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The evolution of political and economic theory The evolution of political and economic theory
by Joseph Gatt
2020-11-06 09:52:23
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Simply put, political and economic theory evolved with technology.

First, there was no International Postal Union. So communicating with written mail was a little complicated, as letters often took too much time to reach their destination, and often contained outdated information.

Then the telephone was invented, which made communication among the elites become in real time.

Then there was electronic communication, which meant that the masses could gradually participate in the political process.

ecophoso01_400I'll start with a side-note. In Mika Peled's book “the journey of an Israeli in Palestine” Peled argues that Israelis use the term “Sephardic” to designate Israeli Jews who emigrated from the Arab world, when they should technically be called “Arab Jews.”

Peled argues the reason for this is that it's part of the Israeli propaganda effort not to designate Jews by using the “enemy”'s name, namely “Arab.”

It's more complicated than that. In the era before emails and telegrams, Rabbis in Europe and the Middle East used to hold conferences to discuss Judaism and Jewish communities in the vast geographic space they occupied.

In Europe, conferences were often held in present-day Germany, and German was the language used at those meetings. Why German, and not Yiddish or Latin of Ancient Greek? Because German was the language of consensus, and Latin and Greek were avoided to prevent Christian influence in the dialogue. That is if you spoke Latin at those meetings, you would use expressions like “Pax Christi” or “vade retro Satanas” or other Christian expressions, and the Rabbis believed that would corrupt the Jewish nature of the discussions.

So those Jews were called “Ashkenazi” or Hebrew for “German.”

In the Middle East, a lot of the conferences were held in Cairo or Alexandria (present-day Egypt) and the language used by the rabbis was not Arabic, but... Spanish! Why not Arabic (which would have been more convenient)? Because again the Rabbis worried that if conferences were held in Arabic expressions like “Inshallah” or “Allah ikhalik” or “Salam Alaikum” would be used which were Islamic in nature, and would thus corrupt the Jewish nature of the conference.

So those Jews were called “Sephardic” or Hebrew for “Spanish.”

I digress.

Simply put, political and economic theory evolved in ways that led to more massive participation in the political and economic spheres.

In the old days, if you read classical political or economic theory, be it Aristotle or Plato, Hobbes or Locke, Adam Smith or Karl Marx, the literature tended to be a guidebook to be read for the elites to shape a government that the elites would control and that the masses would follow.

Nowhere in Marx or Aristotle is it mentioned that the masses should be educated, that the masses should take educated decisions, and that society should be a society of “intellectuals.”

But changes in technology, and ability to communicate in more instant ways, meant that the masses could participate in more egalitarian manner in government and economic affairs.

So if you read economics books carefully, you're going to notice that until the 1950s, economics books were written as guidebooks for politicians to take informed decisions that would improve the economy for the masses.

Starting from the 1950s, books were no longer aimed at government employees, but were written in ways to be read and digested directly by the masses.

In sum, we went from Murray Rothbard and Ludwig Von Mises writing lengthy guidebooks about how to shape an economy, to the more modern authors teaching small business owners how to operate a business properly (there are too many such authors to list).

Same goes for politics. We went from Locke and Rousseau teaching Kings and Queens how to run a political machine called a government, to authors like Ann Coulter or Dinesh D'Souza or Noam Chomsky commenting on political affairs, not as disguised letters to government officials, but as letters to the masses, normal people in sum.

Are the masses more informed about political and economic life? They have more information available, that's for sure. And the information is easy to access.

German post-World War II thinker Jurgen Habermas used to say that for there to be perpetual peace, normal people should get together and debate the nature of government and of the economy.

But... the masses often don't understand that politics and the economy is not just about people and leaders, it is also about ideas and ideals and decisions.

That is, the interesting thing about the democratization of the political and economic debate is that the focus has shifted from institutions (banks, governments, courts, town halls, tribunals, schools, prisons) to people (namely leaders).

This is a bit of a problem. Let's not look at the United States as an example. Let's look at some of those smaller countries where designing a political and economic system is often an impossible task, because politics and the economy is about people and not institutions.

In most countries, political and economic institutions are designed for a group of people to have easier access to funds and to decision-making.

In those countries, a lot of the political and economic theory deals with biographical, psychological and ideological information on the leaders. That is you do not have anthropologic or sociologic information on the masses to see how government can help those masses thrive.

Funny that those masses who want to thrive write books or Facebook comments or Tweets demonizing their leader(s) when very few of them try to come up with ways that can enable government and the economy to work for the masses.

In sum, when you democratize economic and political theory, a lot of times what you get is the biography of Steve Jobs or books commenting on the president's decisions. But nothing about how to change the rules, fix the rules, or try to think about how to fix the rules.

As a side-note, until the 1960s, a vast majority of the books were specifically about suggestions to change the rules, fix the rules, or reflections on how the rules can be changed or fixed, sometimes to better accommodate leaders, often to better accommodate the masses.

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