I’m no economist, and I won’t pretend to be. I hate dealing with money, and frankly I can’t imagine a scholarly profession that would be more boring. You work all your life on research papers and quantitative policy analysis, and then everyone throws your work in the garbage if it doesn’t fit their preconceived dogma.
Such as that shared by Invisible Hand worshipers. I hate “free market” types, because it never seems to be about the science to them, it’s about the gimmee-more-money. Invisihanders love to use phrases like “emergent complexity” and “self-organization” to describe the wonderful way their imaginary free market would work, while clearly having no earthly clue what such words mean.
This is frustrating, as someone who works in the earth sciences, because I know damn well what an emergent phenomenon is, and how self-organizing systems operate. Biological evolution is a self-organizing system, where derivative levels of emergent complexity can develop through the interaction of more fundamental laws operating on the molecular level. Physics begets chemistry begets biology begets sentience. It’s amazing, but evolution really works, and it’s not hard to imagine why, once you learn some basic science. With evolution we have lots of evidence from different sources that back each other up, we can run tests, we can make predictions. If the predictions work out, we nod and move on to the next research project… always trying to push forward the edge of knowledge.
Do the free-marketers do that? Not that I’ve noticed. To be more precise, I imagine that the research economists who work on macro problems might approach their issues in a rigorous way… but who listens to them? The only people I ever hear talking about free-market economics in the media are people without economic degrees but with a Cato Institute fanclub card. They go on and on about how the market knows all, the market sees all, and the market must operate without hindrance…. then, all would be a paradise.
So I’m curious to see what happens now that Alan Greenspan has gone before Congress and basically said, paraphrasingly, “I was wrong about that whole deregulation thing”. What I’d like to see happen is for GOP thundermouths to listen to the expert, even when the expert disagrees with their economic-religious ideology. Greenspan went before Congress and behaved as a true scientist should… when confronted with clear evidence that a working hypothesis is wrong, a true scientist acknowledges error. Deregulation doesn’t always work. Sometimes, some deregulation works, and other forms of deregulation might not work. The details matter. An economy of 300 million people simply cannot work as a free-for-all where anything goes. Sensible regulation is just that… sensible. No one wants to tell Nike how many shoes they can make in a year, but I do want the constellation of banks that maintain the economic infrastructure of my country to have reasonable and justifiable regulations in place to prevent sociopath CEOs from destroying the place.
But I realize that what I’d like to see and what will actually happen are two different things. What will probably actually happen is that the goppers on Capitol Hill will cry “heretic!” and try to find evidence that Dr. Greenspan has ties to terrorism. Perhaps his cousin’s brother’s son’s best friend’s neighbor was once in line for bagels with a guy who gave money to PETA one time. That should be enough to fan the incandescent rage of the Ayn Randians. Oh, by the way…. Greenspan used to be an Ayn Randian.