Wall-Street Economics is Passé – Wendell G. Bradley

Faced with today’s economic crisis, many pundits are acting like fundamentalist preachers. Their rants accept certain centering truths as pure and eternal. They view the ‘free market’, for example, as a manifestation of nature, not a socially constructed model—not a crafted, even legislated, rationalization designed to yield general ‘economic’ predictability and control. Accordingly, they regard alternative interpretations and environmental accounting as unnatural market interferences. 

We need to analyze this type of thought carefully because it frames how we conceptualize and discuss economic issues. Call it the Deontological Belief Model (DBM). 

The DBM views the natural world as inherently dangerous, even evil, because engaged in untamed competitive struggle. To control such a world one must first conquer it. This requires a strict, disciplined knowledge of the world’s essences–those supposedly timeless, discoverable, and categorical qualities that determine nature’s ways, both physical and social. 

Mastery is a manly task. Indeed, only the strongest, most disciplined and aggressive are up to it. Those few whose right-rationality can uncover elements of the world’s ‘true ethic’ become enlightened enough to rule. To succeed, the many follow as best they can. Among the unenlightened, force is often necessary to maintain order. Because the DBM is primarily concerned with authority, obedience, discipline, and punishment, it is eminently undemocratic. 

Today’s free-capitalist mentality exemplifies the DBM. Only the self-reliant, anointed, loyal, and knowledge-able marketeers putatively deserve life’s rewards (wealth and power). 

Consider a relational alternative to the DBM. On the relational model, our sense of what it takes to accomplish well-being is neither ‘discoverable’ nor revealed. There are no absolute truths about how the world works. We describe things according to situated notions of appropriateness, then construct models that agreeably weave these descriptions into an expanding web of interpretations, and finally adopt them as beliefs. Of course, we can’t be more relative than the world allows. 

Because popular agreement evolves from democratic voice, language is what accomplishes social attempts to ‘know’. Words, however, are relative. They only relate things one to another—provide no fixed reference. This means all truth claims, economic and otherwise, are human constructions (paradigmatic). There is no objectively pure or transcendent knowledge, only human interpretations. DBM’s so-called objective reality is an actualized modeling. The more agreement its interpretations garner, the more ‘objectivity’ it is said to have. 

Any ‘always-already-there’ is impossible to demonstrate. This means we have no practical access to an ultimate finder that can justify capital ‘T’ truth claims (such as a God or a form of reason upon which all can agree). Functional awareness comes through language descriptions that meet our purposes via relational modelings. We don’t need to worry about ‘how things really are’ (truths, essences, essentialism, etc.); only whether other belief models are better for ‘getting on’ culturally. This is enough to jump-start moral community. 

We simply cannot defend a unitary ethic (ecological, economic or otherwise) according to some right-rationality. All we can do is frame our discussion attractively and fittingly, thereby favoring some practices over others. Knowledge is information, not an uncovering of some antecedent reality ‘out there’. According to relational thought, rationality is a situated, pragmatic, albeit metaphorical guiding of actions within the webs of relationships (worlds) we construct upon relevant constraints. 

Different contexts have traditionally called for different forms of reason. As a result, what seems rational for business may prove irrational to ecologists. DBM reasoning is often so stylized and particular that it leaves out much of the actual situation. Relational models, on the other hand, strive for inclusiveness. 

Consider the physical failure of DBM economics. Its understanding of growth involves a progressive transformation of high-grade energy into waste. For example, coal, gas and oil do transitory work, then end up as greenhouse gasses. This is a result of the entropy law of physics. It states (among other things) that all earth-energized technologies necessarily generate an overall disorder (cost) that is greater than the order (benefit) created. DBM’s style of growth has allowed entropy’s disordering to operate beyond the control of any price mechanisms. To be ecological, economic models must include these costly entropy (pollution) effects. Entropy is one of Glen Barry’s ‘Ecological Truths’ (unavoidable constraints). See Issue #1.

Entropy considerations set economic limits to the energies we can employ. As I pointed out in ‘Entropy (not Energy) is the Issue’ (See Issue #1), entropy constraints demand that only an earth-external source of energy—the sun—can compensate entropy’s disordering. This means we either go (relatively direct) solar or decline. If no solar energy component is involved to reverse the inevitable entropy (polluting) effects of a technology, it becomes unaffordable in the long run. 

DBM market theory also fails socially. It is not, for example, inherently moral. It does not, in itself, provide care—protect health, provide safety, or promote meaningful work. 

Wall Street privateering cannot validly claim to provide a natural basis for economics. Far from being ‘natural’, the DBM market is a construction shot through with conceptual frames, metaphors, and self-serving narratives. Once internalized, it becomes subconsciously actualizing, all the while posturing as true rationality. Because it tends to the authoritarian, dogmatic, and intolerant, it responds poorly to ecologically complex situations. 

Self-interested struggle is the DBM’s guiding metaphor. However, we can just as easily model well-being on relational nurturing. Since we function according to chosen belief models, they become ‘synaptic gospel’. We can even be brainwashed to act against our ‘self-interest’. 

Relationalists sometimes act unwittingly by adopting DBM frames in their discourse. Upon DBM internalization (instantiating its synaptic responses through frequent use), a mere hearing of key words will invoke below-consciousness chains of thought. Reagan, for example, invoked the term ‘welfare queen’ (pink Cadillac, multiple assistance accounts, etc.) to activate action against so-called government ‘entitlements’. Bushies followed with talk of ‘nanny men’ (spineless Democrats) caving into programs for the non-self-reliant poor. ‘War on Terror’ imagery has served to provide military protection for private contracts that exploit Iraqi oil, and so on. 

Because the DBM is undemocratic and anti-ecological, relationalists must refuse DBM thought, thus eschew its language frames. They need to establish their own image-invoking discourse. Growth, for example, need not mean material expansion per the DBM. It can just as well mean the weaving of a more expansive, extra-material well-being. 

Summing up, conventional market theory fails to provide a life-centered economy. Accordingly, Wall Street’s trickle-down model needs to give way to more imaginative, image-invoking economic guidance—one that is ecologically inclusive and socially caring.

September 24, 2010 - Posted by | anti-endustriyalizm, anti-kapitalizm, ekoloji, sistem karsitligi

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: