The Fruits of Civilization (13) Economics


Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. ~ English economist Lionel Robbins

The notion that scarcity is the rightful locus of economics simply isn’t true. Hominids have been surviving for over 7 million years. Sure, survival was a struggle then; so it remains for most today.

The salient socioeconomic issue since antiquity has not been scarcity, but the distribution of surplus. After industrialization, the most pressing economic problem has been unsustainable environmental degradation; a dangerous dilemma which has garnered serious scrutiny only recently.

Economists have been remiss in their examinations, operating from the blithe religious assumption that Nature exists for human exploitation. The discipline of economics as exercised has been positively destructive to the weal of the world. Properly, economics should be the study of the quality of material life for all, with a close watch on sustainability. It is a false economics which leads to extinction.

Economics is no science in the usual sense. It is instead an exercise in biased, interpretive storytelling: imaginative narratives about material exchanges, blending psychological and sociological dynamics, and the belief systems behind the stories. In modern economics, talismans are commonly cast through ever-inept mathematical models: a voodoo discipline called econometrics.

The laws of economics are to be compared with the laws of the tides, rather than with the simple and exact law of gravitation. For the actions of men are so various and uncertain, that the best statement of tendencies, which we can make in a science of human conduct, must needs be inexact and faulty. ~ English economist Alfred Marshall

Conventional economics flows from a singular myth: the law of supply and demand, which forms a pricing mechanism that is erroneously assumed to efficiently allocate resources. These falsities form the foundation upon which all theories of market-oriented economic dynamics are formed. Faith in fables will be the death of us all.

I think we’re miserable partly because we have only one god, and that’s economics. ~ American psychologist James Hillman