Why The Left Isn't Convinced By Your Economics Arguments

Among advocates for free-markets, I'm often told that the unconverted will embrace free-markets if only we explain to them "good economics".

But here's the problem — many anti-capitalists don't think economics is a real thing, a real science, or anything other than corporate propaganda. They think it's something invented by wealthy people to create a fake philosophical justification for why they should be allowed to keep their riches.

In other words, these leftists think that your appeals to "economic science" are just a ruse for pushing an ideology invented to keep poor people poor and powerless.

Economics as Corporate Propaganda

But don't take my word for it.

In an essay on "corporate propaganda and global capitalism", 1 Sharon Beder explains how the promotion of "neoclassical orthodoxy" by "neoconservative economists" [by which she just means free-market economists] in the past was little more than a propaganda campaign to convince people that their own interests coincide with those of private businesses.2 These economic theories have a patina of real scholarship so as to look like:

An elegant body of microeconomic theory [which] shows that under certain circumstances the general good... will be promoted by a set of competitive markets and integration into the world economy.

But really, these theories exist to give "a public-interest rationale to liberalization, deregulation, and privatization that provided cover for the self-interested motivations of corporations."

This conspiratorial view is likely far more widely held than many economists would like to believe.

In his book Financial Literacy Education: Neoliberalism, the Consumer and the Citizen, Chris Arthur regards "economics education" as little more than a form of social conditioning, and relates how "the expansion of business propaganda" was made possible by organizations like "Junior Achievement founded in 1919 to teach American students the importance of learning to 'work effectively and to become a useful, self-supporting, honorable member of society.'"

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Moon Kil Woong 2 weeks ago Contributor's comment

The problem stems from a few other things. The left wants to spend until the cows come home, but giant deficits are created by Republicans as well and both are to blame for deficit spending. Likewise, Republican tax cuts are not wise if spending does not drop. The simple fact is that both parties are interested in the pile of money and the deficits that go on top. There is no political will on the left or the right to fight the battle for fiscal restraint and little is being done to make the argument for capitalism even though it is capitalism that is helping the economy right now with the small and medium sized businesses benefiting some from the regulatory rollbacks and the tax cuts.

The role of government is to prevent runaway monopolies, etc. Sadly, the author is right and people are taught this is the inevitable outcome of capitalism. Sadly, this is straight from the handbook of Communism which believed monopolies would end up controlling everything, paying people next to nothing, and destroying everything. This obviously didn't happen and neglects the fact that a health capitalist economy is based on small and medium sized businesses that are constantly evolving and changing. Yes, everything needs some controls and capitalism is not alone. We need to prevent monopolies, however socialism isn't the answer. If you want monopolies socialism is the biggest way to create them, not eradicate them.

Gary Anderson 2 weeks ago Contributor's comment

Well, monopolies are happening and they are keeping wages down. So, Marx wasn't stupid. His solution is unworkable of course. But it isn't like he didn't understand things like the fake economy, fake assets, that drive trading and profits on Wall Street. I don't know if Marx saw that bonds are gold but I bet that was happening back then too. Debt as gold is definitely contrived, as other forms of value are diminished in comparison.

Moon Kil Woong 1 week ago Contributor's comment

I agree we should do more to prevent monopolies, especially mega banks which end up causing taxpayers money in downturns. That said, anti-monopolistic regulations are a workable solution which is far better than socialist/communism that creates rather than destroys monopolies. The issue is, in such countries, you aren't even allowed to protest them without often dire consequences.

Gary Anderson 1 week ago Contributor's comment

So true. The ultimate monopoly is a communism that does not allow capitalism, like the old Soviet Union.

Gary Anderson 2 weeks ago Contributor's comment

Very interesting article. The problem is that Republican trickle down can only work during certain times. It worked for Reagan. It failed for Trump, Hoover and W Bush. There is an economic reason for this, yet the Republicans push trickle down regardless of sound economics. The politics of Republican capitalism is as goof ball as the politics of far left socialism. It is all goofy. Here is the bottom line, if productivity growth is not occurring, don't practice supply side economics, period! talkmarkets.com/.../trickle-down-didnt-work-for-trump-bush-and-hoover-heres-why

Moon Kil Woong 1 week ago Contributor's comment

It didn't work for Reagan. He ballooned the deficit. The only reason it seemed ok was the US could afford the increase in deficits better than today. What really is needed in tax cuts is tax cuts to small businesses and the middle class offset by spending cuts in government and/or the wealthy. This would stimulate the demand side as well as the supply side of the equation even if it didn't completely balance the cuts with income increases and spending cuts.

The simple fact is economics is not simply about money and what you can do with it. It is balanced with the need to grow real demand and grow real supply. If you can grow both your people will be better off and the economy will be better off. This is why QE fails. It doesn't encourage real demand and doesn't encourage real growth in production. You need to do things to increase one or the other side of this equation. Sadly it doesn't even improve investment and capital expense. These two things facilitate income growth, prosperity, and stability as well as efficiency on one end and increases in productive capacity, production, invention, and sometimes increased employment on the other.

Gary Anderson 1 week ago Contributor's comment

I am not certain that trickle down in times of productivity growth can't do some good. So I believe that either way, Reagan was fortunate. Hoover, W Bush, and Trump have not been so fortunate. End demand is weak now. Helicopter money is the only real solution in times of low productivity growth.