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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 23. 21st September 1972

demistifying economics

page 4

demistifying economics

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The arrant paternalism, moralizing tone, senile ravings about young people and loaded phrases like "demonstrable accomplishment" which constituted a good deal of your reply to my criticisms, are all quite predictable in the context of an education system which sees the teacher as knowing everything the pupil nothing and which therefore demands of the pupil that he respectfully acquiesce in the work of the teacher who is there to fill him, like a vessel with the correct knowledges. Should it appear at any stage that this relationship is being transgressed, then the transgressor naturally, is guilty of rudeness, arrogance, offensiveness and insolence. That you can level these charges at me in a text which is laden down with institutionalized overbearingness is not so much a personal failing as the outcome of your role. Therefore, will not dwell on the irony that you advance this invective in the course of substituting for my allegedly emotional "tirade", a calm "reasoned approach" Other aspects of your myopia are more significant.

When you say that I "... will find [myself] in agreement" with most of the things contained in your speech, I am not quite sure whether you are expressing a wish or simply giving an order. Either way you are dead wrong. Laying aside your claim that your speech was "...concerned basically with the need for radicalism informed by more realism and less romanticism" on the grounds that it can only have been meant facetiously, I would like to make a number of preliminary points before returning to my basic reason for criticising your speech in the first place.

You make much of the fact that I had not read the full text of your speech at the time I wrote criticising it. The fact that I do not get invited to select gatherings such as the Institute of Management Convention or the National Development Council and do not have access to the documents available there is hardly my fault.

Next, the term "bourgeois economist" is not a "fashionable slogan" (First used 1859) nor is it intended to suggest that you are necessarily a "yes man" for the status quo. What it does say is that your ideology is limited, in theory, by the limits of bourgeois society in reality. Thus in developing your views, even in criticising existing society, you are unable to beyond the limits set by that society. And just as in practice there are certain problems which cannot be solved within the existing framework, so in theory certain dilemmas occur whose solution necessitates going beyond the stand point of bourgeois society. It is precisely because you assume this framework that you are condemned to reproduce the same one-sided answers which will not solve them in reality. However the term "realism" is often used as a euphemism to justify this state of shortcoming. With that in mind, let us return to your advocacy of growth as the panacea for the country's ills, and here I owe you an apology in passing. My statement that your call for massive growth "suggested you had not heard of ecology and the environment" was obviously wrong, and I now accept that you have heard of both. However, your answers to two of my other points in particular, struck me as puzzling because they were not answers at all. Firstly, in reply to my statement that you cannot reconcile private gain with public good you refer to Galbraith and Affluent Society. I thank you for that, because "private affluence and public squalor" was of course, the theme of that book, and evidence for the fact that private gain is in contradiction to public good abounds — which is, after all, exactly what I asserted. Secondly you provide in reply to my statement that capital profitability is your overriding criterion in deciding what kinds of commodity production to encourage. An outline of the need to provide above a basic level of industrial protection an extra 20 per cent or so — for existing or new industries which contribute to some of the social non economic goals such as quality of life...."

'Social non economic goals' is a phrase worth pondering as expressive of the bias of capitalism, but more than that it poses the question as to what you regard as economic goals The answer obviously, is those which yield the greatest profit, or in other words, capital profitability is your overriding criterion in deciding what kinds of production to encourage.

Drawing of a magician and levitating woman

But the point about your references to conservation and social expenditure is that you see both as something that will have to be paid for and sacrificed for, rather than as two essential areas to which an economy should be geared. This is bourgeois ideology, as defined earlier, in its purest form.

The accelerated expansion of social and collective services and the pursuit of monopolist expansion, necessary if you want to fulfil your objective of keeping N.Z. up in the 'international league table', cannot be attempted together. The one cannot be achieved but at the cost of the other. Hence, either social expenditure must be stabiIised (at its present low level) or reduced even further, aggravating shortages in areas such as housing, so as to increase saving and private consumption with the intention of giving a new dynamic to capitalist accumulation, or there must be stronger moves towards the socialization of the economy. These are the only real alternatives, for even if the social checks you seek to impose on your massively growing economy were technically feasible, that ignores the critical fact that they are and will be politically unacceptable to those who matter, the same people on whose capital this massive expansion of growth depends. What they want and will get is an intensified campaign against trade unions and "non-productive" elements like hippies and "opters-out", or in short, a system where the integrating logic of profit pulls even tighter and expresses its demands even more stringently.

Drawing of a magician and woman

Your reference to getting "the message" across to trade unions and your pitiful attacks on young people for their "general lassitude" "unwillingness to cope with society" and "morbid egocentricity" are no more than a recognition albeit unwitting, of this fact. Your suggestion that I do not realise politics and economics are not the same thing strikes me as a lame way of saying that you do not expect to be taken to task over the political implications of your economic meanderings, or that your job is economics not politics. While I can sympathise with such a fragmented consciousness, I cannot be expected to share its confines. Nor can I be expected to agree with an ideology which seeks to introduce a stronger dynamic into New Zealand capitalism at the same time as it claims to be socially concerned. A truly radical position is based on the understanding that there is no sense in attacking the mechanics or dynamics of the capitalist system unless one intends to abolish it, not conserve it. For to attack the consequences of the system's logic (as you claim you want to do) is necessarily to attack this logic itself and to threaten the system. But because your ideological stand point will never permit you to recognize this and to make the necessary jump, you are condemned to the most tragic position of all — in the middle. And from these no-one has ever gone anywhere else but straight on to the shit-heap of history. In the meantime it is not students who are chiefly culpable of idealism for it is you who is offering us "pie in the sky," along with the two imperatives which have always accompanied it—" work harder and take less!!

Drawing of a magician and levitating woman