Although religious cults are the subject of many glowing news stories, what seems to get missed is that they can sometimes also have a darker side. The effects on those involved are not always as positive as current affairs journalists would have us believe. The following recounting of an untrue story offers an example of this.
Practice Exam Question. “Capitalism is unstable, but not that unstable.” Explain and discuss this statement with special reference to Harrod’s knife-edge problem and modern developments in growth theory. (Please take this exercise seriously and treat like a real exam. You will be glad you did come finals.)
Student Response. Roy Harrod’s famous ‘knife edge’ suggested a capitalist susceptibility to extreme instability in which, other than at the ‘warranted’ rate of growth, the economy would either shrink to zero or explode toward hyperinflationary infinity. Because capitalism, though unstable, is clearly not that unstable, economists scrambled to find a reason for the system’s track record of not being that unstable.
Magpie of the blog Magpie’s Asymmetric Warfare reminds us of Keynes’ evaluation of his own general theory:
I believe myself to be writing a book on economic theory which will largely revolutionise … the way the world thinks about economic problems. When my new theory has been duly assimilated and mixed with politics and feelings and passions, I can’t predict what the final upshot will be in its effect on actions and affairs. But there will be a great change, and in particular the Ricardian foundations of Marxism will be knocked away. (Keynes to George Bernard Shaw, Jan 1, 1935, as quoted by Geoffrey Pilling)
While sorting through old papers earlier today – or perhaps it was last week – the final play of a little known writer of considerable critical acclaim surfaced. If memory serves, it had been read while at high school, rather than watched, for reasons that will become apparent. If the recollection is accurate, the work of Morris Minor – there is no connection to the automobile of the same name – was encountered at about the same time as a children’s story involving farm animals.
Within the last century, quite a number of lost ancient religious texts have been found. Sadly, few of these, even when of an eschatological nature, have turned their attention in any detail to the work of economists. Especially lacking has been a consideration of the history of economic thought. Happily, this oversight can now be put partly right. I believe this could be the first finding of its kind ever published in the economics blogosphere. The discovery was certainly fortuitous, hidden as it was behind a dusty edition of Milton Friedman’s A Monetary History of the United States, which had somehow found its way into the lost books section of the local library. If it had not been for my insistence that the library clerk mount a step ladder to remove it from the area, the lost Book of Noah’s Wife might have fallen into the hands of the monetarists.
Most of the time, this blog concerns itself with economics and, more particularly, a theory of money. There is a reason for this, and also a story behind it. Believe it or not (and, of course, you shouldn’t believe it even for a second), in its original concept this blog was to be a self-help website focusing on Personal Health & Fitness. Quite simply, this seemed to be the kind of topic that would drive traffic and rake in the advertising dollars. It was only after this initial plan fell through that a little thinking outside the box became necessary and attention turned to writing about money instead of actually making any. Rather than trace in embarrassing detail how the failure came about, the matter can be explained by way of example. A representative writing sample from the period is reproduced below, but not before a brief recounting of its grueling path to non-publication.
Regular readers will be acutely aware that I have made many bold predictions (no link found) concerning the precise timing of the end of the world and will continue to do so repeatedly into the future. Specific dates have been set, and then re-set, for the rapture, appearance of Antichrist, great tribulation, Armageddon and second coming. Despite these efforts, which have been made without expectation of heavenly reward, only modest dollar returns, I now find myself under attack. Sadly, there are those who question my motives for all the date setting. Some even allege there are readers who have been swindled out of life savings. Although this kind of attack comes with the territory for a prophet, and indeed I welcome the persecution, it nonetheless seems necessary to address readers’ concerns and shortcomings. For now, time constraints preclude anything more detailed than a summary statement. A forthcoming book will provide the full scoop. April 1st 2016 is its forecast date of publication and $49.95 its likely recommended retail price. Both predictions remain subject to subsequent revision, which you all should be used to by now.
Critics frequently charge (no link found) that while we on the Left are prolific in identifying reasons things must change, our prowess in actually bringing about change is less impressive. I thought it might be of theoretical interest, or at least of idle curiosity, to reflect on the means of effecting change. Let’s sit ourselves down with a cup of coffee and conduct a thought experiment concerning what might be done. Dare we contemplate something more than change? Something as grandiose as social transformation? Yes, I say. Why not? This could prove to be an intriguing exercise indeed.
You may not have realized it at the time, but that youthful decision to enroll in a doctoral program paved the way for what now threatens to be a lifetime of teaching courses at $2-3k a pop, tutoring out of a car (for quick escape from parking inspectors), grading papers in the campus library (until moved along), feeding at soup kitchens (so long as appropriately attired), fraternizing in parks (and other open spaces) and sleeping on footpaths or church steps when city law permits (which is occasionally). All that, and more, while kowtowing to your tenured seniors, the social products of a bygone era who are paid ten times as much as you and are certainly ten times more important.
The political barriers to getting humane economic policy through Government House or Senate or Wall Street or whatever it’s called in your country appear to be formidable. In confronting this reality, Mike Norman may have come up with a winning strategy when he notes that Americans have no problem with a single payer in the case of defense, so why not health care? At the very least, this observation could have legs with the bloodthirstier electorates of the world. The applications seem endless.