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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Econocratic Darwinism

Today is Palm Sunday, the day when Christians recall the Bible story that one day Jesus rode on a donkey into the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. This was a deliberate enactment of a prophesy that the future saviour-king of Israel would do just than: ride humbly into town to claim his kingdom. He was greeted by ecstatic crowds, and hailed as 'King of the Jews'. Within a week the religious establishment had persuaded the occupying Romans to execute the troublemaker: then, according to the Christian account, Jesus "rose from the dead".

In an opinion poll published today, 23% of those who say they are Christian believers do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus as a normal human being. Some do not think it necessary to their faith for there to have been any evidence of afterlife; others believe that Jesus' followers might have seen a 'spiritual body' of some kind, or had an insight into the alternative dimension to which he had been admitted. There is a huge range of variants on which an acceptance of religion can be developed: and at least an equal number of reasons to reject the whole concept of faith in spiritual powers as manifested in each of the different religions extant in the world.

The rise of science in the nineteenth century appeared directly to contradict the very ancient account of the creation of the world that was brought into the Jewish scriptures as the first chapters of the book called Genesis. As the immensity of geological time became clear, the idea that a force or entity called God could create the material universe in a week, and the earth in a day, was seen as simply ludicrous. The sceptics went on to declare that if that was the whole starting point of the story, the fundamental reason to believe that God existed as creator of the world and its context, then it was all disproven in a minute of serious reflection. Christian apologists pointed out that even in the fourth century AD Saint Augustine had written that the 'days' in the creation story could not be days as humans experience them; and it is generally accepted [other than by extreme fundamentalists in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities] that the 'days' were epochs of potentially massive duration. If that point is taken, the sequence by which the material universe was created is broadly in accord in the bible and in the scientific account.

An increasing number of scientists and other intellectuals decided to adopt the position that the simplistic rejection of the bible's concept of 'days' enabled them to move free from all the restraints implied by religious teaching. They found many other philosophies that asserted rules for the conduct of life, some of which imposed no penal sanction on transgression of the principles set out; some individuals decided broadly to follow their chosen code of ethics [which they could construct and adapt for themselves], and others declared themselves free from all such constraint. They were all subject to the law of the land in which they lived: and many of the laws imposed by states were based on [or sanctioned by] religious assertions. Hence during much of the century and a half since Darwin's and Wallace's simultaneous  publication of the theory of evolution, massive efforts have been made to remove those aspects of law which had been derived from religious dogma or admonition.

It can be no surprise, therefore, that the creators of the new pseudo-science of Economics were keen to bring their own quasi-Darwinian approach to their subject matter. This tendency has been carried on into the present day, culminating in the dogmas that the Manchester dissidents from the subject have dubbed Econocracy. While Physics and Chemistry have progressed mightily in describing and exploring the material universe, pursued by many experts who are privately Christian and many who have no religion, Economics has conspicuously failed in its attempts accurately to describe the economic scene or to prescribe policies that are beneficial to humanity. The simplistic central dogma of Economics, developed from Adam Smith [1776], that humanity is ultimately and absolutely driven by self-interest, is vitiated by the fact that most people for most of the time can not discern their optimum self-interest and do not have the intellectual or material means to pursue it. Nobody in Britain can deny that the Economists' advice to government is despoiling the health service, schools, and public services generally; while the average individual is no better off that he/she was in 2006.

The year 2006 is significant: it is when the 'Economics profession' should have seen the looming disaster of the financial crash, and recommended steps to avert it: it is when the abject failure of the subject was set before the march of History and found to be wanting.

The only catastrophe created by Economics that is comparable to the 2007-8 crunch is the disaster of 'privatisation' of the productive assets of the former USSR in the early years of the Yeltsin regime. Mostly-American Econocrats advised the post-soviet government of Russia to create a shareholder democracy by giving the economically-untutored, oppressed, heavy-drinking workers vouchers representing share ownership in their factories. Quick-thinking individuals established banks to fund the purchase of these vouchers: so that the workers exchanged their vouchers for ready money that was quickly spent; and so the oligarchs emerged. Most of them remain, solidly in possession of their ill-gotten assets; but they have been 'tamed' by President Putin, who has become thereby an unshakable national hero. While the western press reviles him as the principal support of the evil Assad in Syria, he has become in Russia a devoted son of the resurgent [highly conservative] Orthodox Church. In that capacity he will conspicuously be taking part in Easter ceremonies in the coming days.

It is indeed strange that Putin's power comes principally from popular support. He was prepared, in a very limited way, to target enough oligarchs to bring the rest to submission, and thus he could begin to redress the unmitigated evil caused by the Darwinian exploitation of the people by the predators in Russia in response to the Econocrats' well-intended idiocy.

Nothing on this planet is so simple as it seems...

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