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Adam Davidson demystifies complicated economic issues

November 4, 2011

An Adam Davidson from NPR has just started a regular column in the New York Times to “demystify complicated economic issues” for us.  Much appreciated, Adam.  He begins the demystification process by offering us this gem of a loop I’m certain was inspired by M.C. Escher:

an economy is truly healthy only when its people know how to make and do things that others will pay them a decent amount for.  Jobs, in other words, are not the cause of a healthy economy; they’re the byproduct.

Got that?  Let’s feed this logic into our computer and see what comes out.  A decent job for person (A) depends on someone else (B) having the purchasing power to pay (A) which can only arise if (B) has a decent job which can only arise if (A) has the purchasing power to pay (B) which can only arise if (A) has a decent job which can only arise if (B)… CRASH!!!

After re-booting our computer, we read on.  Adam next gives us a bit of bad news.  “Without the distortion of a credit bubble, it is clear that far too many Americans don’t know how to do anything that the world is willing to pay them a living wage for.”  Sorry folks, but remember this is the New York Times.  Davidson is not only oblivious to the inherent circularity of the whole process but clueless to the essential reality that the means of production are so tightly held that 40% of global production is controlled by just 500 firms.  Not too many sources for a living wage are there?  Meanwhile, technology is advancing at such a pace we don’t really need too many workers.  Since this technology is privately owned, people are inevitably forced into desperate struggles to do something, anything  “that the world is willing to pay them a living wage for”.  Such is 21st century capitalism and to Davidson it’s just the natural state.

It gets worse.  “No economic theory offers them easy salvation.”  Davidson is certainly correct here if we emphasize the word “economic” and mean by it mainstream economics.  Economics, of course, is the religion of capitalism so it’s not at all surprising the high priests offer no “salvation” outside the holy faith.

The gloom mercilessly continues as he next turns to a bit of political economy.  “The fact is that creating (jobs) in a far-too-sluggish economy is practically impossible in our current capitalist democracy.”  So true, when the hallowed halls of power are controlled by the capitalists.  The term “capitalist democracy” actually requires some major demystifying.  Would it be better if it were called “democratic capitalism” or perhaps “democratic oligarchy”?  Maybe it’s best to just call it capitalism.  And with that demystification we find Davidson’s assertion makes sense: creating jobs in a sluggish economy is near impossible in capitalism.

To finish this truly horrendous piece, Davidson offers this bit of pretentious advice to the demystified but now suicidal reader.

An economic downturn is a great time to learn things — carpentry, say, or aerospace engineering — that others will eventually pay for: high-school dropouts should get their degrees and a year of specialized training; high-school grads who can’t afford a four-year school should get a community-college degree. Life will be tougher for liberal-arts majors if they don’t get training in how to apply a humanities education. Those who can’t find a job where they live should consider moving to places where there are more jobs than applicants — the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming.

The New York Times is the natural home for the contented well fed upper middle class columnist who can ably regurgitate conventional wisdom.  Adam Davidson has tough shoes to fill at the Times but based on this article, he probably won’t have to move to the Dakotas.  Congratulations Adam!

From → Dynamics, Suppression

  1. Andrew permalink

    In general, NPR’s reporting of economics is abysmal. They try to “simplify” to the point of silliness and then load the reports with bias. But that’s probably because the science of economics (you’re supposed to laugh after reading the last three words) is abysmal. Most reporters assume that economics is something akin to physics with immutable laws outside of the control of human beings.

    But of course, that’s not what economics is. Economics is mostly politics (and vice versa). Both are to a large extent about distributing and enforcing control of resources and coercing the actions of others. Until we decide that we the people really do control the system and can change it to meet our goals, we will remain subject to the vagaries of the economic weather.

  2. Well said, Andrew. With the propaganda power of NPR, the economics “profession”, the NYT, the business press, etc, etc, it’s a real wonder there’s anyone out there who can think straight.

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  1. Adam Davidson, witch doctor « Comments on Global Political Economy

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