I do not handle math well. Put a bunch of numbers and math signs in front of me and my eyes start to bleed. I have a much firmer grip on subjects that are difficult to grasp. Math and science are too factual and concrete for my tastes. Philosophy, sociology and politics are right up my alley. That is why I am perplexed that I do not have a better understanding of economics, which is the most subjective, unnatural and unpredictable of human machinations ever created.
The social sciences tend to get a lot of grief, as any liberal arts major can tell you. They are too existential, analytical and abstract. Economics, however, seems to get a pass. Freudian analysis thinks every little thing we do or say is about getting laid – that is outrageous and oversimplified, say the critics. But apparently a bald man pushing red buttons to illustrate how accurate his stock option predictions are is serious business.
Economists pretend their field is like a hard science, akin to biology or chemistry. They make predictions, give advice and try to dumb it down as much as possible for us simple folk. In reality, economics is more like astrology – masquerading as a science to try and impress its smarter older brother, astronomy.
Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree that global climate change is a problem, according to a USA Today report. You cannot get 97 percent of economists to agree on anything. It was after we began our current recession that economists started pointing out all the signs that led up to this.
The one thing that all economists can agree upon is that the current U.S. economy, and much of the global economy, is in an awful condition. As a result of the bad economy and caustic political environment, the financial rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating, which in turn led to a stock market crash.
The cause of our economic turmoil stems from greedy banks, a housing bubble and mishandled mortgages. Lehman Brothers and AIG were both declared AAA before collapsing. The Wall Street Journal reports many subprime mortgages were also given “optimistic grades” before being revealed to be worthless.
Who was giving out these ratings? Standard & Poor’s, for one; the same agency that apparently made a $2 trillion mistake when downgrading the U.S. credit rating. While fellow financial rating agencies like Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings also handed down high ratings on these banks and subprime mortgages, neither of them have downgraded the U.S. credit rating yet.
Economics is not a science, it is the world’s most successful religion – just about everyone believes in it. Money makes the world go around, but money also happens to be a figment of our imaginations. There is nothing inherently valuable about those metal coins and paper bills we carry in our wallets and purses. We ascribe value to them in order to purchase and sell commodities, services and goods without having to exchange other goods in return. As a species, we grew tired of losing stuff in order to acquire more stuff, so we put an end to the barter system and developed money – a symbolic substitute, nothing more.
And I do not want to hear about using a gold standard. Gold is just as useless as the bits of green paper with faces on them that we carry around. Without the colorful, creative imagination of the human brain, gold, silver and diamonds would be just as worthless as the other minerals we extract them from.
I find it funny that a figment of our collective imaginations is now threatening to tear apart our nation. Sociologists ought to be having a field day about this. It is a true testament to the power of the human mind that such a creation can in turn destroy us. It is just like The Terminator or Matrix movies but without any cool action sequences.
Take heart, my fellow liberal arts majors. If ever a mechanical engineering or neuroscience student laughs at your career choice, take comfort in the knowledge that power clearly does exist in our realm of thought and theory, but at least we are not destroying civilization like those darn business and economic majors.