Monday, November 03, 2008

When Actors Attempt Economics...

John Cusack, master thespian, with some deep thoughts on the lending crisis:

Many believe economies must serve humanity and not the other way around. Economies must make a moral connection to the republic. Brace yourselves free marketers: the quality of economic and human transactions will have to take priority over money. Faith and hope have to manifest in the social transactions we make.

A new social contract could be coming based on a real currency my friend Kevin McCabe calls the currency of grace. It is a currency of economic fairness and institutionalizing concepts of shared responsibility; a currency based on the gold standard that every human has value and should be awarded respect and opportunity, the dignity that comes from human beings protecting each other from the values and ideals of a Darwinist world. Its spirit is in Keynesian economics, a mixed economy with regulated markets and social spending. In the new era, we must remove fundamentalist right wing economists as the high priests and kings. Their ideology will stay dead only if we remain vigilant and call things what they are. It's a battle for the idea of America and it's just beginning if Senator Obama becomes president.

An interesting rant, but Signore Cusack does not recall that JM Keynes claimed that he wanted to save capitalism, not bury it. Many GOP econ. and finance people are Keynesians; for that matter, Bill Clinton and his staff (including Robert "NAFTA" Rubin, now working with Obama) promoted Keynesian ideas, including privatization. The status of Keynesian macroeconomics itself remains an issue as well. While Keynes had an interest in poverty and unemployment, he was mostly unaware of other contemporary problems (related to poverty, really), such as depleted energy sources, Big Oil (a commodity), monopolies, mobs, strife of various sorts (including religious).

Econ. guys--whether micro or macro--talk a good game; they're usually the wits and wags around the kegger at the frat boy FAC. In reality economists (whether pro or not-so-pro) should be considered more like sociologists than physicists. They do not offer reliable predictions of, say, how changes in interest rates affect demand (i.e. consumer purchases): economic theories, claims, and "laws"--even as basic as supply-demand--are a type of inductive reasoning-- i.e contingent and probabilistic, not "necessary" as a logic wank might say.

The macro indicators like GDP are grand abstractions; not completely meaningless--at least to economists--but anecdotal. Keynes did rightly emphasize the non-rational elements in economic behavior; and he's against the moralizing aspects of most liberal politics. Like most real economists, he's more interested in describing, not prescribing; it's the accuracy of his descriptions that are in question. Keynesian ideas influenced Galbraith, yet Galbraith understood the limitations of the macro. model, especially aggregation. Galbraith also took issue with the businessmen and managers, who, greatly influenced by macroeconomics, placed "aggregate growth at the heart of modern economic organization and economic theory."

Cusack also made mention of James Madison (Dr. Johnson comes to mind--"patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel....."). Madison did modify his views, as Cusack pointed out, from federalism to a slightly more Jeffersonian view. Both JM and TJ opposed monarchy, and were more mercantilist than capitalist. Was JM Keynes opposed to monarchy? I am not completely sure, but his statist-capitalism does seem amenable to Tories, whether they be of royal lineage, or perhaps hollywood or silicon valley lineage. We are not avid fans of Marx, but Cusack does argue for his own "class interests," more or less; compared to the authentic leftists of say Counterpunch, not to say someone like Zizek, the reformer liberalism of Cusack (and Klein) seems fairly tame--Democracy ala Chair-Dame Pelosi and DiDi Feinstein.

Bill Clinton himself ENDED the most critical New Deal regs (google Glass-Steagal act, Signore Cusack), when he signed off on Gramm/Gingrich's de reg plans. Obama, the Change candidate, sided with Paulson, Bush and Pelosi on the corporate welfare planbailout. That doesn't stop liberals, especially the celebrity sorts (not to be mistaken for real progressives) from routinely overlooking the bipartisan nature of the USA dystopia, or the bipartisan-supported Iraqi war. (That said, Cusack in The Grifters: bravissimo).


tim said...

Ever hear of Time dollars?

J said...

Not really--I'll check it out. Local currency of various types has been around a long time--as has bartering of course.

Monetarism is quite strange when you look into it. Inflation or deficit, etc. and the Fed can just print out more shekels to help out. Not sure of Keynes' final word on monetarism (he routinely modified his position on various econ. matters), but he did seem supportive of it.

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