Do you remember that pithy campaign comment from James Carville, “It’s the economy stupid”? I wonder if he knew how deeply universal that truth is. Why don’t educators put this at the top of their list of the basic education each person must have? 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 services 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. Not knowing its importance to our well-being is a serious educational shortcoming.
As chapter 67 points out:
Notice, 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 more stressful than the failure of an individual’s or a family’s economic health. When a cultures’ economy goes awry, political upheaval follows without fail, as history from pre-Roman times onward shows us. If you know your world history, you have countless examples to ponder.
Politicians on both sides (currently Obama and Romney) tell their fervent supporters what they want to hear, not the rational whole truth, economic or otherwise. Given the low priority economics has in education, I expect most politicians don’t know all that much about economics themselves. Either way, politicians only include as much truth as they feel they can get away with… and they skew the facts as much as they can get away with as well. Why? Because, biologically speaking, we feel first, and think second.
Feeling drives thinking. First desire and worry bubble up from emotion (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 foggy corner 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
The point is, modern financial foolishness makes this 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 easily rules our behavior. As I’ve often said, in the wild we’d have no opportunity for gluttony. Civilization allows us to indulge ourselves until it hurts. Thinking, either individually or culturally, that we can circumvent nature’s laws is profoundly arrogant and ignorant. No wonder chapter 71 pulls no punches, Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. The irony is that religions have proscriptions against breaking their particular god’s laws. Sure, sometimes these coincide with nature’s law, but in the end miss the 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