The dismal science—dismal by design?

Economics is a science describing the behavior of a large number of perfectly selfish beings acting independently with perfect knowledge in a world governed by scarcity.  J.W. Mason comes clean about the real relationship of economic science to the real world: something like the relationship between chess and military strategy.

People aren’t always selfish. Large corporations use insider knowledge and cartel tactics to milk consumers and cheat labor.  But most important: much of the scarcity that we experience in the world is created by economists.  It’s not a shortage of labor—there’s a large unemployment pool. It’s not a shortage of resources—most commodities are becoming cheaper every decade (though at what environmental cost?)  It’s merely a shortage of “liquidity”—a deliberate mismanagement of the economy to keep the rich, rich and to keep the poor in their place.

Ellen Brown tells a joke about the aliens who land in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

– What a mess! they comment.  I guess there aren’t enough workers to finish this job?
– No, actually, there’s a high rate of unemployment.
– Oh—it must be the building materials that are in short supply?
– No, actually, all they need is stockpiled at the edge of town.
– Then why has this mess remained so long?
– Well, you see, there are these pieces of green paper, and…
– BEAM ME UP! There’s no intelligent life on this planet.


“You see, a legitimate government can both spend and lend money into circulation, while banks can only lend significant amounts of their promissory bank notes, for they can neither give away nor spend but a tiny fraction of the money the people need. Thus, when your bankers here in England place money in circulation, there is always a debt principal to be returned and usury to be paid. The result is that you have always too little credit in circulation to give the workers full employment. You do not have too many workers, you have too little money in circulation, and that which circulates, all bears the endless burden of unpayable debt and usury.”
— Benjamin Franklin, speaking at the London Parliament


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