The following blog post about Self Destruction is syndicated from Alex Story The Aussie Wire News’ UK Correspondent.
Man is often more attached to his worldviews than to the world.
Few examples illustrate this better than the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
Indeed, the leaders of the Middle Kingdom implemented its one child policy in 1979 in part because the system they themselves created could not cope with population growth.
By the time Mao died in 1976, 30 percent of China’s population was undernourished. He and his policies were a visible disaster.
And yet, being Progressives and seduced by Western economists of Malthusian persuasion (still very much in vogue today), Chinese leaders preferred to keep their inhumane and unworkable system than to see their own compatriots build natural families.
The one-child policy was aborted in 2015-16. It’s reversal, however, came far too late to save China’s long term outlook.
That year, the Communist Party of China absurdly boasted that its one child policy had prevented over 400 million births – more than the entire current population of the United States.
The country’s population is in terminal decline. Her prospects are as promising as her population’s accelerating age.
In short, theories and their blind application in real life have significant consequences.
Political leaders, their acolytes and increasingly corporate ones are wedded to concepts the origins of which they are often in total ignorance.
These and the underlying assumptions on which they are based are crucially important.
In the United Kingdom, in particular in the field of economics, we have an oversupply of experts with orthodox views.
They are important, not because of their wisdom, but because their pronouncements lead to policy decisions that have a real, and often deleterious, impact on our society.
For instance, we hear mantra-like that immigration is good for the economy.
By that, they mean a growing population translates into GDP growth, an abstract number.
Their conviction comes from well-developed theories of economic growth.
As defined by the Journal of Monetary Economics, one of the more prestigious academic publications in the field, “economic growth has traditionally been attributed to the accumulation of human and physical capital and the increase in productivity and creation of new goods arising from technological innovation”.
Economic Growth, in other words, comes from two main sources in theory: improvements in productivity and growth in the population.
There are some subtleties to these concepts of course but these rarely survive the crucible of policy implementation.
Our leaders therefore look at these two areas.
Productivity, however, is complex. It encompasses logistics, proper education, infrastructure, applicable laws and much more.
Focusing on productivity growth requires strategy and long-term planning, based on a shared notion of who we are. But it is hazy and tricky to quantify.
In addition, it crosses over endless muddy fields filled full of decomposing political ideologies, corruptible vested-interests and deeply held a-priori prejudices.
Population growth, by contrast, is much simpler to solve and requires no compromises and, importantly, no borders.
In the short term, improving productivity is tough; population growth is, by contrast, easy.
If GDP growth is your priority, then there is really only one way to go: increase the population by hook or by crook.
After all, Politics likes the path of least resistance.
On that front paradoxically, over the last few decades, our betters have fashioned a society in which marriages and birth-rates have collapsed, along with patriotism and trust in institutions.
All else being equal, this would have been a negative for population growth and therefore GDP.
Indeed, since 1967, 10 million unborn babies in the United Kingdom were prevented from seeing the light of day – that is no less than a quarter of all pregnancies in the country over the period – as were, logically, their much more numerous potential offspring.
Interestingly, in spite of the industrial culling of our own unborn, the United Kingdom population grew by slightly over 10 million to around 67 million in that time – or stated in economic terms, close to a one-to-one substitution of “units of labour”.
To demonstrate the importance of population growth to our GDP numbers, only in the twelve months to June 2023, 1.2 million people migrated to the United Kingdom, close to 2% of our Island population in that short period. Without that, our economists would have deemed us in an “economic contraction”.
This might or might not be a good development. Your conclusion on this depends on your intellectual starting point.
If the basis of your societal understanding is a theoretical number, then you are justified in thinking that the restriction free importation of people from outside our borders regardless of origin, talents, or cultural fit, along with the outsourcing of the womb from our shores to other parts of the world, are the only practical ways to keep the wind in our GDP numbers’ sagging sails.
However, survey after survey show the British population to be fully at odds with that view. Two third of the population state that immigration to the United Kingdom is too high and 84% think it has been handled badly.
The key to understating the chasm between our economists, and by extension, our policymakers and media commentariat and the British public is to look at the “science”, if it can be called that, of economics and its history.
As Professor Jonathan Story of INSEAD Business School writes, economists by the late 19th century “decided to strip all the noise from discussion of how markets worked: God, ethics, culture, history, institutions, government, inequalities, even personal tastes, budgets and technology”, requiring the creation of an “economic man”, who bore absolutely no resemblance to real one, in order to get to the promised land of Pure Economics – Pure but always wrong.
In “Divine Economy”, Dr Stephen Long points in a similar direction.
He writes that after having freed the field of economics from theology in the 18th century and from politics in the 19th, and, as a result, turned the field into a fully mathematical and abstract endeavour, entirely detached from human concerns, in the 20th, economists now have “increasingly developed an anti-humanistic mode” of thinking.
In short, by stripping humanity from all the attributes that define our lives on this planet and make us who we are, they have excused themselves from any responsibility in the chaos the blind application of their theories have created.
Worse, they have turned us, fellow human beings, into abstract “units of labour”, which can be exchanged or trafficked unemotionally, regardless of provenance.
Some cynics might conclude it is so that recalcitrants can be thrown on the proverbial rubbish tip to be replaced by more malleable types, as they might imagine them to be – A fully fledged dehumanising process at the heart of our political system.
The observations of these two authors are fundamental to understanding why our system, filled to the brim with experts, has led to skyrocketing levels of dissatisfaction in the United Kingdom and across much of the Western World.
Our great 19th century historian and statesman, Macaulay, defended the notion that “human affairs were not reducible to simplistic axioms, and had to be studied in a context of history, with all the diversity entailed thereby”, as Professor Jonathan Story reminds us.
Our leaders, like those of the Chinese Communist Party of the late 1970’s, have decided to ignore the wisdom of Macaulay, stripping our humanity from their concerns.
And just like them, they are more wedded to their world view than to our world.
Their theories, because pseudo-scientific, trump our wellbeing, because complex.
In short, they are as dangerous to us as their science is abstract.
Find more blogs by Alex here.