Monday, December 13, 2010

Zombie Economics

" we have the return of these ideas in the form of austerity--[first] these ideas were going to make us better off, now we have the 'there is no alternative' type of narrative: that we have to cut because there is no alternative but to cut... this is backed up by a story of government profligacy that really doesn't stand up to even momentary scrutiny... [For Greece, true...] but the next coutries that have fallen over, for nearly all of them the crisis has risen from two factors: one was the need to spend a vast amount of money bailing out banks and other financial institutions; and the second was a belief prompted by the efficient markets hypothesis that the tax revenues these institutions were generating were reflecting real economic output that therefore would be a sustainable source of revenue into the future... nonetheless this is not being used to suggest that maybe we should be doing something about these financial institutions, but rather that it's the nurses and garbage workers that caused the crisis and therefore they should be made to pay for it."

From this LSE lecture by Professor John Quiggin.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Costas Markides on human beings and regulation

Professor Costas Markides' lively LSE lecture on the impotence of regulation in addressing financial disaster, emphasizing cultural change instead. Fantastic collection of anecdotes and studies illustrating human behavior.

Podcast here.

"soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work..."

"How could we explain the almost universal refusal on the part of the rulers of the rich societies - whether organised along private enterprise or collectivist enterprise lines - to work towards the humanisation of work? It is only necessary to assert that something would reduce the 'standard of living', and every debate is instantly closed. That soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature which must necessarily and inevitably produce either escapism or aggression, and that no amount of 'bread and circuses' can compensate for the damage done - these are facts which are neither denied nor acknowledged but are met with an unbreakable conspiracy of silence - because to deny them would be too obviously absurd and to acknowledge them would condemn the central preoccupation of modern society as a crime against humanity.

The neglect, indeed the rejection, of wisdom has gone so far that most of our intellectuals have not even the faintest idea what the term could mean. As a result, they always tend to try and cure a disease by intensifying its causes. The disease having been caused by allowing cleverness to displace wisdom, no amount of clever research is likely to produce a cure. But what is wisdom? Where can it be found? Here we come to the crux of the matter: it can be read about in numerous publications but it can be found only inside oneself, To be able to find it, one has first to liberate oneself from such masters as greed and envy. The stillness following liberation - even if only momentary - produces the insights of wisdom which are obtainable in no other way."

Schumacher, "Small is Beautiful" p.21ish