Last night I was watching an old episode of The Larry Sanders Show, which is one of my favorite shows of all time, along with Seinfeld and Arrested Development. The head writer up to that point, Jerry, is sacked and reacts quite violently – or, at least, erratically – to his misfortune. Prior to that he had been a good humored worker cooperating with the powers that be. It was only once sacked that his attitude changed.
Being in one of my more pessimistic moods, I brooded that too many of us are like that. We are happy enough to go along with the system, it seems, as long as the worst effects do not impact on us. When others are unemployed or in poverty, it doesn't seem to bother us, or perhaps we rationalize it as the victims somehow deserving their fate for whatever imagined reason. Some may even derive a sadistic pleasure from others' misfortune. It is only if the brown stuff hits our fans that we care. And, even then, maybe we only care for as long as we are negatively affected. If things pick up again, maybe we just resume our previous attitude.
But then I snapped out of the self-indulgent stupor, because I don't feel that way at all, and none of the people I come into contact with seem to feel that way either. And if that line of thinking is not reflective of my own attitude, or that of the people I come into contact with, why would I presume it to be true of the majority of people with whom I don't come into direct contact?
The alleged all-pervasiveness of human selfishness and egoism is part of the false narrative we're sold every day by the mainstream media and other establishment institutions. The narrative helps to reinforce the feelings of helplessness that "there is no alternative", or the thought that anyone who opposes the neo-liberal agenda must be part of the tiniest of minorities.
But maybe many are thinking there needs to be a change. Actually, I don't think it's a "maybe", I think it's a "definitely". I think the time is ripe for meaningful change, and the desire for it is palpable.
At the same time, though, I think it is only a minority who currently understand that meaningful progressive change is easily within our grasp if only we act in a coherent fashion to bring it about. It is this knowledge that turns the feelings of helplessness that "there is no alternative" into a conviction that things can easily be better.
But the knowledge also brings responsibility. Those of us who have become aware of the truth of the current economic situation and the policy options available have a responsibility to impart our understanding to those who are currently in the dark, bamboozled by all the contradictions and lies served up by defenders of the status quo.
Truth has many facets. Economic truth is only one of its facets and far from its most important if set alongside deeper scientific, philosophical or spiritual truths. Nevertheless, the current economic predicament is a pressing matter for many people in the world, and needs to be addressed before we can all be in a position to appreciate deeper truths.
I was reminded of these considerations in a terrific passage from a recent post by Randall Wray. I have been busy and might have missed it if regular contributor and good friend Ryan had not drawn my attention to it. The passage is a good reminder of why helping to disseminate the ideas of the modern monetary theorists to a wider audience is certainly worth the time and effort:
Science is not value-free. Cannot be. Science—including economics—is inherently progressive. Why do you think that the far right wing wants to reject science in the areas of evolution, ecology, and female reproductive health? Because they well-understand that science is a progressive endeavor. And that includes the economics that is behind policy-making. So they must deny science in order to stop progress.
All of you now understand that sovereign government cannot “run out of its own money”; financial affordability is not the issue. That is a major scientific advance; it is inherently progressive. We’ve moved beyond the “magic” or “superstition” that Samuelson referred to. It’s all keystrokes and we can have as many as we want. We can use government to achieve the public purpose, and that is necessarily a progressive advance.
Many of us here share in a small part of truth. We understand that a sovereign currency issuer cannot run out of its own money. Unfortunately, many others in the general community still do not comprehend this. And who could blame them given the unrelenting stream of contradictions and lies being pumped out daily by "credible" and "respectable" mainstream media organizations? Yet, understanding this elementary point that the only true constraint is set by real resources, not "money" – or that the only risk of deficit expenditure is inflation, not government insolvency – makes crystal clear, in an instant, that so much of the ruling class narrative we are sold about the economy and the social possibilities open to us is sheer bunkum. (For newer readers, introductory posts on these basic points can be found in Posts to Read First.)
Much good can come from conveying this simple point to as many people as possible. I think that is why so many feel driven to help in the dissemination of the insights of modern monetary theory and related macroeconomic approaches through conferences, articles, interviews, talks, blogs, comments, the occupy movement, word of mouth and other means. With just an elementary understanding of currency sovereignty, it becomes immediately apparent that the calls for austerity amidst mass underemployment and poverty are not only class interested, vicious and immoral, but, even from a narrow economic perspective, the opposite of what should be done. Draconian policies such as these are also very far from being the only alternative.