Wednesday, August 26th
I keep reminding myself that the purpose of this blog, for the time being, is not to answer every “unsolved riddle” that I can find (the phrase is Stephen Leacock’s) but simply to advise myself, and anybody else who wants to listen, on how to vote on October 19th. I am coming at the question from various directions, having defined my political goal as the pursuit of Social Justice (using the term in its wide, Leacockian sense), my tools as Reason and Imagination, and my determination to embrace the complexities as well as I can and to use what skill I may have to render them as intelligible as my purpose requires.
Much verbiage has been required to bring this discourse to the place attained so far, with more to come. Blogging is a form of thinking out loud and working things out as you go along. For me, it’s a good medium.
In my most recent post I was prepared to go along with the Campaign, as it has presented itself to my view so far, by reducing the List of Issues to three. If a decision falls out from that analysis, well and good. If not, then I will keep plugging away until it does. Come to think of it, calling them “Issues” is bad terminology, because it implies contention. I’ll call them “matters”, that is, things that matter:
The Unsolved Riddle of the Œkonomy
The Unsolved Riddle of Security
The Performance of Government
Today I intend to explore the political side of economics as the matter that I think it ought to be, and not what is being talked about, i.e. “The Economy”, whatever that is. And my principal difficulty with the economic discussion so far, is that I do not think that “The Economy” is anything more than a facile and self-serving fiction derived from superficial impressions based on a handful of short-term marginal indicators of almost no value in understanding what the heck is going on and what can be done about it. I am prepared to believe that economies exist, but not “The Economy”. Out with it. And out with the ideas of anyone who talks in that simple-minded way, who are legion in both politics and journalism.
I have long thought that we should stop talking about “The Environment”, whatever that is, and talk about Nature, in order to bring it to life. I am now proposing that we should stop talking about “The Economy”, and talk about a being I will call “Œkonorg”, a metaphor, like “Nature”, for a huge, complex, inter-related organism with a mind of its own who surrounds us at every turn and whose health and future are vitally important to us. It is customary to make Nature female, despite its obvious bisexuality. I propose that Œkonorg should be male, with the same caveat.
I hold the following truths to be self-evident, and reserve the right to be suspicious of anyone who does not, suspicious of both their motives and their understanding:
- That Œkonorg is a huge, complex, inter-related organism with a mind of its own who surrounds us at every turn and whose health and future are vitally important to us.
- That Œkonorg Canada as a smallish part of Œkonorg World, a part more influenced by than influential to the larger creature. Corollary: Any Canadian politician’s economic “Plan” (or even “Action Plan”) is worth exactly nothing. Zero. Naught. Zilch. Squat. Zippo. And other expressions of nullity more or less rude.
- Any actual or aspiriing government’s claims to be able to “manage” Œkonorg are expressions of hubris, that is, the kind of prideful arrogance that brings down disaster on itself and its dependents. Our governments may react to the twitchings of Œkonorg, but they do not manage the beast. He does what he will do and there is no doing anything about it, at least causally. We can, however, mitigate his effects, and therein lies much opportunity for reasonable, imaginative and humane endeavour.
- The magic, which is real, lying potent in the reality, is that we can motivate Œkonorg to change depending on the nature of our mitigation. If we mitigate viciously, then Œkonorg becomes more vicious. If we mitigate humanely, then Œkonorg becomes more humane. Œkonorg is not a creature of natural organicity, but of human; its energy comes not from the Sun, and not from God, but from people making decisions and doing things: producing, serving, consuming, sharing, competing, communicating with one another, living together, enjoying the present, learning from the past, dreaming of the future, saving, investing, building.
- No government can manage Œkonorg. To say they can is foolish talk. Furthermore, no cabal of banks, corporations and their client authorities and agents can take control of him without our permission. With our votes, and our decisions about producing and consuming, we can mitigate the vice and brutality out of him, at least significantly if not totally. What we need in our economic policy, is help to do that. The decisions that we make and the things that we do, that ultimately shape Œkonorg and determine his nature, are both individual and collective at various levels and sizes. That is part of the complexity of the beast. Our national government is simply our largest domestic collective, acting on our behalf. Or at least, so we always trust, rightly or wrongly, possibly both.
So let us stop, and stop our client political parties, pretending that they are going to “manage the economy” and ask them instead what they are going to do to help us mitigate the brutal and vicious tendencies of Œkonorg and to enrich his humane ones. And let’s be specific about what those are. And let’s recognize that keeping the beast healthy is a necessary part of the task. And let’s be specific about what that means, in all its complexity. It means much more than “growth”, whatever that is.
Balance, Complexity, Generosity, Compassion, Knowledge, and Intelligence, employed with Imagination. Where will they take us? Where will they take Œkonorg?
Œkonorg deserves a lot more conversation. So do the other matters. In fact they are all related. I will circle through them, therefore, in as many iterations as I can manage before October 19th.