This is the first post in a new series about economics. Economics is earth-shatteringly important. And yet most people know practically nothing about it. This has had several unfortunate consequences over the years – perhaps most notably, the commanding heights of the modern economy being given over to a lawless cabal of white-collar sociopaths, who are currently in the process of sacrificing what little remains of civilised society in order to make themselves richer and more powerful.
I did 17 years in full time education, including a history degree at what’s supposedly one of the best universities in the world, and came away knowing almost nothing about economics. I emerged, blinking, into the harsh light of adulthood without ever having had a single lesson on the subject, and without a basic understanding of interest, inflation, where money comes from, and a whole host of other colossally important bits and pieces about the way the world works.
Given that I decided to spend most of my life banging on about politics, my lack of economic nous was a bit of a problem. And so, in the end, I just taught myself. It took a long time – and I don’t for a minute labour under the illusion that I’m anywhere near finished. But what I’d learned, after a few years of hard-core reading and researching, was that a breathtakingly huge proportion of what passes for economics in the political and media mainstream is just thinly-veiled propaganda, seeking to justify and maintain an economic system that tramples over the wellbeing of billions to let a few live to planet-choking excess.
Really, economics and political ideology are almost indistinguishable. In most cases, people and politicians start with the political outcome they want first, and then come up with the economics afterwards. Massive cuts in public spending, tax breaks for the richest and the overwhelming dominance of the private sector aren’t really the best way to run an economy, which is what the Conservatives want us to believe. But together, they add up to a very good way of enriching the richest while squashing everyone else.
In this series, I’m going to try and talk about economics – economic concepts and theories, important economic events etc – in language you don’t need a PhD to understand. Aim Number One is to make economics more accessible. And Aim Number Two is to explain what’s going on in the world in a way that isn’t skewed in favour of the rich and powerful.
Does that mean I’m going to be scrupulously, obsessively impartial? No. This isn’t going to be written from the perspective of any one economic school of thought or intellectual tendency. But I think the status quo is morally, politically, economically and ecologically catastrophic. I think it crushes ordinary human beings, and is well on the way to bringing about ecological collapse, followed by the near or total destruction of the species. And like the Tories, and almost everyone else, I start with my political objectives first: guaranteeing a basic standard of comfort, safety, health and general well-being to everyone alive – and doing that in such a way that doesn’t destroy the environment.