Open thread/rant. Responses and red herrings equally welcome.
Yes, I am intrigued and impressed with the various protest movements of this year, notably the Rotundaville occupation in Madison and the Wall Street group, which I have been watching with interest. I am happy that people are looking at the future once again, and trying to plan out a trajectory. And I don’t think this site could have launched when it did without engaging with the movement and its concerns.
Like everyone who has only had a chance to observe from a distance, though, I find it hard to gauge the radicalism of the movement, and I am concerned about being typecast as anti-capitalist.
Meanwhile, I remain an intense skeptic about most kinds of economic thinking. I believe that the climate community MUST be tolerant of a barrage of challenges, because I can’t tolerate a world in which comparable charges cannot be made about economics as an academic theory.
The word “capitalism” is a bit of a mush. If I sell you an egg from my chicken, am I a capitalist? Or do I have to be a devotee of Ayn Rand? Let’s avoid the word.
Here I use “corporate capitalism” as a social organizational principle; a way to build organizations that are competitively structured to use very high levels of organization while competing in the marketplace.
A couple of principles that I think many scientifically minded people would agree to, which the rest of the world might not:
– The problems we are facing these days are problems of success, not failure
– The corporate capitalist system is incomparably brilliant at solving certain types of problem
– The problems we need solved include ones of the sort where corporate capitalism is indispensable
– The delegation of rights to inanimate corporations has resulted in an inhumane and distorted social structure
– Lack of friction on introduction of new technologies leads to increasing social instability
– Distribution mechanisms that rely on a labor scarcity to work, unsurprisingly, fail horribly when there is a labor surplus
So these are among the major misdesigns that need fixing, but we can’t be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
But when I say “economic theory” needs replacing I am speaking of something completely different. There is an academic discipline which has enormous influence over the political sector, which they have obtained by claiming expertise which they do not have. Not only do academic economists consistently distort the decision making process, they also cause the value of expertise to be discounted among the political/administrative types.
Nobody believes experts, but most of the experts they run into, aren’t. Recognizing and weighing expertise is really the name of the game, in a way. So far we are not good at it.
But the whole tangle where anyone objecting to anything is assocaited with Stalinists makes me suspect for even saying this.
So let me make it clear. I like corporate capitalism in practice, even though right now it is broken. I think it is necessary, and useful. even if it, and especially its relationship to the rest of society, needs to be fixed.
It is a different matter when I say I don’t like any sort of economic theory I have seen; left, right, green, or grey.
I am not advocating a workers’ collective. I am advocating for better economists.