Tuesday, 1 May 2012

You mights as well say "reassert the primacy of democratic politics over physics"


I'd never heard of Dr William Partlett, so he fits his own description of "obscure scribbler". However, if he is to fulfil his mission - defined as "overcoming the left-right divide" - he'll need to do better. In truth, Dr Partlett's overcoming the left-right divide is about challenging what he calls but doesn't define or describe. "libertarianism". Apparently the "libertarian right" is intellectually dominant which comes as a surprise to this old liberal.

But the weakness of Dr Partlett's argument is as nothing besides his confusion about economics. Now my understanding is that economics is a field of study focused on how scarce resources get distributed, how people respond to incentives and how the "wealth of nations" comes about. And I do not see that economics is the sole preserve of the "libertarian right" - not if Paul Krugman is anything to go by at least!

So when Dr Partlett says:

Despite a strong mandate and wide discussion of a new FDR-style “New Deal”, President Obama has made only halting attempts to reassert the primacy of democratic politics over the forces of economics.

...he is rather missing the point about economics - after all the "New Deal", whatever we may think of it, was an economic development programme. And, whatever choices governments make none of this changes the reality of economics - those actions may work, they may fail but the underlying rules of supply and demand, utility and such, the toolkit of economics, still apply.

We might as well reassert the primacy of democratic politics over physics.


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