By Paul B. Farrell, The Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2012
SAN LUIS OBISPO, California— Yes, everything you know about economics is wrong. Dead wrong. Everything. The conclusions of economists are based on a fiction that distorts everything else. As a result economics is as real as one of the summer blockbusters like “Battleship,” “The Avenger” or “Prometheus.”
The difference is that the economic profession is a genuine threat, not entertainment. Economics dogma is on track to destroy the world with a misleading ideology.
Why? Because all economics is based on the absurd Myth of Perpetual Growth. Yes, all theories and business plans based on growth are mythological.
Economists are master illusionists who rely on a set of fictions, fantasies and forecasts that emanate from a core magical mantra of Perpetual Growth that goes untested year after year.
And yet it’s used to manipulate the public into a set of policies and decisions that are leading the American and the world economy down a path of unsustainable globalization and GDP growth assumptions that will self-destruct the planet.
Denial? We’re all addicted to the Myth of Perpetual Growth
Yes, economists are addicted to this ideology. Trapped deep in their denial, can’t see the problem, or admit it, or if they do, they are unable to stop themselves, see past their own myopic world view. They’re mercenaries working for capitalists who pay their salaries, and expect them to support the capitalist’s bizarre Myth of Perpetual Growth.
Worse, the public also bought into the myth. Yes, you believe everything you learned in college about economic theories, all the textbooks, everything you read in the daily press, the government reports, all those Wall Street analysts’ predictions relying on studies prepared by economists with credentials.
But everything you think you know about economics … is wrong. Dead wrong. And until economics acknowledge this, the discipline is on a self-destruct path.
Why? The science of economics is not science. Yes, it looks scientific with all the fancy math algorithms and computer models that economists use, but all that’s just window dressing to make the economist look scientific and rational.
They’re not. Their conclusions are pre-ordained, fabricated, based on their biases, personal ideologies and whatever their employer wants to prove to manipulate consumers, voters or investors to buy what they’re selling.
‘What do you call an economist with a prediction? Wrong’
Don’t believe me? Go look at USA Today’s quarterly surveys of 50 economists projections of GDP growth. Invariably off by a large margin. And Barron’s Big Money poll? In past reviews we’ve seen a wide gap in forecasts by the bulls and bears.
Bottom line: Whether it’s Roubini or Roach, Kudlow or Krugman, you can’t trust the predictions of any economist. Ever. Best warning: That famous BusinessWeek editorial several years ago headlined: “What Do You Call an Economist with a Prediction? Wrong.”
Unfortunately, we live in a world of capitalists who thrive on the great Myth of Perpetual Growth, endless growth, ad infinitum, forever, till the end of time.
But driving the economists’ growth myth is population growth. It’s the independent variable in their equation. Population growth drives all other derivative projections, forecasts and predictions. All GDP growth, income growth, wealth growth, production growth, everything. These unscientific growth assumptions fit into the overall left-brain, logical, mind-set of western leaders, all the corporate CEOs, Wall Street bankers and government leaders who run America and the world.
But just because a large group collectively believes in something doesn’t make it true. Perpetual growth is still a myth no matter how many economists, CEOs, bankers and politicians believe it. It’s still an illusion trapped in the brains of all these irrational, biased and uncritical folks.
No-win scenario: Damned if we grow? Damned it we don’t grow?
Capitalism itself is at a crossroads. Growth is capitalism’s sacred cow but it’s “grow or die” theory doesn’t work anymore. With us since 1776, it’s being challenged by a “new god of reality” that’s flashing warnings of an emerging new reality from critics, contrarians and eco-economists. This war is pitting old and new economists:
Grow OR Die. Traditional economists (pro-capitalism): We’re told we need 3% GDP growth to support the next batch of 100 million Americans. We believe it on faith. Drill Baby Drill. Buy stuff. Get new jobs to fuel growth. We’re out of control. Exploding growth fuels demands as the rest of the world adds 2.9 billion new humans, all chasing their “American dream.”
Grow AND Die. New eco-economists (environmentalists): They see Big Oil’s destruction of our coastal economies, the rape of West Virginia’s coal mountains, the unintended consequences of uncontrolled carbon emissions and they ask: “When will economists, politicians and corporate leaders stop pretending Earth’s resources are infinitely renewable?”
Yes, our world is at a crossroads, facing a dilemma, confronting the ultimate no-win scenario, because the “Myth of Perpetual Growth” is essential to support the global population explosion. But all this “Growth” is also killing our world, wasting our planet’s non-renewable natural resources. “Eternal Growth” is suicidal, will eventually destroy Earth. We’re damned if we grow. Damned if we don’t.
But will economists change as long as they’re mercenaries in the employ of Perpetual Growth Capitalists? No. It will take a new mind-set. The difference between the mind-set of traditional economists and the new eco-economists is simple: Traditional economists think short-term, react short-term, pursue short-term goals. New eco-economists think long-term.
Initially this may seem overly simplistic, but fits perfectly. Here’s why:
Old traditional economists — short-term thinkers: Traditional economists are employees and consultants for organizations with short-term views — banks, big corporations, institutional investors, think-tanks, government. They all think in lock-step, driven by daily returns, quarterly earnings, annual bonuses. Short business and election cycles are more important than what happens a decade in the future. Their brains are convinced: If we can’t survive the short, long-term is irrelevant.
Environmental economists — long-term thinkers: New eco-economists see, think and plan for the long-term. They know traditional economists’ and capitalists’ thinking is setting America up for more and bigger catastrophes than the Gulf oil spill and the last meltdown. The “Avatar” film is a perfect metaphor: Soon capitalism will exhaust Earth’s resources forcing us to invade distant planets searching for new energy resources.
Actually something more immediate will force change much sooner. You are not going to like it: United Nations and Pentagon studies predict population growth (the main driver of all economic growth) will create unsustainable natural-resources demands as early as 2020 with global population exploding from seven to 10 billion by 2050. So expect Depression Era austerity, unemployment and a new no-growth economy.
Will we change? In time? Plan ahead? No, we won’t wake up without a collapse. We know the Myth of Perpetual Growth is pure fiction. But we also know our leaders, capitalists, economists and politicians all live in a collective conscience that must believe in this bizarre myth in order to justify everything they believe about the future, about progress, about income and wealth increasing, about a better life.
So we will all hang on … until a catastrophe shocks our world, forces us to wake up and let go, newly aware of the absurdity of the Myth of Perpetual Growth on a planet of finite resources. And it will happen sooner than you think.