…but, of course, there are ‘markets’.

9 Sep

I said in my last post that there was no such thing the ‘the market’ in the way that economists and politicians use the term.  And that there are markets, each with their own ways of functioning.

None of those many markets operate in the way that free market theory predicts.  This has been the cue for free market economists and moralists to secure vast state support (via academies, military force, state-sponsored ‘think-tanks’ and campaigning charities etc) for rejigging their essentially flawed ideas.  Prime developments that have resulted in the sphere of economic theory have been F.A.Hayek’s reworking of the abstract ‘free market’ to represent a morality of ‘freedom’.  His failure to condemn Chile’s brutal military coup of September 11, 1973 issued from his attachment to an idea of freedom as subsisting solely in the economic sphere, and meaning only narrowly economic ‘choice’.

Milton Friedman’s work took up the theme of ‘choice’ as a consumer good and basis of morality in everything in a way that is central to how the contemporary world now works.  We are now routinely invited to ‘choose’ between an array of essentially bad economically-driven options, with our failures to ‘choose’ the best option – for which we should read afford the best option – becoming the rationale for our failures in life.  More oddly still, the state now exists to promote ‘The Market’ and ‘choice’ in every area – except the existence of the free-market-promoting state.  Even deviations from this pattern, four years on from the collapses that demonstrated the vacuity of choice, are framed within the rhetoric of markets and of choice.

There are many markets, however, as I started out observing.  They are worth studying, both for how they actually work and for how ideas about how they actually work might be more broadly applicable.  Or even, perhaps, testable and generalisable.

The money that governments – some of which have been elected by the votes of those who have intelligently and correctly discerned that the current market-driven discourse is nonsense – could realistically be redirected away from economics departments that failed to warn of the coming banking crisis in 2008.

Deserving recipients of the money freed up might look at the actual functioning of fruit and veg markets in provincial towns in, for instance, Ireland or Senegal.  Or the real mechanisms by which private competitors for local government contracts in, for instance, Mexico and China are chosen.  Or how record buyers truly arrive in, and make decisions in, a single record shop down a side street in Manchester.  Of course, the types of expertise required and developed in the course of such study, and the theoretical understandings that might emerge from those observations, are not limited to the economic.  Expertise in farming, cooking, languages, law, architecture, urban planning & design, music and music technology, cultural studies and the sociology of subcultures would all suddenly acquire a new potency  and regard.

The new research would reconnect with the real world of lived experience, and force researchers – many of whom would have to come from backgrounds and allegiances outside the traditional privilege of the academy and of the governing classes in order to understand the minutiae of such subject areas – to learn to listen to actual people as they exist outside abstract models.

 

 

 

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