ONE OF MY HOBBIES IS COLLECTING ECONOMISTS—AND ONE OF MY FAVORITES IS BEING ATTACKED
I’M IN SHOCK!
“Collecting economists” sounds rather as if I have a bunch of them, stuffed and mounted, in my trophy room.
While the concept is not without appeal as far as some economists are concerned, my approach is rather more benign.
Instead, I list and track economists (I include economic commentators) who seem to get it right much of the time—or who present arguments which seem worth exploring even if they are not yet proven. I do this because I’m interested in discovering an economic system which works for the benefit of an entire population—such as this one—not merely a privileged elite. Here, I’m not looking for perfection, but more for one that is good enough. I expect it will have to be assembled from the carcasses of other economic systems so I guess you could regard my goal as ‘Frankenstein Capitalism.’ Not sure a more appealing title might not be an idea.
But the U.S. economic system, based on free market capitalism, is the best in the world, I hear you cry.
I respectfully disagree. Aspects of it work brilliantly, but others do not. Let me list a few of its flaws:
- Massive debt from personal to federal.
- A decline in the earning power of the majority of the population.
- An economy which favors only the few.
- Where children are concerned, hunger (food insufficiency) on a massive scale.
- An alarming number of people withdrawing from the workforce because they can’t find jobs.
- Pervasive unemployment.
But this not the time to debate this particular argument. Instead, I’m in shock—in the manner of the movie, CASABLANCA—because economist Paul Krugman, who mostly seems to get it right (or has for the period I have been reading him) is being attacked by a social commentator, William Greider, whom I hold in high regard.
Woe is me! My loyalties are divided.
The focus of Greider’s attack is that Krugman was an unquestioning advocate of globalization while refusing to address the issues of the dark side (which were, and are, many—and include massive job losses, the destruction of communities, the exporting of expertise, and the depression of wage rates. One might also add the exploitation of foreign labor, and massive tax avoidance under frequently dubious circumstances).
The trouble with labels like “Free Trade” is that they disguise all kinds of deals made on behalf of corporate interests—and which never see the light of day because who reads all the fine print in a trade treaty. Should the media do this? Of course they should, but such research is hard work and time consuming, so they seldom do. Beyond that, editors frown on such work because it may result in criticism of specific corporations—and corporate advertising is what pays for the media.
Here, one might ask the question: Do we have a free press? If media owners self-censor as much as they do—just look at the Wall street Journal under Rupert Murdoch—no, we do not.
But, I digress. Back to Greider versus Krugman. Frankly, I haven’t read enough of Krugman on globalization to have an informed opinion, but I guess the moral of the story is to read much from a variety of sources, to read critically, and—above all—to form your own opinions.
You know, “Frankenstein Capitalism” has a certain ring to it.