The dark religion of bourgeois economics

After acquiring political dominance in England during the revolutions of the 17th century in the name of the Jesus Myth, the capitalist class would come to nurture an even more malevolent ideology centred on an equally fictitious myth called ‘the free market’. With the help of that luminary of the Enlightenment, Adam Smith, the economics of exploitation were elevated to a force of nature which rivalled Christianity in its malignancy and the suffering it would sanction. His infamous remark concerning ‘the invisible hand’ implied a kind of transcendental force that was superior to mere human judgement and that directly contradicted the Enlightenment project of subjecting all knowledge to human reason thus casting aside all such superstition. The Enlightenment would, in terms of science, help guide humanity out of the darkness of religion only to, in the hands of bourgeois economic propagandists, replace it with the cult of worshipping at the altar of the free market. Like Napoleon the English bourgeoisie were not interested in reason, science or logic but only in an ideology that would serve their never-ending hunger for wealth and power.

This mystical force is a manifestation of the bourgeois need for an ultimate source of authority. In the absence of a deity they substituted another non-human entity to reinforce the ‘truth’ of their ideology. In their defence of the capitalist system against any perceived threat from ‘socialism’ its defenders give the impression that their preferred economic mechanism was conceived and created with a meticulous precision that was motivated purely by the health of society. In fact, historically speaking, this ruling class had no idea of the shape and evolution of capitalism once they freed it from feudal shackles. Like a monstrous juggernaut its momentum was unstoppable as it covered the planet with pollution, war, economic depressions and shattered the lives of all those who were enslaved by its overwhelming need for profit. Those who worshipped at its altar explained the failures and disasters in terms of government betrayal of free market principles or the immoral activities of renegade monopolists and financial pirates etc. Indeed, how could anyone criticise such a powerhouse of technical innovation and wealth creation?

But those who created the wealth were beginning to become sullen and bitter about their lack of a share of it all. The politically more astute among the bourgeois intelligentsia recognised that the system was unable to provide even the most basic necessities of life for workers and so decided to create an infrastructure and welfare system that would forestall any revolutionary inclinations among the masses. It was not only the fear of insurrection but also the need to maintain a healthy workforce together with a dread of the creation of monopolies, which might hold them all to ransom, in transport, raw materials and power etc that brought into being the nationalised or ‘public’ sector. This arrangement, in its turn, created further problems because, as it was financed by taxation, it was always strapped for cash due to that other commandment of capitalist religion: ‘Thou shall not financially burden the wealthy’. Although this ‘mixed economy’ has been the model for most advanced capitalist states ever since whenever things go wrong, as the inevitable instability of production for profit always does, the political and economic debate is invariably split between those who blame too much state interference (the Right) and those who claim that free market deregulation is at the heart of the problem (the Left). We still live with a stalemate produced by the failure of both.

Marx had proved that profit was nothing more than theft. The value of labour power as incarnated in its price (wages) is considerably less than the value it produces. Since the capitalist can sell the products of labour at their full value he could pocket the difference as ‘profit’. This is the inevitable logic of the labour theory of value that was embraced by the ‘classical economics’ of Smith and others. This unpalatable moral and political truth did not fit the needs of the ideology, and bourgeois economists have desperately tried to disprove it ever since the publication of Marx’s Capital. Almost the whole body of contemporary economics is an attempt to justify exploitation in various and ingenious ways and so discredit Marx’s definitive theory. It is the height of irony to try and dismiss the Marxian model as an anachronistic Victorian economic theory when those who oppose it have nothing more to offer as an alternative than a version of ‘laissez-faire’ which predates Marx by a hundred years and more!

With the denial of Marx’s discoveries it would seem that economics as a science has not progressed like the other disciplines dignified by that title. For all the power generated by the latest computer programs available to the City and other financial institutions the system continues to crash and burn periodically, and even when it does ‘work’ the exploitation of the many by the few produces endless industrial struggle and alienation. The programmers are still directed to search for ever better ways to increase profit margins and the shiny modern computer interfaces and endless economic double-talk cannot disguise the ancient inhuman God of greed that motivates it all and so disfigures our species.


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5 Replies to “The dark religion of bourgeois economics”

  1. According to the entry on him in Wikipedia:
    “He was author of the best-selling economics textbook of all time: Economics: An Introductory Analysis, first published in 1948. It was the second American textbook that attempted to explain the principles of Keynesian economics. It is now in its 19th edition, having sold nearly 4 million copies in 40 languages.”

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