socrates (Plato) has irredeemably broken down? We killed god (truth) and are hereafter doomed to the messiness of life without any end point or external scale of measurement?

    In this world we can either embrace life as an experiment or cling ever tighter to tradition. It seems to me most want tradition despite their often arbitrary nature.

  12. e. says:

    If the goal of economics is to provide a valid description of the processes and systems that underlie the observed financial, industrial and governmental interactions in a rational, factual, and independently observable way then this is a valid means to proceed.
    If the goal is to have a white coated, wire rimmed glass wearing white male of upper middle age stand next to a grinning politician while enforces austerity on little old ladies to get more taxpayer dollars to buy more dysfunctional widgets from the people who supported his campaign, then there is no need for reconsideration of the present state of the discipline-all is well.

  13. brit says:

    As an example, using your example, the proper response would be to say, “LOL, ok, pal. Move along, the grown-ups are thinking here.” And then ignore you, and go back to framing economic policy based on sound economic principles.

  14. Tribal behavior is annoying, but it is not going away.

  15. […] I’m struggling trying to make them simpler so, in the mean time, here’s a link to the Interloper whose posts are always fascinating and unlike any other I […]

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