Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bruce Wilder 04.27.13 at 3:57 pm

lupita @ 27: “R&R should not be judged on their interpretation of past data but on their ability to make data move in the future. . . .”

I think lupita nails it.

Their use of history pretends to be clinical, but is crafted to be useful propaganda. They aim to change the world, not to understand it.

In the history of economic ideas, their work is the latest, ironic counterpoint from the Right, of Abba Lerner’s earnest idealism and naïve confidence of 50 years ago. Post-WWII Keynesians thought that liberal and social democratic government could manage the macroeconomy, ameliorating or eliminating the business cycle, lifting all boats kumbaya. Friedman challenged their naïveté as arrogance, alternatively, denying wholesale that the economy needed to be managed at all (a fairly obvious lie), and suggesting that attempts to manage it were likely to cause bigger problems than they solved (a slightly more subtle lie). Conservative macroeconomics (e.g. the New Classicals) elaborated on the first lie; Public Choice elaborated the second lie, into a rhetorical framework in which the state, captive to private interests, is the root of all evil.

The response from the Left in the U.S. and Western Europe to the rise of these conservative critiques has been a steady retreat into neoliberalism. Fiscal policy too clumsy; monetary policy can do it all (and make millionaires into billionaires, which is surely pareto-improving, no?). The regulatory state too “burdensome” for the Right and too “captured” for the Left? Deregulate! What could go wrong?

So, now, here we are, in the wreckage of the post-GFC economy, wrought by neoliberal policy. Wondering about the academic “ethics” of Rogoff and Reinhart. Those two know who holds the butter knife, and they are getting their bread buttered. Anyone, who thinks any slander or libel of their methods or motives, however well-justified, is going to touch them, has no theory of economics or politics.

The idiocy, here, is on the Left, or on that part of the Left, which still insists that “austerity” is a “bad idea”, a mistake (as if R & R did not know how to code a spreadsheet), and the struggle of politics over policy is a war of ideas, about what policy “idea” would best further the common good.

The parlous state of the post-Democratic centre-left of liberals and erstwhile social democrats is the end result of 50 years of losing battles in this war of ideas, because they could not face the reality of the Right’s narrow ambition, to promote the good of the few and the rich and the already powerful at the expense of the many. Behind the front of this war of ideas, behind the pretense of a debate over means to pursue the common good, is the reality of a rising and selfish class, determined to make the world safe for domination. To rule and ruin, as complementary strategic objectives.

If the centre-Left, the moderates of good will, have few ideas and fewer options in our Post-Democracy, it is because they cannot seem to face the reality of a politics of class war, of a reality, where the typical business leader is a vicious, selfish, out-of-control thug, and the purpose of winning elections is to get control of the state, so you or he can use the power of the state.

There is much hand-wringing among the chattering classes on the Left about the “problem” of Inequality, as if the unequalness of income distribution is the problem, and not that so much of the economy is founded on active and aggressive parasitism and predation.

The problems of climate change, overpopulation, and peak oil loom over everything, and the Left thinks the Right is in denial. Oh, yes, the Left pridefully declares its own consciousness superior, but argues pointlessly with climate change deniers and propagandists for fracking as salvation. As if Mr. Halliburton, Dick Cheney, might have been in denial or misinformed about the implications of Peak Oil, fifteen years ago. The Titanic has hit the iceberg, and those in first class have broken into the safe and are loading the gold and jewels into their lifeboats, while the liberals and social democrats debate whether there’s any acceptable policy options for passing scraps of day-old bread to those trapped in steerage and about to drown.

Until those on the centre-Left can accept the premise that their opponents on the Right do not share an interest in the common good, there will never be any clarity in our political struggles or debates.

(And, yes I know this isn’t the Post-Democracy thread, but these ideas came together for me, here, prompted by lupita’s insight.)

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