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Whitewashing Capitalism

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/16/whitewashing-capitalism

Mainstream economics is biased in favor of the interests of the ruling class. It is not science as physics is science.

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How many economics courses say that it’s time capitalism ended? As is needed to save humanity in the face of extinction? As needed to stop the annihilation of Earth by extraction of material resources and the burning of fossil fuels for our energy, military, agricultural, transportation, etc, needs? All this is being whitewashed in classes throughout the world. Until we all face the fact that capitalism is killing us all we’re doomed. I took economics 100 back in '72, and none of this was mentioned. In biology 121, ecological issues were taught but not related to the capitalist system we’re in. Of course the Cold War was on back then which was about capitalism and communism. Did we really win that one? Or are we under a big delusion that all will be well if only we find a way to ‘magically’ continue our wasteful ways? These questions will surely surface as we all face the class, racial, economic, and social issues going forward.

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Hi Tim; glad to see you’re still in there kicking. I’m not sure we ever met in person, and if we did you would not likely remember me.

I retired from teaching four and a half years ago, and in so doing retired completely from discussion of the classical paradigm except occasionally to point out its most ludicrous errors. I was constrained to teach Principles classes from the Mankiw test for eight and a half years. My take on Mankiw and his disgusting textbook: PTUI!!!

Now my only connections with economics are through the lens of Fritz Schumacher, although I still have a library full of books by Hazel Henderson, Herman Daly, and other rogues, also Wendell Berry’s What Matters. And I still read HEN every month.

Over the 22 years I studied and taught economics, coming from a STEM background, I maintained my first impression from when I stumbled into the discipline accidentally: Economics is not science in any way, rather a pseudo-science on a par with “Creation Science.” At the time I retired I had zeroed in on how the factory owners displaced the feudal aristocracy that had been around for some 5,000 years in less than a tenth of that time.

But I knew I was missing some important point. A few years ago I came upon a book, also by accident, by the late Manfred Max-Neef and a renegade physicist named Philip Smith, in which the authors put forth the thesis that political economy was never even intended as a scientific explanation of the industrial market economy, but an apologia for the rising bourgeoisie of the Renaissance, who were not protected from being eaten by the peasantry under the Divine Right of Kings.

That rang true. It was still speculative “Enlightenment” philosophy, and bad philosophy at that. But it served its purpose, casting its practitioners as part of the new “Natural Philosophy” of the 16th-17th centuries, the more so when a thin veneer of what we now know to be inappropriate math was layered on by Marshall, Jevons, and others toward the end of the 19th century.

The title is Economics Unmasked: From power and greed to compassion and the common good. I have no idea what moved me to order it, as such titles usually portend sappy BS. You might want to give it a look.