A very interesting lecture was given by Yanis Varousakis in January this year, which I’ve only just got around to looking at. The link is here.
I summarise below the essence of what I understood.
He suggests the economists are Utopians – and much like Biblical scholars of the middle ages, they form the language of power, the language that couches the affairs of society and of course, finance. Just like the Bible in the middle ages it leaves many baffled, which, he suggests, for its proposers, might be its greatest merit.
In the real world to suggest that perfect maths is how practical society works for its people is necessarily an ideology.
The complex maths of much theoretical economic thought means that those who understand it, if they are to challenge it, have to reject the power that that understanding imbues them with. People who understand that this mathematical model is not actually how society works have to admit that their knowledge may actually be, in this instance, worthless. They have to admit that its power is misdirected. That is both career threatening and reduces your own influence. Thus this supposed apolitical science turns out to be, in the end, in fact deeply political opinion.
More prosaically, he mentions that trees have value but no price – because the deeply flawed GDP doesn’t measure them. (Of course I should indicate that GDP was really invented as a rough draft in the 1930s so it was never created to be a definitively precise measurement).
Yet still most economists hang on to GDP and thus it transpires that Amazon workers are more reminiscent of the Chinese people’s army than any sort of capitalist market place. Poverty was at least as much invented by capitalism as ameliorated by it. Certainly capitalism’s side effect is inequality. This symptom has lead to the idea in both fascism and Soviet communism of authoritarian egalitarianism.
Economic Utopia turns out, in fact, to be not so Utopian after all.