Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A 'Modern' Economist's Take on Marx

Via, comes Brad Delong, the astonishingly prolific Clintonite economist/blogger, to tell us why mainstream economists disagree with Marx. He boils it down to three 'challenges' and three answers:

  • Challenge 1 - the business cycle is endemic to capitalism. Answer - yes, but we can significantly mitigate this through Keynesian measures to the point where it is liveable with.
  • Challenge 2 : capitalism produces massive inequality. Answer - yes, but we can mitigate this via social democracy and the 'social wage' as embodied in the welfare state.
  • Challenge 3 - capitalism's 'cash nexus' is anti-human, reducing people's experience of work to one of imposed meaninglessness. Answer - basically, so what? Demonstrably, enough people can find jobs which satisfy them to blunt this criticism, and leave it little more that a moralistic wail or a metaphysical claim.

Now, of course, there is truth in all three of these responses. But may I just archly enquire quite how answer 1 is currently shaping up? & what are the prospects for answer 2 looking quite so convincing as the global recession proceeds and the cutbacks in state spending start coming in with a vengeance?

But the real problem is with his answer 3. He doesn't seem to understand that this is, in fact, the key line of argument (together with the Labour Theory of Value, which I don't accept) which leads to demands for economic democracy, or workers control. He doesn't understand this because he is an economist, not a political economist. Such things are outside the little intellectual box mainstream economists have made for themselves to live in. He's a bright man, diminished by his theory.

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