The Economic Fascination Fetish

piedpiperI am convinced that in the mainstream economics world there exists a fascination fetish. By this I mean a deep desire and, well…fetish, for all things new and interesting and shiny and bright. Now in many ways this is a purely human trait, and, in a creative sense, wonderful, but in the economic sphere it leads us to make up all sorts of loony theories.

Perhaps this gives us a clue as to why so much of the economics profession is hopelessly inept.  You see, what I mean by all this is the seemingly insatiable desire among economist to ditch an old established truth for some sexy reinvention of an old fallacy.  Refuting old theories is of course the measure of intellectual progress and we should never lament this, but what I’m talking about here is not the refutation of poor theories (legitimate academic endeavour), but the adoption of new erroneous theories on no more basis than that this new-fangled idea looked good, or looked mathematically elegant, or sounded sweet to the ears of those who heard it.

It seems for the average economist out there, clear, plain, simple economic truth is not enough.  They want sexy.  They want money for nothing theories.  They want economic magic.  And there is a never ending and most willing supply of baloney theorists out there ever-ready to cough up such bollocks on demand. 

An integral part of this fascination fetish is the complexity fetish.  This is the desire to complicate simple truths with infinitely complex and usually erroneous nuance.  This leads economists to search high and low for more explanatory phenomena for phenomena that are already explained perfectly adequately.  I’m thinking here specifically of the example of inflation (by this I mean what the mainstream calls inflation, which is rising money prices of all goods and services).  Price inflation is a simple phenomenon.  Print money faster than you produce new goods and services and money prices will go up (all else equal).  Print money and prices will be higher than they otherwise would have been absent the printing of money.

Mises’ theories of money and credit (and countless others) have clearly demonstrated this and shown themselves to be bullet proof to logical refutation.  But the fascination fetishists keep a comin’ with all manner of exotic views about what causes prices to rise.  Some point to supply side shocks which as we have explained are nonsense.  Others talk about inflation expectations, which are only important after the fact of monetary led inflation, not before it.  Still others blame unions, food shortages, ‘profiteering’, and all other manner of nonsense.

Why do these folk do this?  One answer I believe is the fascination and complexity fetishes.  They are bored with the true and simple explanations.  They need complexity to justify their state funded research posts or their add-no-value research jobs.  They worry that economics will move from the esoteric to the accessible, from the domain of masters to the domain of the everyday sensible man.

They want to attend conferences where clever nerds talk about the latest complexities and they can all wallow in their intellectual stew.  They want to say in dinner table conversation, “oh no, you don’t understand, it’s much more complicated than that…”

They’re addicted to new.  Addicted to fascinating and different.  Addicted to complexity.  Addicted to themselves.

Bottom Line: the fascination and complexity fetishists don’t want you to know that economics is easy, clean, and straightforward and can and should be understood well by the common man.  The day that happens, they don’t have jobs, funding, and pompous pontificatory platitudinous plonking conferences to attend.

They want to let you know that you can’t have an opinion and that only theirs matters.  They’re wrong.  You do have an opinion, and if you strip out all the fluff and bells and whistles and bright lights, you’re left with basic economic truth that can be applied practically in your life with repeated and rewarding success.

Don’t be part of the fascination fetish.  Love simple truth.  Become well versed and learned in it. And live it… and let the rats follow the Pied Piper into oblivion…

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