Now Progressives Are Sneering at Economics

Who knew? Progressive economists are now attacking economics. According to Burton Abrams  “progressives in the Democrat Party, backed… by left-wing sociologists and political scientists”:

deny basic economic principles and theory. They deny that incentives matter, that markets work better than government dictates, that scarcity and opportunity costs exist, that the laws of supply and demand are operative, that benefit-cost analyses have merit, and that economic efficiency makes consumers and producers better off.

Okay, fine. So how do progressive experience things?

They rely heavily on the vaguely defined concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In other words, politics.

In another proof of God’s existence, my brother-in-law pointed me to a piece in Claremont Review of Books that addresses this question. It’s a piece by Helen Andrews about the lights going out in South Africa.

Briefly, the ANC regime in South Africa has followed the progressive line to a T. And South Africa has gone straight to hell, economically and culturally and politically.

Why? Because the ANC thinks that all you need to do is hand over the levers of the economy to its supporters, and bingo!

Except that everything goes straight to hell. And plenty of people in today’s South Africa are witnessing it.

Does the daughter of an ANC “activist” get it? No. Malaika, 30 years after Mandela rose to power, thinks that “the perks of white society are… withheld from her.”

And the white progressives! One of them had a friendship with Mandela successor Thabo Mbeki, but after coming to power, Mbeki never spoke to him again.

This [white progressive] fell into a depression and drank himself to death.

Then there’s the mixed-race Michael that “after apartheid got a job in land reform.” It all sounded great except that the modern, mechanized farms he handed out to illiterate subsistence farmers quickly went broke.

Being a white South African farmer looked very easy from the outside, but it turned out to depend on lots of little habits that, even with the best will in the world, would have been very hard to explain in advance.

But when Michael explained the problems to his political bosses, they “insisted that he carry on regardless.” Did you know that there is a British movie by that name?

Do you get the point, dear progressive friends? You may deny that incentives matter, that markets work, that scarcity and opportunity costs exist, you may think that everything reduces to racist-sexist-homophobic oppression, but what if you are wrong?

That’s what white male Bill Shakespeare was on to, with his “I can summon spirits from the vasty deep.”

I’m sure all you educated progressives know Harry Hotspur’s privileged answer from his life experience:

Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

The whole point of economics, since Adam Smith, is that it is not an effort to summon spirits from the vasty deep. It is a usually humble effort to figure out, e.g., why now, of all times, real per-capita income has grown by 3,000 percent in 200 years in a Great Enrichment.

The last major effort to prove economics wrong was Karl Marx, who used Smith’s economics to prove that the workers would be “immiserated” by capitalism. When Marx published the first volume of Capital in 1867, real per-capita income in the U.S. was up by a mere 100 percent from 1776. What could he know?

And when the folks inspired by Marx decided to replace the “lots of little habits” of ordinary workers and businessmen with the intricately worked-out plans of government experts, they condemned millions to starvation.

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