Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The American Century is Over, Part 4: That old time religion.

In domestic affairs, the cabal espouses an ideology often called Free Market Fundamentalism. This begins with the proposition that whatever property people happen to possess at this moment has a fundamental moral status: that ownership is morally justified, as is the deprivation of those who do not possess much property. The disadvantages for acquisition of those who are impoverished, and the advantages for those who are wealthy, are also an unassailable virtue. This moral principle is embedded in a theoretical edifice developed by economists.

Economics is theology, not science. The basic method of economists is to draw up a list of assumptions which are contrary to fact, or at the very least have not been established. From these assumptions they spin a web of deduction about how the world would work if the assumptions were true. Somewhere along the way, they forget that the assumptions are false, and start to believe that they are describing reality. To the extent that the discrepancy between their fantasy world and reality is too obvious to ignore, they try to modify the system by introducing corrective factors. This was also, of course, the method of Ptolemaic astronomy – to keep adding cycles and epicycles to make the motion of the planets around the earth correspond to observation.

I’ll deconstruct the epicycles in a future post, but for now, here’s a quote from Mr. Bush:

One way you can create jobs is to lower people's taxes. (Applause.) If people have more money to spend, it means somebody has got to produce more for them. And the producers then need to hire people. It's economics 101. Except sometimes people in Washington haven't taken the course.

This sounds compelling, until you realize that government doesn’t take the tax money and burn it on the altar of liberalism. Government, yes, spends the money! With some of that money, government actually hires people directly. Those people then have jobs! Some of it, government invests in infrastructure, research, and other enterprises that not only create jobs immediately, but create the foundation for a vital economy into the future. Government pays for health care for elderly people and poor children, which not only creates jobs in the health care industry, but helps make those children more productive as adults. Government pays for environmental regulation that not only employs scientists and regulators, but keeps the whole population healthier so they can, yes, work! And some of it, government puts in the pockets of retired people who, yup, spend it.

Agreed, some of that money, government squanders in a way that hurts the economy. Mostly, that’s by using it to buy aircraft carriers, fighter jets, nuclear submarines, 30 million dollar tanks, etc., which then sail and fly and drive around the world either doing nothing in particular or blowing up stuff and people. But Mr. Bush loves to shovel borrowed dollars down that rathole because it makes him feel all world historical ‘n stuff.

So no Mr. President, it isn’t Economics 101. Or rather, maybe it is. Universities pay big salaries to tenured professors of economics to fill the heads of freshmen with nonsense.

What Mr. Bush likes is for rich people not to have to pay taxes. He doesn’t give a rats ass whether workers in Indiana have jobs. If he did care about them, he wouldn’t be shooting people and blowing stuff up in Iraq while Indiana’s jobs head off to China and Indiana’s grandchildren pile up trillions of dollars in debt to those same Chinese who are taking their grandparents’ jobs. He’d be doing something about it. But he doesn’t care because he and his rich friends can invest their money anywhere they want to, in Europe, in Asia, in those very same U.S. Treasury bonds your grandchildren will work all their lives to pay off.

But Joe Hill told us why the good people of Indiana scream and shout and applaud and vote for Mr. Bush:

Work all day,
Live on hay.
You’ll get pie
In the sky
When you die.

The song is called The Preacher and the Slave.

Next installment: What to do.

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