The Economics of Turning People into Things


From Nitasha Paul, in

“When I spoke to various constituencies of people at the ‘Financial Fools Day’ G20 protests in the city of London – the police, the mainstream media, the protestors – everyone (regardless of their feelings about the outcomes on the street, and with differing intensity of emphasis), reiterated they thought the bankers were to blame for what happened. These same bankers were reported to be sipping Chablis and waving their wallets and 10 £ notes from their office windows and rooftop cafes at the gathered crowd of protestors below.

Well, don’t the bankers get it?

To quote Upton Sinclair, it is very difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. The bankers (and various other financial personnel dealing in derivatives and hedge funds) play the only game they know.

Right from economics 101, we teach the students to obliterate the difference between people and things…. They learn that economics is about what is and not what ought to be (normative questions are not a concern), and that wants are limitless by definition. At a macro level, they learn to see the economy as a multiplication of individuals who are alike, and who behave as if they have complete information and can form rational expectations which defeat the purpose of policy intervention. Economics, as it is taught in its neoclassical mainstream version across the world, is a travesty.”

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