Erik Larson

Oct 29, 2008

Wackonomists

Interesting article from an economics professor at George Mason University. “Wackonomists”, as he calls them, are those who think that a lot of complex economic phenomena can be explained by invoking corporate “greed”. Yes, greed, the great Satan, and the key to understanding the global economy, didn’t you know? I’m not so sure. Not that it doesn’t exist, but as a comprehensive theory purporting to explain an extremely complex, interconnected global phenomenon, I must say it smacks of ideological oversimplification. I think it reveals, in particular, the (seemingly) perpetual Ivory Tower Manichaeistic tendency: good versus evil . Free marketers versus the Enlightened ones. Bad = free markets (is it because they’re free, or because they grant The Greedy Ones free reign?). Good = the Enlightened ones (anyone who derides Capitalism, especially with a pitch that borders on the Pentacostal).

Yes, the Enlightened ones, those with very little hard economic support for their position (you never hear them exclaim “We’re richer now that we’re Marxists!”), but plenty of ideological fervor to push a particular interpretation of “fairness” into the public sphere. Damn the hard economic realities, this is what’s fair (and of course, like all philosophical theories, it’s actually a particular interpretation of “fair”, and widely debated).

Anyway, the economics prof, Walter E. Williams, argues an interesting, if tongue in cheek, theory: if “greedy oil company CEOs” drove gas prices up so high, what accounts for the precipitous drop in crude now, from $147 to currently $64 a barrel? Following the “wackonomists” logic, we must have much less greed now . Greed, thankfully, is down. Rejoice.

Doubtful the wackonomists would agree. I’m sure they’d prefer instead a careful analysis of geopolitical and global economic conditions, a true analysis of cause and effect to explain this downward trend. Prices going up? Greeeeed. Down? Not less greed, never. The Evil Ones never rest.

Sounds like bait and switch. Or just fuzzy headed. Moving forward I think we’ll need a little more sensitive instruments than we’ve come to expect from the highly politicized…