I’m well aware, many individuals fail to see value in studying economics. I find that so very regrettable. Economics really studies the personal psychology of how all of us support our lives, you and I being just a couple of individuals in the billions of people, playing that game called life.
As Ludwig von Mises said, human action drives an economy. The cumulated actions of all individuals add up to our world economy.
Our compiled actions of yesterday, all the actions that were taken by all of the participants, by everyone, will never be quite what they were before mid-February, 2020. Granted, the past has never been an accurate predictor of what the future holds but knowing that we are living in a time of major change, is an accurate predictor that the future will be radically different.
Our medical bureaucracy in charge of this coronavirus response recommenced inaction as the solution to our problem. Keep in mind, inaction on your part means you will not be part of any solution.
And maybe a logic exercise? von Mises or medical authorities? action or inaction? what are the human costs of a destroyed economy?
For what it’s worth, here are a few reasons why I’m apprehensive of a bright short-term future. Some years from now rational thinking may once again permeate its way through this society but until the current irrationality of our age runs its course, it will be difficult for a rational voice will reach the podium. Today it appears, listening and thinking have been largely rejected and are not regarded as viable public options. The destructive riots in many cities show widespread irrationality is embedded in our society. Yet listening and complying with face-masks, hand-washing and social distancing seem to pose no problem for most. And watching the destruction of small businesses is mostly done in silence. Have we given in without even putting up a fight?
Consider that never before in history, has a government deliberately shut down a nation’s productive system to combat a disease. The very idea that life could go on without productive work has never before been considered. Why was a shutdown implemented and accepted now?
Disappointingly, while a few people appreciate that neither politicians, bureaucracies nor medical doctors have wise hands to steer an economy, most people are utterly bereft of the knowledge of how tightly their own lives are irrevocably linked to a modern economy. Break that economic cycle, the fine-tuned supply chains completely and marginal life expectancy will plummet. That thought is not held foremost in the minds of those speaking from public podiums today, the very people called on to solve our Covid 19 problem.
And what of the economic advisers? Are they offering wise suggestions to the people in control? I hear little that I consider wise thinking but that may well be because most media personalities have become logically impaired. They no longer are able to think.
I’ll first concede my bias, that I believe that between computers, statistical analysis and a broken philosophy, the educations system has yielded more than a few generations of parrots rather than thinkers. The resilience of our quasi-free-market economy has held up under massive amounts of manipulation. The real question is, are the events of today the proverbial back-breaking straw or can this too be papered over with imaginary dollar bills?
And while the ‘printing press and paper money’ is the vernacular in economic speak, now we’re in the digital age and it’s become just adding zeros to the official government bank balance. Now, computer entries from thin air drive an economy’s spending. That ubiquitous computer now rules economic thinking as well as so many other aspects of our lives.
With the USA creating some 6 trillion dollars out of thin air, vapour-ware dollars designed to stimulate a vanished economy, it’s obvious that America’s financial experts adore green wallpaper. Will it help? Is it justified? Only time will tell.
I’ll return to economics later, but I now want to bring up some other thoughts … on why and how this all unfolded, building the proposition that it’s about computers, communication and a genetically evolved virus.
The speed of human mobility in our modern, industrial society means any infectious disease will make its way around our world rapidly. However, it is the electronic speed of our communications and the number-crunching ability in our computers that crank out the worldwide, scary information that fills the news feed and generates public panic. Lost in this cacophony of demands for safety is perspective.
And perspective is all that can keep us sane, so … a little of what I see, and that means a bit of flavour of where humans started and where humanity is now. A look at the world with and without human intervention. A world of raw nature and one that has had the wild under human control.
A 50-year-old book, “The Spoiled Child of the Western World” by Henry Fairlie used the phrase, ‘the human estate’ a concept currently out of vogue. From the book, “Our reality is in fact not so turbulent as we have been taught to imagine, precisely because a great part of that reality is our human estate, fenced against nature on the one hand and against ourselves on the other.” The implication in that statement needs to be relearned. It is a necessary step on the path to a solution. At its root, it is the key to civilization.
Today the transformation of nature by our human ancestors is greatly unappreciated, often unknown, and sometimes actively denounced. You, dear reader, need to answer the question, is the world left behind better than the world we inhabit today? Do you really hold an accurate picture in your mind of yesteryear or even for that matter, of today? Hold you, in mind, an accurate picture of how a flourishing society came about? Do you see modern life as normal?
Well, what is ‘the human estate?’ It is everything that we have held onto as well as all things discarded. The material things that surround us are but a minor part. Houses, cars, computers, clothes, grocery stores, running water, hospitals … a near endless list can be compiled, yet is but a fraction of how many ways humans have affected living conditions. With the control of fire, the learning of language, the codifying rules defining social organization, the educating of new members of those societies; yet much more. The wars, the witch-burning, the inquisitions, the most horrific of evils and opposing, the most generous acts of consideration and care.
Over time, previous humans have worked to take the wilderness out of the human estate and continue to struggle to remove the uncivilized as well. Some places and times have been far more successful than others. It behooves the members of a society to clearly understand which of their actions add to or subtract from personal well-being. Yes, that means you need to know what makes your life better, in the full context of what also does not diminish the lives of other members of your chosen society. Civilization demands that.
Here I want to inject a reminder. Both Santayana and Florence Nightingale are part of this story. History repeats and knowing some history is critical. Firstly, that statistics came vividly to life when properly used by that brilliant nurse, working in the medical wards in the Crimean war. Statistics has since become the preferred method of almost all informational analysis. Number-crunching now rules our lives, sometimes beneficially but often detrimentally.
And that brings the computer back to the story, next post.