Why should people march on 21 June in protest against austerity? There is a government budget deficit - don't we have to do something about that? Isn't opposition to austerity policies just putting your head into the sand and ignoring the problem we all face?
No! As John Weeks shows in his new book, Economics of the 1%, austerity is a false ideology marketed by mainstream economists, the high priests of the 1%. An economist himself, he asks why so many people in so many countries revere economists as gurus. The undeserved credibility of economists results from the systematic fostering of ignorance in all matters economic. Understanding society's economy is not simple, but no more difficult that understanding the political system sufficiently to vote. People regularly go into voting booths and choose among candidates or reject them all. Most of the same people would profess a degree of ignorance of economics that leaves them unable to evaluate competing claims about the state of the economy.
The mainstream economics profession through a typically uncritical and credulous media has been successful in convincing people, regardless of level of education or political orientation, that economics is a subject so complex and esoteric that the non-expert is excluded from understanding it. Popular opinions on economic issues reflect the banalities and clichés propagandized by the economics profession. Common ones are the vacuous, "well, that's the result of supply and demand working"; the old cliché, "too much money chasing too few goods" causes inflation; and the pro-austerity punch-line, "governments should not live beyond their means".
These are reactionary clichés of ignorance, repeated shamelessly by the "experts" the media use to foster our, and their, continued ignorance. Take the typical justification of cutting the government deficit by reducing social services -- "the government has to consider the reaction of financial markets". The insight in that banality is like seeing the terrible photographs of people leaping to their deaths from the World Trade Center Tower on 11 September 2001, and commenting, "Well, that's the law of gravity for you".
The intelligence and curiosity of humans implies that knowledge is easier to acquire than ignorance is to maintain. Mainstream economics overcomes this obstacle by a combination of professional fraud, intellectual intimidation and service to the interests of the rich and powerful. Professional fraud creates an imaginary, "free-market" economy to explain instead of the one in which humans live. On the basis of that fraud mainstream economists generate parables analogous to Aesop's Fables, but with less insight. These parables, such as taxes are a burden on individuals, are defended on the grounds that they are self-evident, or based on a theory too complex for the layperson to comprehend, and contested only by fools and nut-cases.
The truth lies elsewhere. As recognized across the political spectrum at the end of World War II, unregulated capitalist competition leads not to a free people, but down the dark road to fascism. Once the bright and flashy promises of free markets are exposed as lies, it becomes possible to construct a capitalism fit for human life. The design involves no re-invention, just commonsense, a commitment to a decent society, and adapting and up-dating what we know.
We need an Economics of 99%, in which a fully employed population generates benefits for all. To help get us there, join the Peoples Assembly on 21 June to march and reject the ideology of the elite that peddles a self-serving austerity ideology and expects the 99% to believe it.
[John Weeks Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy (Anthem Press 2014)]
National demonstration and free festival
Saturday 21 June
Assemble 1pm, BBC HQ, Portland Place (Tube: Oxford Circus)
March to Parliament