The following is an excerpt from the above linked-to article by David Morris:
“Today we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics class,” the protestors explained in a letter to Mankiw. The course “espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.”
On December 3rd Mankiw responded in the Times. He expressed “sadness at how poorly informed the Harvard protesters seemed to be”. “If my profession is slanted toward any particular world view, I am as guilty as anyone for perpetuating the problem. Yet, like most economists, I don’t view the study of economics as laden with ideology.”
Quoting Keynes, Mankiw maintained he teaches “a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique for thinking, which helps the possessor to draw correct conclusions.”
Regarding Mankiw’s insistence that his textbook and course simply instruct students in “a method rather than a doctrine” Moshe Adler, Professor of Economics at Columbia University and author of Economics for the Rest of Us notes the singularly consistent conclusions that result from the application of that “technique of thinking”. “(W)henever it is necessary to choose sides between the rich and the poor, between the powerful and the powerless, or between workers and corporations, economists are all too often of one mind…”
Keep this in mind: Specialists, with formal education and credentials to stand on, can be intimidating. When they speak for the corporatocracy, they can be effective in keeping the rabble in it’s place. Not all of the rabble of course are non specialists who don’t get the jargon spouted by the experts who are telling them how it is and getting off scott free when we have no way to know absolutely whether we are being conned. That’s why we have to pay attention. If Jeffrey Sachs tells Al Jazeera, in so many words, that corporatocracy (cooperation between governments) is what we need, when corporatocracy – states too linked together and too unable to respond to the needs and wants of their citizens, due to the fact that their governments have been redesigned to meet the needs of corporations who give them their marching orders – is what we need to lose, Who can argue? If we are paying attention, ‘we’ can argue, whether or not we are experts. And that might mean pointing out hypocrisy.
You can see how genuine Sach’s support for anti-corporatocracy protesters is when he completely misses this easy lob from Sami Zeidan, who asks him whether giving governments which have made a mess of things even more money is the answer. Sachs’s fails to give the answer that an anti-corporatocracy activist would give without missing a beat, namely ‘We need first to have governments of and by and for the people, rather than governments that are captured by corporations, as at present’.
It’s eerie to listen to a man who has done so much in the service of the corporatocracy now talking about the problem of the corporatocracy (video below), a term coined by someone who bears a striking physical resemblance to Jeffrey Sachs. John Perkins has written about his own past service to the corporatocracy and encourages us to reject that American-led system.
Jeffrey Sachs harbored contradictions. He admired Keynes (and could be said to be pro “socialist romanticism”) but was also influenced by the popular Chicago School purveying Milton Friedman’s ideas (and could be said to be anti “socialist romanticism”). When he acquiesced to Bolivia’s presidential contender Hugo Banzer’s (a former dictator of Bolivia) request for assistance in developing an economic plan for Banzer, Sachs listened to his Friedman demon rather than his Keynes angel, recommending shock therapy (contraction of the economy) – austerity and price increases – for Bolivia. Although Banzer’s opponent, Victor Paz Estenssoro, won that election, Estenssoro had made a secret deal to enlist Gonzalez (Goni) Sanchez de Lozada’s help in imposing economic shock therapy on Bolivia, leading not to adulation for heroes like Sachs and his traitorous partner, Paz, but to national opposition to the austerity that Bolivians got instead of the nationalization and hope promised. Paz responded by helping Bolivians to understand that he was giving them an offer they couldn’t refuse when he sent tanks into the streets of the capital and restricted travel by Bolivians within their own country, had police raid union halls, factories and other venues and banned political assemblies and marches. Sachs, and those who liked the neoliberalism he endorsed, later simply ignored this history.
Later, Sachs found himself in Russia, at the behest of an admiring Boris Yeltsin, who wanted to enlist Sachs’s fundraising talents, made manifest in Poland. Sachs was gushing with praise for the drunken, bloodthirsty Boris Yeltsin when he violently destroyed blossoming democracy in Russia in a bid for personal power and glory. “This is the most incredible thing you can imagine. This is a true liberation,” said the sorry Sachs about Yeltsin’s coup. Sachs’s democratic credentials are about as solid as Jeffrey Dahmer‘s credentials as a good neighbor. “Like Polish supporters of Solidary, 67 percent of Russians told pollsters in 1992 they believed workers’ co-operatives were the most equitable way to privatize the assets of the Communist state, and 79 percent said they considered maintaining full employment to be a core function of government. That meant that if Yeltsin’s team had submitted their plans to democratic debate, rather than launching a stealth attack on a deeply disoriented public, the Chicago School revolution would not have stood a chance,” it’s reasonable to conclude. (page 269 of “The Shock Doctrine – The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism,” by Naomi Klein
In newly liberated – for real – Poland, thanks to efforts of the people and the people’s champion, Lech Walesa, and thanks to conditions made favorable for freedom in Poland by Mikhail Gorbachev, who was later betrayed by Boris Yeltsin, there was the huge problem of funds. Poland needed debt relief and had to turn for it to the Chicago School-influenced IMF. But it was mainly through Jeffrey Sachs’s efforts that Poland managed to get debt relief for Poland – at the expense of the majority. Jeffrey Sachs’s star power – after the establishment’s glorification (and dishonest reportage of) of Sach’s involvement in the capitalist revolution in Bolivia – enabled him to get the IMF to agree to bail out Poland in return for the usual, society-destroying structural adjustment, although I’m not clear on why the IMF would not want to do what it likes to do here anyway. Why would it need to be encouraged by Sachs?
Anyhow, The results of Sachs’s ‘assistance’ to Poland? Naomi Klein states that: “It was an even more radical course than the one imposed on Bolivia: in addition to eliminating price controls overnight and slashing subsidies, the Sachs Plan advocated selling off the state mines, shipyards and factories to the private sector. It was a direct clash with Solidarity’s economic program of worker ownership, and though the movement’s national leaders had stopped talking about the controversial ideas in that plan, they remained articles of faith for many Solidarity members.” -pg 213 of “The Shock Doctrine,” by Naomi Klein
Actually, Any of us can protest, even if we can’t ‘argue’ the way the specialists (including economists who pay too much attention to books and too little attention to reality, as David Morris’s above CD article attests) among us argue. We can know enough to know who to trust and how to proceed – if we care enough to pay attention. If we care enough to know that there is an alternative media, which in fact serves the majority, even if well off people who only know what CNN or CBC tells them are unaware of it, then we can always consult it. That doesn’t mean ignoring major media. It just means knowing that it’s not an ally and that it’s solutions, proffered by constant access to it’s approved experts, are not likely solutions to the problems created by their private sector partners and impacting, negatively, the majority.
We need to talk to each other more, and not about fluff. We do enough fluff talk. We need to care about important matters affecting us because if we don’t, then we will deserve the loveless treatement that psychopathic corporations and rightwing thinking individuals and groups mete out to us.
But none of us are perfect. A thing that I fear is the effort by some among us, namely experts in various fields, to dominate the discourse. That won’t help. We need clarity, not confusion. Elites need us to be confused, off balance, unfocussed and out of their hair. Let’s not help them here.
Why is the effort to dominate the discourse a bad thing? It’s bad because the main way to do that is to take the technocratic approach of specialization that includes specialist jargon that is impenetrable to outsiders. Even within a single area, such as economics, the effort to dominate the discourse might see unecessary agreement occuring between experts who don’t want to be relegated, along with their particular take, or theory, to a lower status in the ‘progressive’ camp. And how would that help non specialist onlookers like myself to deal with the important issues we all need to deal with?
“The mass media are drawn into a symbiotic relationship with powerful sources of information by economic necessity and reciprocity of interest. The media need a steady, reliable flow of the raw material of news. They have daily news demands and imperative news schedules that they must meet. They cannot afford to have reporters and cameras at all places where important stories may break. Economics dictates that they concentrate their resources where significant news often occurs, where important rumors and leaks abound, and where regular conferences are held…
“Another reason for the heavy weight given to official sources is that the mass media claim to be “objective” dispensers of the news. Partly to maintain the image of objectivity, but also to protect themselves from criticisms of bias and the threat of libel suits, they need material that can be portrayed as presumptively accurate. This is also partly a matter of cost: taking information from sources that may be presumed credible reduces investigative expense, whereas material from sources that are not prima facie credible, or that will elicit criticism and threats, requires careful checking and costly research…
“To consolidate their preeminent position as sources, government and business-news promoters go to great pains to make things easy for news organizations. They provide the media organizations with facilities in which to gather; they give journalists advance copies of speeches and forthcoming reports; they schedule press conferences at hours well-geared to news deadlines; they write press releases in usable language; and they carefully organize their press conferences and “photo opportunity” sessions. It is the job of news officers “to meet the journalist’s scheduled needs with material that their beat agency has generated at its own pace.”
“In effect, the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring the raw materials of, and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become “routine” news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.” -pages 18,19,21,22 of “Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy Of The Mass Media,” by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky