The People against the Economists

The People against the Economists

September 9, 2019 0 By Michel Santi


In his time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt dismissed John Maynard Keynes, one of the most influential and brilliant economists of the 20th century, who was labelled an “unorthodox mathematician” by this president. In his farewell address, Eisenhower had warned his citizens against the technocrats in power, the same who were recently described by Emmanuel Macron as making up the “Deep State”. William McChesney Martin, a banker who was the longest-sitting president of the Federal Reserve in the history of the United States of America – from 1951 to 1970, so he sat under 5 presidents! –, was so distrusting of economists that he had those working for him conduct their work in the basement of the central bank, accusing them of “not knowing their own limits”…

In short, while Congress would consult with this more or less disdained corporation only in exceptional circumstances, a corporation that – admitted by Keynes himself – ought not to have considered itself superior to dentists, it took power – the economists took power – from the mid-1950s as their number rose from 2,000 to more than 6,000 paid employees within the US administration in 20 years! Employed, at first, to streamline the government and the application of its policies, they gradually extended their tentacles to controlling the very definition of the country’s politics. Deregulation of most economic sectors, favours and generosities granted to the country’s flagship companies, and staunch opposition to the idea of a minimum wage: these economists held as a fundamental notion that a more egalitarian society would have an undesirable impact on national growth, and that this same growth would and could only be sustained in the long-term with a rolling back of the state’s powers.

The most emblematic of them all was Milton Friedman whose writings and works marked the minds and actions of politicians, proposing a basic solution that, according to him, was able to solve the economic and financial problems, which quite simply stated that government intervention ought no longer concern these domains. It was President Nixon who was one of his most fervent supporters and who, following the guidance of his learned advisors, adopted a whole series of measures of which the sole philosophy was to restrict the state and its regulations, for example allowing the dollar to fluctuate according to the whims of the markets, or even to give a value to human life, currently rated at $10 million…

Additionally, the consensus between Republicans and Democrats was palpable in this respect with the famous Reagan line “the government is not the solution to our problem, the government IS the problem” being oft repeated by Clinton who affirmed the very day of his inauguration that “the era of big government is over”! From the outset, the fight against inequality had therefore ensured not to get in the way of economic progress or impede the increase of GDP. In fact, the moral conscience of economists, and the politicians they advised, conveniently whispered away that inequality was an inevitability – by definition outside of their control –, a sort of unavoidable consequence of capitalism, globalisation, and today of the lightning-fast progress of technology and automation. The result is that, in 2019, the facts show that life expectancy for the 20% poorest Americans is starting to regress while that of the 20% richest is getting longer.

I often hear that blaming economists for our economic woes is like attributing the planet’s global warming to climate scientists. However, the shortening of poor Americans’ life expectancy is just the most recent manifestation of a machine that pumps out inequality…after the one that generated speculative bubbles and, in the same vein,we – Europeans – are not helping ourselves because we’re going down the same route. The invention of the market economy was one of Man’s vital creations, and also a machine that creates wealth, but the advent of the “economic science” was a catastrophe for the most vulnerable. We must therefore urgently subordinate this pseudo-science to politics, and it is imperative that dentists feel that they are economists’ equals.

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