Image courtesy of: http://www.eumed.net
A viable interpretation of Robinson’s quote is being able to filter what is BS and what is not BS. So many economists and wannabes would risk making a fool out of themselves just to defend their absurd agenda.
Absurd agenda 1: painting a pretty picture of pitiful politics
When Duterte was newly elected in the Philippines, there was a lot of frenzy over the very positive movements in the local stock market. Many people, especially his supporters, were ecstatic to hear this news. They didn’t waste any time sharing this all over social media. They really wanted to prove a point- that the change would bring economic prosperity.
Me and my colleagues, meanwhile, eyed all of that with suspicion. While none of us was dilligent enough to build a counter argument, we DID construct a sort-of guide to do so.
We started by pointing out that stock market indices are just that- indicators of that particular and specific market. It doesn’t say whether the gains would be reinvested, who would benefit from them… we can only be a little bit sure of who received them. What it does, is to simply say that a number of selected enterprises from different sectors are doing well in attracting investors from all around the world.
People can draw all types of conclusions they want, but the truth is, there is no evidence that stock market movements have affected development indicators* like poverty levels, enrollment rates, mortality rates, investment in infrastructure or quality of life. In our conclusions, we admitted that for the upper echelons of the society, the high indicators meant more sound and healthy economics for them, as they are stakeholders of that elite market.
As a side note, we observed something funny: most of this president’s supporters are comprised of poor to middle-class citizens with no ownership of any stock whatsoever. Yet, they were very celebratory of the rising stock market indices. Oh, the pathetic, deceived souls…
In an interview, Nicolas Maduro proudly announced that unlike in the 70’s, the current dictatorship in Venezuela does not have anything to do with the United States. He added that as a socialist country, the government is actually formed by Venezuelans. It has no contamination from evil capitalists, doesn’t risk being indebted to anybody… just hungry citizens, a huge black market of all sorts and human rights violations left and right, top to bottom, side by side, front and back.
Of course there are also the hordes of Venezuelans fleeing to Europe and the US (for those who were able to) with their assets and families, swearing never to return until democracy is fully reestablished. It’s creating, as we speak, a massive brain and investment drain in the country where talented and highly educated people escape for some pasture- which doesn’t have to be green as long as there’s something to graze on!
If not for the oil, every economic aspect of this deplorable country would be naught.
Absurd agenda 2: justifying the unjustifiable global inequality
Let me share a scene I witnessed in one of my college classes. I was seated with my then-best friend and this dialogue ocurred between her and a former Economic History professor:
Teacher: (noticing a book about Che Guevarra on our table) So, Ernesto Guevarra, huh?
Friend: Yes. It’s good to have varied sources of information.
T: Yes, sure. Whatever. But you do know that even if we free those Indonesian kids working in a Reebok factory, they won’t be cruising around Harvard in a Jaguar, right? You know they’d probably be worse off, right?
F: Sure, but we want them free NOT so they could cruise around in Jaguars or Bentleys. We want them freed so they could choose for themselves what they want to be and how they want to get there.
T: Oh, the youth! Anyway, class, today’s lesson…
My friend and I looked at each other and made faces.
Economic prosperity, regardless of its magnitude, is inconceivable without the full exercise of basic human rights.
Absurd agenda 3: insistently promoting a lifestyle that really only benefits the few- and none of them is you
Think of the last thing you purchased, may it be a product or a service. Then, think how you could have continued to live your life without it. Try really hard. If you come to the conclusion that you could have gone through the day or the week without it, then you have just made the rich richer. And you, dear reader, are several monetary units poorer.
Now, the other side of the coin would allow us to analyze thus: look at the advertising material around. How many of the items proposed are truly vital for modern-day living? for me, the choices would include an insurance policy, the most competitively-priced natural gas package, the public safety reminders and maybe even adult diapers, among the few. The rest? very questionable.
We are forcefully being introduced to a kind of life whose prerequisite is for us to spend our time and energy to work a lot, earn a lot and buy a lot. To sacrifice our health and time with people we love and the things we like doing. It would seem as if society is pushing citizens to harvest the fruits of their efforts through spending and consuming.
This is not surprising. After all, private consumption has been the strongest driver of the OECD’s economies at one time or another. Taking this variable a notch higher could undoubtedly lift declining economic indices.
But just like what was mentioned in this article, it would be senseless to refuse or even condemn private consumption. It would however, be more fruitful to analyze our purpose for spending. This could help us exchange our hard-earned “moolah” on things that honestly make us happy, productive, humane, alive or whatever it is we want to feel, not what the ads or the influencers want us to feel…
If, at this point, your cost-benefit analysis comes out favorable, then I am happy for you. But if you’re in doubt, then I am also happy for that realization.
*Please, please, please, PLEASE read this solid article from the fantastic Mahar Mangahas: http://opinion.inquirer.net/55487/do-stock-prices-affect-the-poor