Economics, Beyond Politics ?

The diabolical complexity of international financial systems is only superseded by the instability and fragility of the economies which in fundamental ways depend upon them.  This instability as an effect of course only really reflects the cause which is embodied in the instability and fragility of the hyper-complex financial systems themselves.  As an interested observer, I am constantly dumbfounded by the ubiquitous and unremitting dedication to doubling-down on a system which has time after time shown itself to be intrinsically inequitable and monumentally lacking in any inherent resilience with which to manage the inevitable manifold crises and historically significant “black swan” events we can perhaps expect but not explicitly forecast.

In a current technological and scientific paradigm characterised by stunning advances in conceptual sophistication growing out of contemporary physics (i.e. complexity science/maths, theoretical physics, etc.) and the rapidly accelerating advance of digital technologies which support this conceptual sophistication, the continuing dependence upon structuring economic and financial systems in ways which appear (at least superficially) anachronistic remains baffling.  We can not of course completely extract a political economy from a financial one as this resembles a class of surgery in which the removal of a metastatic tumour is likely to kill the patient, but the vanity and narcissism which characterises so much economic public policy leads to situations in which political ideology becomes wielded as a tool of economic policy and this is transparently a fool’s gambit.  In this sense, politics is never so irrelevant or harmful as when the axioms of opinion are taken to be congruent with the conceptual sophistication and verifiable revelations of science.

On a general topic concerning the untangling of political ideology and logical reasoning, and acknowledging the deep psychological imperfection and gullibility of human beings, it may never be possible to arrive at a completely “bare naked” unpoliticised (even – apolitical) theory of utilitarian economic outcome but this does not, and should not, stop us from seeking to improve our world.  That utilitarian systems of thought and their aligned notions of collective benefit appear to fall under the political Left’s remit does not automatically characterise them as socialist.  I am of the firm conviction that, in ways mirrored in corollary by the propagandist poster-art of the 1930’s, the distinction between Left and Right is not of any particular benefit or use in authentic rational analysis.  The inherent tribalisms and psychological archetypes embodied in these ideologically-tinted schools of thought has its historical place and significance but if we are unable to move on, per some kind of rational synthesis, from this internecine dichotomy – we should find ourselves as a global civilisation forever paddling in the wading pool of our own immaturity.  Political power aggregates, gravitates towards centers in which the ideological axioms of that gravitating mass are more often posited as self-evident truths, in much the same way pseudo-sciences generate a truth in which their totality of self-justification rests upon attempting to prove this truth as self-evident, contra all indications to the opposite in reality.

So, to return to the point: economies and their intricate financial systems (and communications, information storage and dissemination networks) exhibit intrinsic complexity of a high degree.  Contemporary scientific models and descriptions of economic, social and environmental reality describe massively internetworked and interdependent systems in which the vectors of causality and audit (or responsibility) are not always immediately apparent or – for the most part – even plausible.  There exists a requirement to attempt a fundamental system metamorphosis in which the conceptual sophistication stemming from the considerations of complexity science (and the associated notions of emergent complexity and self-organising systems) is embraced into both the public policy of finance and the popular discourse around economy and social equity.  The current piecemeal political approach appears to generate from either the Right’s ultra-individualistic search for a superior moral justification for selfishness (as Bertrand Russell portrayed modern Conservatism) or the equally mechanical, algorithmic failure of the Left’s attempts to force redistributive equality in ways which end up becoming as inequitable and borderline authoritarian (or at least parochial) as does the Right.

Scientific facts themselves remain, systemically and holistically considered, incomplete and partial entities within an evolving intellectual ecosystem.  A perennial problem of democracy is that those who are successful at playing the game of being installed into power are invariably under-qualified to perform the various insidiously complicated tasks and roles required of them.  An at least partial or notional separation of ideology from public policy remains an enigma yet to be overcome; many of the intellectual tools and scientific principles required to build flexibility, fairness and resilience into our economies and financial architectures already exists.  We are still collectively attempting to build economic perpetual-motion engines of constant growth when the tools for building resilient emergent complexities into a potentially organic financial ecosystem already exist within our shared scientific and technical, conceptual vocabularies.

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