Thursday, October 4, 2012

Economix as Thought Bubble

In other words, even if we can, at the personal level, manage to feel fulfilled under slower economic growth, it is not compatible with how modern politics is structured, namely as a ravenous beast….Big government and big business have long marched together in American history.  You can call one good and the other bad (depending on your point of view), but that’s missing their common origin and ongoing alliance.  – Tyler Cowen, The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better

I like these three sentences from Cowen’s book, one of three books on economics  I read yesterday, which is another thing that will make you sick.  One was about how we need to balance our crazy debt between nation-states, and the other about how we need to balance our crazy debt  over generational time.  Cowen’s is about how we need to balance our crazy debt by growth through technological breakthrough.  All three say the same thing: we have screwed up big time and continue to do so, by using fake money to pretend that we are richer than we are.  “Fake money” is a little bit of non-sequitur, because it is the point of money to be fake, but there’s symbolic function and then there’s  just silly. Not one of the three even mentioned the fact that we are trashing the planet with our obsession with economic growth, with our hydra-headed “ravenous beast” of a civilization. In other words there is no reference to anything outside of an exclusively human-defined reality - floating, completely self-referential, high complex but invisibly enabled by mutual and unquestioning consent to the brutal extraction of natural resources.  But perhaps it’s there, all our bad faith, in the unconscious of the arguments, in that inassimilable  beast named Debt.  It’ all there in that newly repugnant phrase “low-hanging fruit.”

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