by Seth Ferris, New Eastern Outlook:
Economists will argue for evermore about the best and most effective way to organise a monetary system, both locally and globally. Like the rest of the population, economists come in all shapes and sizes and political hues, so this can be expected.
But some economic views are academically acceptable at a given time, others not. This would not matter if economists stayed in their universities and ivory towers. But they are let out into the real world, often unsupervised, into positions where they can influence public policy: and the influential ones get there because they once said the right things to their academic superiors, not because they have anything in particular to offer.
It is the economic decisions made by unelected and unproven academics, rather than unelected bureaucrats, which have the greatest effect on people’s lives, complaints about the EU notwithstanding.
All decisions are based on priorities of what is important to given constituencies in given circumstances. It is these which have created the social problems people are protesting about now: not because politicians said so, but because economic advisers said so. Unless that changes, no amount of protest will ultimately have any effect.
Weighs of the world
For example, public spending was long considered a good thing, even in the countries most interested in destroying Communism. All these had public welfare policies which were neo-socialist in character – public money was used to build homes and facilities for local people, support the needy, promote culture and generate jobs, just as they were in the Soviet Union.
By some measures, these policies worked, by others they didn’t. Arguing about economics is like retelling the Second World War joke: a German retreat from France is also a German advance on the Balkans.
But the main reason these measures were adopted is that, having gained academic credibility through the technical quality of their arguments, their proponents then gained the political clout to put these into effect. John Maynard Keynes is most often associated with such “tax and spend” policies, and he was a member of the British delegation to various international conferences which established the post-1945 global economic system, a director of the Bank of England and Member of the House of Lords. If you wanted to argue, you had to rise to the same heights, and displace those who had put him there to do it.
Now the thinking is different. Simply because Keynesianism was dominant, it was blamed for everything bad as well as praised for everything good, and Monetarism emerged as an alternative.
Eventually the academic quality of Monetarism gave it enough impetus within the economic schools to make its supporters important, and thus give them access to politicians. So a new generation of leaders enacted contrary “economic policies” which were really political policies based on political calculations, just as the previous ones were.
This is why we have a world in which government shrinks and individual gain is supposed to be the answer to everything. These policies are described as “neoliberal,” which is ironic given that Keynes was a member of the Liberal Party.
But whichever policy is adopted, for what reason and for whose benefit, the end product is the same. Political decisions are made, at the highest level, about what is considered acceptable in the pursuit of wealth, whether it be the rules of trade and financial speculation or the ethics of the wealth generation practices undertaken.
Black lives won’t matter for these elites because no economic system yet invented has addressed the prejudice upon which it is based. Under any economic system, some people’s interests are not considered important, and harming them is an acceptable part of wealth generation.
Protests and politics may change the priority given to black and minority issues. But unless the economists with government influence change too, they will make little difference – and there is no sign of this happening as yet.
Your hero is my heroin
As a result of all the Black Lives Matter protests, the “official outlook” on various historic figures is likely to change. For many, this is not before time. Those affected by the negative things a famous person did have never been happy with them being lionised for other things, as if their crimes don’t matter.
There will always be debates about what crimes you can ignore when they are set against praiseworthy achievements, such as Hitler’s profound improvements of the German economy which laid the foundations for the postwar “Economic Miracle”. But the argument of Black Lives Matter is not that the line has been drawn in the wrong place, but that it has to be drawn somewhere.
In some cases, this is happening. Radio and TV personality Jimmy Savile was very popular, or he wouldn’t have had a successful career lasting decades. But when his other life as one of the most prolific child abusers in history began to come out after his death, his relatives removed his headstone from the cemetery he was buried in and sent it to be broken up for landfill.
Though his media and charity works live on, no one will be erecting any statues of Jimmy Savile.
However this does not represent justice for the abused children and adults who were silenced for years, or fearful of consequences to their own careers to speak up to begin with. Vilifying Savile simply shifts the blame for systemic problems onto him personally, rather than addressing how he was allowed to become all the things he is now known to have been.
Savile’s crimes were not considered as important as protecting him, and by extension others. Officially vilifying him now continues to protect those others, whilst not altering the system which did so.
The law didn’t work, self-regulation didn’t work, trust in authority didn’t work. The only way to alter those things will be to change the people in charge.