Philosophers doing economics

Umm:

This is all the sadder because it is so short sighted about longer term social and ecological needs. The vocational turn in higher education is driven by a growth model of the economy that puts profits before human welfare and is ultimately unsustainable. If affluent societies are successfully to meet the environmental and social challenges of the future, they need to begin now to plan for a shift to a more materially reproductive way of living, to a low- or no-growth economic model rooted in an expansion of leisure time and rather different conceptions of social flourishing and human wellbeing.

No love, that\’s something you have to prove, not assert.

And there I was thinking that philosophers dealth with logic…..

39 comments on “Philosophers doing economics

  1. Tim, you’re older than me, is this a new thing for the left? I mean, the switch to denying that economic growth is desirable at all.

    It is something I come up against fairly frequently on and off line and I was wondering is this some defect with my generation, or have there always been these specific breed of idiots?

    I suppose your Karl Polanyi was probably thinking along similar lines, but that is down to an opposition to the destructive bit of creative destruction, and he had a point as far as short term well being went. It seems that some people these days have a problem with the creative side of creative destruction, and that doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I’m just trying to get a handle on whether this is a new thing with historically specific origins in the last few years or something a little older.

    Tim adds: settle down while grandpa tells a story…….actually, while I am older, in political terms I’m not really. Only started taking note in the late 90s on usenet,.

    Leaviing that aside, no, the no growth movement isn’t an old lefty thing. The socialists (Webbs etc for example) were absolutely insistent that planning, communalism, central control, would increase growth by doing away with the inefficiencies of markets and competition. So did the Soviets. And in the short term they’re right of course. Which is why we do plan war economies. But in the longer term (I’d guess at a decade, possibly less) the absence of markets and competition leads to lower long term growth.

    The no growth stuff comes from the enviroloonie movement. That’s always been out there: William Morris style artisan production etc. Bigged up by Teddy Goldsmith and the like.

    Here I have to project: the enviroloonies (Monbiot et al) really do believe that growth cannot continue. Sadly they’re entirely misreading people like Herman Daly. What makes many other lefties climb aboard is, I think, that they still want the planning, the communalism, the centralisation. But now that it’s obvious that it doesn’t produce growth it’s easier to change the reason for wanting it (growth isn’t possible) than it is to change the desire for the planning and the communalism. The plans are the same, it’s the justification which has changed.

    Back to hte beginning: no growth is absolutely not a long time lefty desire: quite the opposite. Rational socialism was going to increase growth, not reduce it.

    Ho ho…..

  2. I agree that the future will require more use of renewable energy sources and materials, and I leisure time will continue to increase … but what on earth does that have to do with the quantity of humanities graduates?

  3. I’d guess I have more sympathy for humanities courses than, well, anyone who’s ever posted on this ‘umble blog, but the sentiment – expressed fiercely in that piece’s comment – that reducing the number of folk who take them would create a “nation of worker ants without grounding in culture” really pisses me off. Remarkably, people can think, learn and create outside a bemusingly expensive and protracted course.

  4. Nick’s prescient smackdown of this idiocy rings as true as ever:

    “This post at K-Punk epitomizes a gathering trend among neomarxists to finally bury all aspiration to positive economism (‘freeing the forces of production from capitalist relations of production’) and install a limitless cosmic despair in its place. Who still remembers Khruschev’s threat to the semi-capitalist West – “we’ll bury you.” Or Mao’s promise that the Great Leap Forward would ensure the Chinese economy leapt past that of the UK within 15 years? The Frankfurtian spirit now rules: Admit that capitalism will outperform its competitors under almost any imaginable circumstances, while turning that very admission into a new kind of curse (“we never wanted growth anyway, it just spells alienation, besides, haven’t you heard that the polar bears are drowning …?”).”

    http://hyperstition.abstractdynamics.org/archives/008891.html

  5. Look, whatever frothings they may spout in the Graun, lefties are some of the most avaricious chiselling scum on the planet.
    I used to do work for representatives of the species & the conversation usually started “If I pay cash & we keep it off the books……(wink, nudge)….?
    Bloody woman’d snatch your hand off if you offered a 3 book deal for her collected witterings. Work through the night & skin her children for the book covers.

    You should never, never, ever underestimate the socialists’ propensity for greedy rapacious capitalism when it’s their money at stake.

  6. I’ve always thought it is the left, not the right, who are obsessed with money. They go on about it far more than anyone else, albeit usually in the context of complaining that somebody else has got too much. And they are the only ones I know who seem to think that life is brilliant if only you have lots of money. In fact, they judge people by their income far more than the right do.

  7. Kate Soper is not a philosopher in the anglo-saxon sense but a continental-style leftist ‘thinker’ (if that’s not a contradiction in terms!) full of existentialist, femininist and Marxist drivel.

    What I suspect she’s really whining about is the possibility that she and her like might lose their well-paid posts because of budgetary cuts. Humanities certainly have a place in education, but not the drivel she imparts.

    As for the left and environmentalism…some reds are green because they cynically see greenery as a way of undermining capitalism, others because they are attracted to greenery’s authoritarianism and utopianism…

  8. I hd a humanities degree (economics) and I can assure you that I learned no culture whatsoever during it.

    Regarding the no-growth desire: they want a massive Welfare state but not the economic growth which pays for it.

  9. “I’ve always thought it is the left, not the right, who are obsessed with money. They go on about it far more than anyone else, albeit usually in the context of complaining that somebody else has got too much. And they are the only ones I know who seem to think that life is brilliant if only you have lots of money. In fact, they judge people by their income far more than the right do.”

    and

    “Look, whatever frothings they may spout in the Graun, lefties are some of the most avaricious chiselling scum on the planet.”

    I do wonder if you’ve ever met anyone as you describe or if you are taking aim at characitures drawn from your reading of righty swear blogs?

  10. they need to begin now to plan for a shift to a more materially reproductive way of living, to a low- or no-growth economic model rooted in an expansion of leisure time and rather different conceptions of social flourishing and human wellbeing.

    Isn’t this what society has done? Except that the expansion of leisure time has taken place in the sense of spending more and more of your life retired, and less time doing housework, and economic growth is taking place in the services sector, which of course is less demanding on materials.

    And of course our ideas of social flourishing and human wellbeing have changed drastically, remember when being Christian was taken as the natural best way to be? Or my grandmother, as a young woman, got a job as a journalist, and her father returned from training troops for WWII to make her give it up, two generations later when I decided I wanted to do engineering, my Dad’s response? “Lots of jobs in that.” Massive change there.

  11. I wonder if the number of right-wingers who like to tell themselves that left-wingers are nasty people is equaled or exceeded by the number of left-wingers who like to tell themselves the that right-wingers are nasty people. This blog brings out the former … but I think if anything the left probably edges in the “people who disagree with me are nasty” stakes.

    of course that’s because on average, right-wingers are a bit nastier **scuttles off**

  12. I do wonder if you’ve ever met anyone as you describe or if you are taking aim at characitures drawn from your reading of righty swear blogs?

    I’ve been a prolific commenter on a rugby league forum jam-packed full of old-school lefties from the northern RL heartlands. Yes, there are dozens of people who think like this and are forever going on (and on and on) about how much X earns and how it’s all right for Y because he’s rich, whereas Z would say that because he has plenty of money, etc. etc. Contrast this with how often anyone from the political right either 1) mentions somebody’s wealth or 2) thinks it is terribly important.

  13. Or my grandmother, as a young woman, got a job as a journalist, and her father returned from training troops for WWII to make her give it up, two generations later when I decided I wanted to do engineering, my Dad’s response? “Lots of jobs in that.” Massive change there.

    I once had an argument with a lefty woman who thought that women are far worse off now than 2-3 generations ago because they now have to work full-time to make ends meet in the household, whereas they were much better off pre-1950s when they could look after their kids instead.

  14. well you have a point that left-wingers think how much money you have is important. They (we) think it buys one all sorts of advantages and the distribution of it – wealth – is not the best, for all manner of reasons.

  15. @Luis

    but they then lose the plot by obssessing about how the cake should be divided rather than how to make it bigger – to the detriment of the size of the original cake

  16. ^Generic straw man.

    People who don’t think initial endowment is important for more than just distribution of output should have paid more attention when they studied general equilibrium theory.

  17. They (we) think it buys one all sorts of advantages and the distribution of it – wealth – is not the best, for all manner of reasons.

    Yes, but a lot of left-wingers don’t seem to understand the limits of those advantages.

  18. “I do wonder if you’ve ever met anyone as you describe or if you are taking aim at characitures drawn from your reading of righty swear blogs?”

    Having operated a building company in an oh so trendy North London suburb I’ve encountered enough ‘deeply socially concerned’ intellectuals, lecturers, writers, actors, media queens, journalists etc etc to last several lifetimes.

    That & spending 2 years as the boy friend of a sorely misguided but incredibly hardworking Labour councillor.

    What gets to me is the people they screw over are so often exactly the same people they always say their so concerned about.

    What a

  19. “trying to get your building work done as cheaply as possible” equals “grinding your heel in the face of the masses” does it?

    crap. I just had some roofing work done, and asked the roofer to do the bare minimum because I am skint. I’d better hand in my party card.

  20. Yes, but a lot of left-wingers don’t seem to understand the limits of those advantages.

    well maybe so. I’ve also met a fair few wealthy right-wingers who don’t seem to understand the extent of their advantages.

  21. Regarding the left and the greens, I’m old enough to remember the dawn of greenery in the seventies when I used to read the Ecologist. You couldn’t have called it leftist then and Teddy Goldsmith was pretty right wing by most people’s definition, the old left were very hostile towards environmentalism then, mainly because they saw it as a threat to the industries where they were most entrenched. Of course in true dumb left fashion they didn’t spot Mrs. Thatcher coming at them from out of the sun. However the new left were much more sympathetic and left and right met up to some extent around the mid seventies, I recall one chilling article in the Ecologist praising the Khmer Rouge and criticising those who were worried about the evacuation of the cities and forced return to the land. This was before the full horror of Cambodia had become evident but I think it indicates how greens are happy enough to put ideology and abstract idealism to the forefront of political action, which is why they are now indistinguishable from much of the left.

  22. I’ve also met a fair few wealthy right-wingers who don’t seem to understand the extent of their advantages.

    Right, but they’re not trying to change the law or tell people what they should be doing based on their misunderstandings. It’s not that the left are more dimwitted than the right, the problem is that the leftwing dimwits want to impose their idiocy on everyone else. The toff with the brat in public school is doing nobody any harm; the lefty who foists comprehensive education on the entire country is.

  23. “The toff with the brat in public school is doing nobody any harm; the lefty who foists comprehensive education on the entire country is.”

    That’d be Thatcher as Education minister then?

    Lefties often treat the most vulnerable better than the right. All the protesters I’ve met against Child detention at Yarlswood have been lefties, for example (non-randomised sample alert). Likewise, most pro-immigrant refugee groups are full of lefties.

    On the other hand, the right generally view migrants are criminals and burdens to be kept out. Not very nice.

    Discuss.

  24. Right, but they’re not trying to change the law or tell people what they should be doing based on their misunderstandings

    don’t be daft. I mean it’s surprisingly stupid to think right-wingers don’t try to foist their ideas about how the world should work on others, via the law, economic policy etc. What the hell is the present government doing, if not that? What are The Republicans up to in the US?

  25. What the hell is the present government doing, if not that? What are The Republicans up to in the US?

    I don’t mean politicians, they are universally idiotic. I mean normal people.

  26. Lefties often treat the most vulnerable better than the right.

    From what I’ve seen, the right don’t give a sh!t, whereas the left adopt the cause of vulnerable groups to serve their own political or financial ends. The Palestinian cause is probably the best example of this, but there are plenty of others, and I don’t for one minute believe the left have any more consideration for the most vulnerable than those on the right.

  27. I mean it’s surprisingly stupid to think right-wingers don’t try to foist their ideas about how the world should work on others, via the law, economic policy etc.

    In any case, I was not referring to right-wingers foisting their opinions on people. I was talking about right-wingers basing policies on their misunderstanding of what advantages rich people have. Buy contrast, the left base their policies on the notion that equality is an outcome more desirable than economic growth for all strata, for example.

  28. I don’t for one minute believe the left have any more consideration for the most vulnerable than those on the right.

    yes The Telegraph is packed with investigations into illegal worker abuses etc. truly the champions of the downtrodden.

  29. What should be evident is that there are large numbers of idiots on both sides of the spectrum.

    The hard of thinking right-wing stereotypes commenting above are just variants of the standard factory-issue right-bot, probably packaged with some of the smaller discourse expansion packs. But CPU power is low and the scripts are limited in extent, so although it is possible to hold limited conversation, at some point the bot exhausts its programmed capacities, gets stuck in a recursive loop and crashes.

    [Voice of a Dalek] YOU GUARDIAN READING LIBERALS ATE MY FREEDOM

    “What? I don’t read the Guardian. Anyway, I’m just saying that the distribution of wealth has important consequences for…”

    THE CIVIL SERVICE IS FILLED WITH MINI HITLERS LIKE YOU

    “Uh, right. But is there a conversation to be had about “equity versus efficiency” or would you prefer to just…”

    TRENDY LEFTISTS WANT TO BAN CHRISTMAS

    “And getting back to the matter at hand…”

    YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ECONOMICS

    “Actually, most economists are moderate centre left, and…”

    THIS IS COVERT COMMUNISM

    “Uh, ok.”

    YOU GUARDIAN READING LIBERALS ATE MY FREEDOM

    And so it goes…

  30. This is a broad thread to follow, revolving around a good old left/right axis. Like most people who enjoy this blog, I come from the right, and I do not want to concede in any way the idea that the right does not appreciate humanities, or does not treat ‘the vulnerable’ better than the left. I appreciate the humanities, I did a straight BA myself not even economics, but that means I am more concerned at the power of leftist academics – they do not represent the humanities for me.

    You’ve got to look a bit further than attendance at your protest groups to grapple with the ‘vulnerable’, but I’ll give one example where progressive meddling hurt the vulnerable – easy divorce means that marriage as an institution is no longer providing the bedrock that it once did in poorer communities (e.g. read Rob Liddle’s piece on Middlesboro in the Sunday Times).

    And for those of you who don’t want to mix social conservatism with economic conservatism, well then ask yourself what the attitudes is to unskilled migrants, across income income levels in this country. Are you really saying you expect it to be more negative in the rich than the poor? Who votes for the BNP…?

  31. yes The Telegraph is packed with investigations into illegal worker abuses etc. truly the champions of the downtrodden.

    Erm, I’ve already acknowledged that the right don’t give a sh!t. My point was that neither do the left, unless they can co-opt them to serve their own political or financial end. Your observation does little to undermine that point.

  32. TN

    fair point. you did.

    But you think that the (left-wing) journalists who go and find stories, and the (left-wing) people who buy the newspapers in which to read them, are all doing so to “serve their own political or financial ends”? Bit sinister isn’t it? What if I introduced you to some people of both categories, who strongly deny any such motivation, what are you going to do, posit some subconscious motivation, “false consciousness”?

    Lord knows I take a dim view of very many lefties, but I don’t see any reason to doubt that many of them claim to care about the unfortunate because they do. End of.

  33. Lord knows I take a dim view of very many lefties, but I don’t see any reason to doubt that many of them claim to care about the unfortunate because they do.

    Some do. But no more so than those on the right.

  34. They do, only it’s more subtle than the crass self-righteousness that the left-wing papers prefer to peddle. For example, I have seen calls for raising the tax-free allowance, school vouchers, better inner-city policing, initiatives which would increase labour mobility, and the scrapping of trade tarriffs in right of centre publications, all of which would benefit the poor far more than it would the middle classes or rich.

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