MURRAY DOBBIN | DECEMBER 16, 2016 | rabble.ca
All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.
— Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
In these days of economic stagnation, misery and insecurity, housing bubbles and the growing precariate, it seems appropriate to speculate on what Shakespeare might have written today were he penning a modern rewrite ofHenry VI. In declaring, “first let’s kill all the lawyers,” his character was voicing support for Jack Cade, whose revolutionary vision cast lawyers as paper-shuffling parasites ruining the lives of the common people. In the past 25 years that ignoble role has been usurped by economists. I liked them better when economics was called the dismal science — now the profession is simply a self-satisfied apologia for the plunder of society’s wealth by the greedy and ruthless 1% — the “masters of mankind.”
Priests of neoliberalism
Economics is no longer a science, if it ever was. It is a religion whose priests bend every effort to make the dogma of neoliberalism impervious to its disastrous outcomes. If it were a science the facts would long ago have prevailed and they would have denounced the ideology from the rooftops.
But, no, instead we get articles on a weekly basis about Canadians’ staggering debt load and the only attempt at explanation is so-called “human nature” — i.e. “Gee, people just don’t seem to be worrying — they’re ignoring the warnings.” Then there’s the ingenious concept of “recency bias” developed by someone in the field of “behavioural finance” (who knew?). Recency bias means, according to the Globe’s Rob Carrick, “People are looking at recent events and projecting them into the future indefinitely.”
That’s it? That’s the best the economics profession can come up with to explain Canadians’ indebtedness catastrophe? It’s all about human behaviour, written in stone, so I guess we might as well just sit back and observe the meltdown in the comfort of our economist’s middle-class lifestyle.
But of course that’s the very thing they should be examining — people’s determination to live the middle-class life style that our entire culture is based on and which the sophisticated marketing machine tells us we must have — or we are losers. They need to explore this classic bait-and-switch: manipulate people to buy stuff and then suppress their incomes so they can’t.
Carrick’s article detailed just how serious the problem is — repeating numbers that have been quoted numerous times: over 700,000 people would be financially stressed if interest rates rose by even a quarter of one per cent. One million would face that circumstance if they rose by one per cent. The Canadian Payroll Association regularly tracks people’s financial stress and its recent survey revealed 48 per cent of people said “[i]t would be tough to meet their financial obligations if their paycheque was delayed even by a week. Almost one-quarter doubted they could come up with $2,000 for an emergency expense in the next month.”