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External Influences On Academic Economics?

Summary:
1.0 Introduction A question has arisen elsewhere. Why, except for an interlude during the post war golden age, has a nineteenth century orthodoxy dominated economics departments and treasury departments around the world? Here I do not investigate the details of this orthodoxy or if it does dominate. 2.0 An Authoritarian Point of View Some people believe that some are better than others. They want to live in a world where those at the top tell those below what to do, and those below jump. One might think that it would be hard to find people willing to explicitly articulate these feelings in public. But you can find, if you look, Republican candidates for elected offices saying it was a mistake to allow woment to vote or that interracial marriage should be outlawed. Some who support

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1.0 Introduction

A question has arisen elsewhere. Why, except for an interlude during the post war golden age, has a nineteenth century orthodoxy dominated economics departments and treasury departments around the world? Here I do not investigate the details of this orthodoxy or if it does dominate.

2.0 An Authoritarian Point of View

Some people believe that some are better than others. They want to live in a world where those at the top tell those below what to do, and those below jump.

One might think that it would be hard to find people willing to explicitly articulate these feelings in public. But you can find, if you look, Republican candidates for elected offices saying it was a mistake to allow woment to vote or that interracial marriage should be outlawed.

Some who support plutocracy, maybe unknowingly, would rather claim they are for meritocracy. The extreme distribution of wealth and income in, say, the United States is a difficulty for this view. The rewriting of laws over decades to (p)redistribute income upwards is another inconvenience for this point of view. Advocates for such may be in the grip of a reification in which they naturalize political choices. If a meritocracy was ever momentary established, those at the top could still be expected to try to structure society for their advantage and to attempt to get the best for their spawn.

The reproduction of society is a focus of my favorite schools of economics. Persistent high unemployment and a weak social safety net are useful for sustaining plutocracy. Those at the top want those at the bottom worried about how to feed themselves, not in whether they can participate in governing themselves. Those in middling positions should be economically anxious and worry about falling down. A lack of solidarity between those at your level or with those below is useful for plutocrats. Divisions between workers of various sorts, between races, between men and women, between sexual majorities and minorities are all to be encouraged.

3.0 A Humane Point of View

Human beings do not exist for the economy, but the economy, if it exists, exists for human beings. One assesses how well an economy works by how well it elevates those at the bottom. Are they able to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves? Do they have some share in the necessaries and conveniences of life? Do they participate in improvements brought about by innovations and increases in productivity? Are those at the margins increasingly brought into society?

Before and during the industrial revolution, people needed to work to produce the commodities needed to sustain the population. "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 10).

This attitude is outdated when productivity is raised so high that, with appropriate distribution, all can have enough. Nor is there are virtue in producing what can be sold on the market. Somewhere, Joan Robinson said something like that the distinction between what can be marketed and what cannot is a technical accident. The expansion of national income provides employment, and, under the current system, employment is a source of income and self-esteem.

Doubtless, in a country with an Universal Basic Income, some would devote to themselves to dissipated living. From the standpoint of political economy, I do not have a problem with this.

But if the economy was structured to serve humanity, many would not feel obligated to spend all their days grubbing for a living. One might have more voluntary neighborhood associations beautifying their area. More young people might organize sports leagues and be playing pickup games. Many would spend more time in community theater or music events. Much more could be done by community groups, charities, and other voluntary civic groups. (In my personal life, I am more a patron or donor for such organizations, mostly not local, than a participant.)

The development of point of views consistent with these ideas and their implementation is and should be a threat to plutocracy.

4.0 Some Speculation

If one looks at the funding of academic economic departments, one can certainly identify promotors of authoritarianism and plutocracy.

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