This Recipe Looks Familiar.
All the original thought in this article is by Simon Duffy, my comments are in green. This post is reproduced with permission and my thoughts are in no way to be taken with Simon’s own, although I hope he likes them. Also thanks to Thomas Clark at AnotherAngryVoice.
Economics emerged as a moral science, an attempt to understand how to advance justice and the wellbeing of all. The word comes from the combination of two important Greek words:
- Oikos – which means family, family property or the family house
- Nomos – which means law, order or justice
Today economics is treated as merely a social science, and as with all social sciences, the assumption that there is a moral order and that justice is a fundamental reality has faded. This is very much to the disadvantage of the science. Without moral imagination economics becomes lost in its own self-made world of artificial principles and models. It tries to predict rather than to guide us towards what is right. It becomes a servant of the powerful and of economic power in particular, rather than an advocate for economic justice.
No wonder economics has become known as the dismal science, it has become a mix of academic over-use of mathematics and policy proposals from shadowy “think tanks” whose funding is not properly disclosed. The Adam Smith Institute being a case in point, if you think the phrase Neo-liberal is just a made up word of the left think again. The ASI scores E (the lowest possible) when it comes to transparency. I’m no expert on Adam Smith but the drivel I read from the ASI in no way resembles anything I remember.
It is striking that one of the founders of economics, Adam Smith, was a moral philosopher and that, his original vision was certainly very moral. For instance, Smith wrote:
“This disposition to admire, and to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean conditions… is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”
Smith is responsible for helping to found the most powerful and well known of economic theories, economic liberalism; and while there have been some other important innovations in thinking and practice over the years, this approach – which stresses the importance of individual free choice in promoting good outcomes – has been resilient. Most economic theory is merely a footnote to liberalism.
I like choice I’m basically in favour of it, but what use is it if you not only have no money you have no prospect of any either. This is not to say that everyone should be able to afford a private jet but certainly the basics, and who knows, even a few treats thrown in? The spending of other people is your income regardless of source.
It is a sad irony that the ideas of a man who often stressed the rights and freedoms of the poorest is now often cited to support the policies that harm them. In the UK, Government’s of both Left and Right, have turned justice on its head and acted as if we exist to serve the market, not the other way around. Advocates of justice often use the term liberalism, or its variant, neoliberalism to define the nature of their moral error.
This marks a decline in the meaning of the world liberalism that is also bitterly ironic. Originally being liberal meant to be free or to be lavishly generous. There is nothing liberal about the meritocratic, mean-spirited elites who rule our country today.
In fact I think that when we criticise the current Conservative Government, or the previous Coalition or New Labour Governments, as ‘liberal’ or ‘neoliberal’ we are in danger of flattering them. There is nothing liberal in their policies – in either sense. They do not enable more people to be free and independent, they do not encourage generous giving or secure welfare. They are illiberal, reducing freedom and increasing inequality and poverty.
I also have no idea how the term liberal became so bastardised it seems to mean two different thing to the UK and American. Put a “Neo” in front of it and it means something else entirely, you have as much freedom as money buys you. It is very well worth pausing to think just how right-wing the general narrative has become and in whose interests this is.
Are the Poor being threatened? Well they certainly are from where I’m standing, social media, the blogosphere and the more responsible MSM are all over it. I have no idea why this has taken so long to permeate public conscientious but I do know it’s behind the rise and rise of one Jeremy Corbyn. The reason I think is pretty simple, more and more people we know, very hard-working people, are getting shafted and for no good reason. Now, I believe, we know they mean us. We’re struggling to cope because we never thought it would come to this, when did you last get a wage rise? How did it come to be that our kids now pay almost £60,000 for a degree? £100 billion that will cost to put right so someone isn’t doing too badly with all that money and it isn’t us.
The fact is we didn’t stand up for people when we should have. The disabled, the unemployed and the very low paid, we made our excuses and looked the other way. The benefits freeze, public sector pay freeze, the zero hour contracts and the sanctions regime. In the House of commons just last week Theresa May said we could end up like Greece. Needless to say Thomas Clark over at AnotherAngryVoice had an aneurism! We cannot become like Greece because we currency issuers of our own sovereign countries. Yet we did become like Greece in one respect, our off the scale wage decreases are only matched by Greece. he came up with this excellent graphic to show another key difference between us and Greece.
Tune in for Part Two tomorrow!
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