Saturday 8 October 2011

The world economic crisis - in a nutshell


Modern man does not believe in God or in gods; he believes in happiness or reduction of suffering.


Because he does not believe in God/s, modern man does not believe in reality - or if he does then he is not interested by it: after all, without God/s who would choose reality over happiness?

And without God/s happiness is purely within life, within this world - so why should anyone ever want to do anything that which might sacrifice happiness in this life/ world - even if it did lead to reality?

And who would be interested in Truth, Beauty or Virtue unless they led to more happiness? Nobody - that's who.


What possible reason could there be for sacrificing happiness to TBV? None - that's what...


So - the world economic crisis... What should be done about it?

Is it real, or is it that people are unhappy?

Is there really an underlying economic reality?

And if so, is anybody interested in finding-out about the economic reality; or, having found-out in improving the economic reality (whatever we regard as improvement - whether that might be real economic growth, or something else).


Or, are we really interested not at all in economic reality (which we think probably doesn't exists aside from human beliefs and expectations) - but instead in in making people happy about (what they imagine to be) the world economy?


Yes that's it: of course that's it.

What we really want, here and now, is that people feel better about the world economy - feel happy about it!

Because, after all, who wants to know or really cares about economic 'reality'? Either it doesn't exist - or it is boring - or unimportant - or merely a side effect of feelings (which we do care about).

Insofar as there is any acknowledgment of 'economic' reality, it is that it is a product of feelings ('confidence', 'optimism', 'panic', 'greed'...).

And nothing to do with production of food, shelter and warmth and 'real' stuff like that...


Thus - the world economic crisis.

Our bottom line is feelings; we regard economic reality as illusion - all significant policy aims at manipulation of feelings.

Our punishment will be to get what we have asked for: we shall have to survive on feelings...



Chris said...

You don't believe in unemployment figures?

Slightly, but not entirely, off topic:
As per our exchange on Sailer's site, can you explain how "natural life span" is related to TBV other than being an alternative to other, modern ways of speaking about end of life care?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chris - I'm sorry, I don't understand your supplementary question.

I'm not even sure if I understand your unemployment question - I mean I'm not sure whether it is ironic.

Obviously the government statistics of 'unemployment' are all-but unrelated to the number of people who are in reality unemployed by common understanding of that term.

Are you making a joke about this - or were you suggesting *I* might not acknowledge that lots of people were currently unemployed?

The UK government is 'not even trying' to give accurate statistics - and has not been trying for at least 30 years.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chris - you might be interested with some earlier posts on this matter. They may make it clearer 'where I am coming from':

Matias said...

This observation is very perceptive. All newspaper editorials on the financial crisis consider how to restore 'confidence'. To solve the Euro crisis, European leaders are suppose to learn lessons from the Americans, who could restore 'confidence' in their banking system. Never mind that the banking system is actually a burden on the productive economy. 'Confidence' seems to mean feeling good about living beyond one's means.

Gary North had a nice article on how to react to the real underlying economic situation:

Daniel said...

Recently the U. S. Government released statistics that claimed 45,000,000 Americans live in poverty (out of a population of just over 300 million). That's a lot of people!

However, 2/3 of those living "in poverty" also have cable or satellite television.

Statistics about the economy are a shell game... the goal is always moving, and what makes humans truly happy is not taken into account. Not only is it ignored, it (happiness) is actively squashed.

If a person can have cable television and still be told over and over that he is suffering and disadvantaged, that person will never be happy. (Unless of course he has a private revolution and completely overturns and rejects everything that society is telling him about the source of happiness.)

Cantillon Blog said...


On the link between a disconnect from reality and the effects of fiat money inflation, can I commend to you the work of Paul Cantor?

His exploration of Thomas Mann's "Disorder and Early Sorrow" from an Austrian Economics perspective is fascinating, and has contemporary relevance.

Adam Ferguson's "When Money Dies" is also good on the same topic.

The contemporary relevance arises because we have, in my view, experienced chronic inflation in the West since the US abandoned the gold standard in the early 30s. Since the early 90s inflation was present, but disguised thanks to a burst of technological progress and the supply shock of the former Communist world being integrated into the global economy. This did not prevent its effects having a profound influence on society and culture.

I suspect we may be today approaching the end of (or at least a sustained interruption to) this era, with inklings of a move towards hard money in the US.

Cantillon Blog said...

Matias - confidence matters because the system is built around leverage.

Bruce Charlton said...


I don't think that Matias is disputing that confidence matters - rather than the real economy is not built on foundations made of of confidence.

@ Daniel. Indeed. The fact of the matter is that poverty was abolished many decades ago - by which I mean 'poverty' as it was understood over the past few thousand years.

Poverty, by traditional definitions, was ultimately about dying of starvation and exposure.

But for a long time it has been that situation that every baby that is born, every person that sets foot on the soil (legally or illegally) will be (*must* be) kept alive if at all possible until they can be kept alive no longer, and the same applies to their descendants - however many, and 'forever'. Those are the current rules.