Thoughts on how Economics is like Biology

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and rereading of economics books as I follow the course of  the current US recession.   Like everyone else,  I’m thinking about how we got here and how the rest of the world got where they are today.   The more I learn,  the less sure I feel about anything.   Having said that,  the one branch of science that gives me comfort is psychology… what we know about how the human mind works,  alone and in groups.

Rather than continuing to work out that train of thought any further at the moment,  a timely article appeared in last Sunday’s Boston Globe:

Interesting article titled “Why Capitalism Fails” and interesting comments.    I’ve been reading the John C. Bogle (founder of Vanguard) 2009 book ENOUGH this weekend.    (Highly recommended)    Bogle also mentions Hyman Minsky,  so this was a very timely article for me.   Communism,  socialism,  and capitalism are all interesting ideas,  each founded on flawed views of human nature as I see it.    For the most part people are good and well-meaning.    But there’s always going to be a Madoff,  a Ponzi,  a management team like Enron or AIG,  profiteers like Merrill Lynch or Putnam Funds,  and so on.

Government is not an economic system,  it is a cooperative means of achieving safety and stability for people who have banded together in a common geography.    As such, ours in the US hasn’t been working all that well lately.    It would appear that some sort of capitalistic system is,  overall,  better suited to achieve human advances,  given human nature.    (For example:  Humans are competitive.  Humans enjoy advancing their own interests and those of their friends and family. )  But that capitalistic system needs a lot of regulation and oversight.    There is an unholy alliance between capitalism and democracy revolving around money and elections.    The US founding fathers recognized that more than we do today,  because they actually discussed and understood the economy and politics of their day.   Our current citizens clearly do not.  Life is very complex today and that complexity is not taught in schools nor is it “covered” in the media.  The media are complicit in the problem.

Economics is a lot like biology in that everywhere you look, an economic niche is filled.    At any given snapshot in time,  the economic system is what it is.    When the system is threatened,  those who are doing well will fight like crazy to keep it as is.    Without enough enforced regulation some people will crowd out more than their share of the economy.   That is what has happened.

As a country we need to rethink the nature of our economy, our industry, our commerce, and our financial system.    If a system costs more than it contributes in benefits to the society it needs serious modification or at least regulation.    Part of me fears there’s a fat chance that’ll happen with the “right wing” having captured the market on fear and mistrust to keep a stranglehold on the USA.    Part of me hopes that our government can develop a bipartisan regulation of our financial system.  I want my country back.

If you read this, please share your thoughts.  Thanks.

(New title in response to Lin Dolin!)


4 responses to “Thoughts on how Economics is like Biology

  1. how is Obama in office if the right-wing has stranghold on the US?

    • Touche. However, I am referring to the fact that vast number of people have been induced into making statements like “keep the government out of Medicare” in response to the right-wing scare tactics. The lack of rationality on the part of the right-wing spokesmen (Cheney, FOX News, Beck, ….) leaves me nearly speechless. The extent of the lies and misinformation is the stranglehold I was referring to. There are others who’ve made this point perhaps better than I (like Rick Holmes): Does that make more sense?

  2. I will agree that there has been a lot of misinformation, but it is from both sides. CNN showed a picture of a man with an AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16, slung over his shoulder on his back outside an event with Obama, exercising his Second Amendment right. Them one of their staff members tried to say it was a whole bunch of racist white people rallying. Fox News had the same picture but they decided to zoom out this time and show that is was not a white man carrying the gun, but a black man. Meanwhile O’Reilly always gets the last word in on anyone he interviews, I have seen countless times before, as I watch Fox News, and this irritates me. What this country needs more than ever are news reporters who do not show opinion and only ask questions to get the facts, maybe then this country will stop bickering amongst each other, but for now I look at all the news stations and compare stories to get the truth, something I deeply others will do.

    • If you recall, GW Bush had folks arrested for wearing t-shirts he didn’t like. Somehow allowing anyone with a weapon, let alone an automatic weapon, within shooting distance of the POTUS is insane. Remember Lincoln, McKinley, Kennedy, and Reagan? This is not a tradition to be proud of.

      Up at the Portsmouth, NH town hall meeting I was deeply uncomfortable watching the nutcase with the gun strapped to his leg walking around. My parents were hunters. I’ve shot (and cleaned) guns. I’ve butchered deer and eaten the pheasants and rabbits my dad shot. I was taught to be very careful and have a deep respect for the damage a gun can do. I don’t trust ANYONE with one within shooting distance of ME let alone the POTUS. I don’t mean to rant, but this is seriously sick. The skin color of the nutcase with the gun is irrelevant.

      You are right that getting the facts is not easy in this country at this time. Having said that, watching FOX News is not going to help you find the truth.

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