Do you remember that pithy campaign comment from James Carville, “It’s the economy stupid”? I wonder if he knew how deeply universal economics is. Indeed, why don’t educators put this at the top of their list of the necessary education every child should receive? Could it be they don’t know?
Economics is survival for all living creatures on the planet. It is true that only humans use economic activities like exchanging money for goods and using a banking system to facilitate the process. However, these are merely emergent properties (p.121) of the economic reality of life itself. Economics is survival. Realizing how and why it influences every aspect of life is a gateway to deep knowledge. As chapter 67 points out:
I have three treasures of which I hold and protect:
The first I call kindness,
The second I call thrift,
The third I call not daring to act before all below heaven.
Notice that there is no mention of the 3R’s in chapter 67. As important as reading, writing, and arithmetic are, their significance pales in comparison with economic knowledge… and thrift in particular. Few things are as stressful as the failure of an individual’s or a family’s economic fitness. When a cultures’ economy goes awry, political upheaval follows without fail, as history from pre-Roman times onward demonstrates. If you know your world history well, you have countless examples to ponder.
Politicians on both sides tell their fervent supporters what they want to hear, not the stark whole truth, economic or otherwise. Given the low priority economics has in education, I imagine most politicians don’t know all that much about economics themselves. Either way, politicians only divulge as much truth as they feel people can tolerate, and they skew the facts on the rest as much as they can get away with. Why? Because, how we feel—our emotion—runs the show.
Feeling drives thinking. First desire and worry bubble up from emotion… from the needs and fears we feel. Next, we rationalize our point of view to support those emotional biases. Economic common sense (reality) is the first casualty of the fog into which we dream ourselves. We succumb to an illusion that we think we know, when in fact we only think what we feel… and we feel, “Sure, I can afford this. I’ll spend now and pay later”. Contrast this desire-laden folly with these excerpts…
Not to catch sight of what suits desire, enables people’s heart to avoid confusion. #3
See simply, embrace the plain, and have few personal desires. #19
With desire choosing anything, of doing I see no satisfied end. #29
Taking this, the wise person desires non desire #64
Clever financial innovations make modern foolish behavior possible. Credit flies in the face of nature. Nature is 100% pay-as-you-go. Sure, we could bend the rules of nature a little and not suffer greatly, but we don’t know when to stop. Given the opportunity, gluttony usually appears to rule our behavior. As I’ve often said, in the wild we rarely if ever had an opportunity for gluttony. Civilization enables us to indulge ourselves until it hurts. Believing, either individually or culturally, that we can circumvent nature’s laws is arrogant and profoundly ignorant. As Chapter 71 brutally acknowledges… Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. The irony is that religions have proscriptions against breaking their version of their god’s laws. Sure, sometimes these coincide with nature’s law, but in the end miss the main point… not knowing this knowing is disease.
NPR’s Planet Money program did a few short segments on economics and politics. Search for these via Google, and listen to them in order. Each is only a few minutes, and may be an eye opener. Again, shouldn’t basic economics be taught from kindergarten on up? I did so with my two boys and it really helps them stay grounded…
1) A Tax Plan That Economists Love (And Politicians Hate)
2) Two More Policies Economists Love And Politicians Hate
3) The Candidate Is Fake; The Consultants Are Real
4) Watch Our Fake Presidential Candidate’s First Real Ad
Leave a Reply