Monday, September 03, 2012


I've been making an effort to understand economics. It's hard because I have no interest but Ezra Klein and Chris Hayes make such heroic efforts to simplify things I feel I should try to keep up. I also heard the writer of a book about Keynes and Hayek that sounded interesting.
At some point in the middle of my economic musing I remembered the "feed a guy a fish and you help him for a day, teach a guy to fish and you help him for a life time" thing. What is that? A parable? It sounds like a simple truth. Teach people how to help themselves and you make their lives better. But it assumes so much. It assumes everyone lives near a place to fish and everyone has the physical ability to fish and everyone can learn at the same level and the person won't starve in the time it takes to catch the dang fish. Feed people. And then teach them. And find ways for them to be part of the process. Like maybe they can't fish but maybe they can set the table.
It seems to me that all of the posturing on economics is over simplified and full of assumptions. One side claims ownership on the people who work for what they have in life and portrays the other side as feeding people, keeping them weak and dependent. The other side claims to be on the side of the worker and their rights but they're holding a convention in a place that's owned by a bank and has no unions. And really, there are way more than two sides.
The Keynes Hayek debate was in part about whether government can do anything about the economy. I'm not sure it can. I'd vote for lots of infrastructure jobs paid for by government. That's one of the things we need to do as a community. But I'd vote for fish dinners until everyone has had enough to eat.
The thing I retained from the author's talk about his book was that Keynes and Hayek wrote each other two letters a day for years. Such passion.
I think there was an old dictum:  from each according to his ability to each according to his need. May be Socialist? Or Commie? I don't know but it works for me. I feel like what we can do is make sure no one is hungry and the figure out what they can learn to do. And government is a place where we could organize all that. There's no evidence that we can do that but I think we could.
There are sound bites flying. Even the ones I agree with trouble me because they seem so beside the point.
In a post about economics I haven't mentioned any numbers.