Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Economics as in "study of the production mecanisms in society" are not political per se.

I'd argue it is, because of the way the question is framed.

What does 'productive' actually mean? Who defines it? In what contexts?

is about designing a productive process that optimizes resources: natural and human (as in work and capital).

Both 'work' and 'capital' are purely political concepts. They have no meaning in cultures that don't assume capitalist notions of growth and development.

Now, you could certainly start from scratch and begin by asking what kind of human activity is useful, what resources are available at what cost, and with what potential innovation multipliers.

You can then maybe create accounting systems with an explicit aim of encouraging stable, non-destructive long-term investment over short-term spivery.

But all economic systems are primarily value systems. And all value systems are political, in the sense they privilege some individuals and organisations, and handicap others.

The challenge isn't to be 'productive', but to make sure the political morality is as sane and stable as possible, and that public debate is based on accurate facts and not on deliberate lies, spin, PR, misdirection, theology, dogma, or other intellectual poisons.

Only then can you start creating an accounting system that measures the right things for the right reasons. And then you may - perhaps - finally be able to do some useful economics.

But if you don't do it in that order, whatever you create won't be politically stable.

My biggest criticism of economic theory isn't just that it's wrong or misleading, but that it ignores the nature of political feedback loops.

The feedback loops create inevitable, entirely predictable, explosive instabilities. So you not only get the economic meltdowns on a clock-like cycle, you also get the same tendency to repeated political and social catastrophe.

If there's a solution, it's going to come from reframing policy in completely new terms. Tinkering around the edges won't fix the underlying issue, which is that power tends to concentrate, and unchecked concentrations of power inevitably become self-serving and toxic.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Nov 19th, 2013 at 10:08:14 PM EST
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