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Friday, 17 March 2017

Econocracy

A day earlier than promised, on Wednesday, Amazon delivered to me a copy of the book: ECONOCRACY: The perils of leaving economics to the experts: by Joe Earle, Cahal Moran and Zach Ward-Perkins. These writers are among the most prominent members of the Post-Crash Economics Society that emerged in Manchester a few years after the collapse of the western banking system in 2007-8, when the students decided that they had had enough of the staff of the economics department in their university blithely carrying on with essentially the same syllabus - and the same arrogant disregard for the observable condition of the economy - as they had before the crash. Just as the Queen put the question to staff at the London School of Economics and at the Bank of England, so these students asked: 'if all those who are paid to teach us are so expert in economics, and if [as they assert] economics is the science that fully explains how to control the economy, why did they not see the crash coming? Why did they not advise the authorities on means of preventing the catastrophe that lies behind the ongoing rounds of real-terms cuts in the health service and in the schools, that are still the daily diet of the news media?

The Queen got no satisfactory answer; so it is unsurprising that a minority of the students in Manchester did not get an adequate response, either. Thus the students, who had invested years of their lives in the study of economics, created a society to articulate and develop their concerns. Students in several British and foreign universities have linked up with them, and they now have a good website, networks and conferences. This book is a new venture, and in a quaintly traditional way it sets out the position that this activist cohort within the wider group has reached. A wide range of authoritative figures have produced recommendations to the wider public - as well as to economics teachers and their students - to read the book; and the authors are their supporters are to be commended on their achievement.

They tell us that some 10,000 people each year graduate from the universities as 'economists': which means that they have almost all satisfied the requirements of a hegemonic syllabus that has been built - and is now savagely defended - by the self-styled economics profession: what the authors call the Econocracy.

They tell us that the Econocracy control an apparently scientific system that offers itself as a technology according to which all economic issues can be addressed by the application of correct solutions that economists can provide. Unfortunately for the Econocracy, their systems do not produce results that satisfy the human aspirations of the citizens of a democracy; nor do they necessarily produce results that have desirable effects, even in economic terms.

Sadly, the writers are young people who have undergone economics 'education' and who wish to optimise on what they have acquired: so they can not [as I did, in my book No Confidence] say that the subject is so deeply flawed as the be beyond redemption. Thus they argue for economists to recognise the disastrous effects of a narrowly dogmatic focus in the subject; and to open up their syllabuses to pluralistic teaching. Good luck to them, but that does not go far enough. On the other hand, their efforts deserve the highest praise: they have dared to stand up and offer themselves as guides and leaders towards reform of their subject. I will refer to this endeavour in the coming days.

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