Kicking Over the System

-label for your textbook

What if there was a different way to live? What of all the waste, over consumption and reckless consumerism is only a side effect of what we are taught? What if we could change the world if only we were taught things differently?

Economics is a study of the behavior of people. But it also advocates what the behavior of people should be. And this normative aspect of the subject is used to dictate policies of countries and has come to represent everything the world as a whole is aiming for; namely GDP.

If the world turns where the economists point then theoretically, if the economists point in a different direction, the world should follow. There’s a huge hue and cry being made about the recklessness the current global economy is showing towards the environment. Traditionally this fuss is primarily created by white people in rich countries, the rest of us are too busy trying to figure out policies that will feed our populations. But the white people have a point.

Take the Kick it Over Manifesto for instance

Imagine you are riding comfortably on a sleek train. You look out the window and see that the tracks end abruptly not too far ahead … The train will derail if it continues. You suggest the train stop immediately and the passengers go forward on foot. This will require a major shift in everyone’s way of traveling, of course, but you see it as the only realistic option. To continue barreling forward is to court catastrophic consequences. But when you propose this course of action, others – who have grown comfortable riding on the train – say, “We like the train, and arguing that we should get off is not realistic.”

These guys think that the world is being deluded by its own stupidity. And that economics students must revolt against their professors to fight what they call the ‘Thought Control in Economics’. This is essentially the continued teachings of neoclassical principles to students whereas those very principles are now being proven to be very bad for the world.

Concepts like consumerism are essential for GDP. And in the haste to increase GDP we don’t give two hoots for the ‘ecology’. Another idea is the idea of true cost, that is assigning the true cost of producing something; including the costs incurred to the environment in production, transport, overheads etcetera. Interesting concept, but practically iffy.

I think the fundamental question to ask is whether the world is greedy by nature and is economics simply giving a face to that greed by setting greedy goals? Or is it actually economic teaching that has made the current system so greedy?

If a change in economic attitude must come, from where must it come? Who should initiate it? The professors? The politicians? Maybe like Friedman said, true change will only come with a crisis. This is something that everyone needs to get with, for it to work.

So if you believe in changing the system go to http://kickitover.org and sign the manifesto. Can’t say it’ll do any good, but you might  feel cooler because the site looks very nouveau hip, if that’s your thing.

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8 comments
  1. Changing the system’s going to be tough. And just signing that isn’t going to do any good (although I’m sure it’s a feel-good thing to do).

    The world itself is a greedy place. Ideally, Economics should ensure that the resources of the world should be used in a sustainable manner, but obviously it doesn’t. Sustainability and Economics, instead of being a combination used for development, often result in conflict because as you quite rightly said, the main aim is the increase of GDP. I’ve never studied Economics but if I’m not mistaken, this expansionist way is called the Dominant Economic Paradigm and the fact that Economists believe that this is the way to increase human welfare is a big joke imo. Right now, Sustainability being interlinked with Economics seems to be a myth to me. It sounds nice and dandy on paper, but in reality no one gives two hoots about human welfare and environmental management; no one thinks of leaving behind something for the future generations.

    Like you said, a need for change must come within. But when the masses are living happily in their bubble of oblivion, being the regular slave to consumerism (I remember having a small argument about this with you – hehe), I highly doubt change will be arriving any time soon.

  2. Chavie said:

    Good post man. 🙂

  3. ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ was playing in my head while reading your post!

    Well, seems like you’re trying to figure out a classic ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg’ scenario. While it’s best to know where it germinated from, more often than not, this particular problem might not necessitate being traced to its roots and dissected in search of a solution. I think it’s quite clear the problem lies with the people.

    That’s why I wholly agree with the Kick it Over Manifesto people, however I don’t believe mutinying against professors of Economics will achieve anything.

    So yeah, the answer would lie with dynamic politicians who are free from personal agendas (so rare they might even be a myth) or a crisis (though when will there ever be a crisis massive enough to bring about such change?).

  4. Angel said:

    Wow… interesting…

  5. Me-shak said:

    Excellent post man, got me thinking.

    Cheers!

  6. PravNJ said:

    Strange. Saw that warning label on a bible once, the purely for entertainment purposes bit anyway 😛

    “I think the fundamental question to ask is whether the world is greedy by nature and is economics simply giving a face to that greed by setting greedy goals? Or is it actually economic teaching that has made the current system so greedy?”

    Bit of both. Feedback.

    Have you read Matt Ridley’s “The Rational Optimist”? among other things, he makes a case for Capitalism (essentially). He makes his case by pointing out that trade (free trade?) is a natural extension of how humans interact with each other. He uses a lot of historical facts to back up his claim. I’m not sold on some of his ideas but there a lot of valuable suggestions to improve the current system. Don’t know if its up your alley since you other post on the economic crisis was sort of a book review/commentary on Taleb’s The Black Swan 😛

    Taleb should have toned down the rhetoric IMO. When I first saw him debate (with Hitchens and the lot) he struck me as bitter, vitriolic and angry (like on of our own politicians) whereas his opponents were much more articulate and on point – he was off topic during the entire debate! which was strange, I think it had a lot do with him bringing a set of prewritten “statements” on capitalism, while the debate itself was on religion . His ideas are fantastic and refreshing. He just needs to reduce that anger and be a bit more articulate 🙂 I’m not sure at this point if hes a really smart guy or a complete loon (the line between can be quite thin). Time will tell?

  7. PravNJ said:

    Machang the kickitover thing looks like a suddha guilt/nu hippy thing no? 😀

  8. PravNJ said:

    These guys are a little cooler 😉 http://theyesmen.org/

    Have you seen their documentary? I was in India for a debate tournament when these guys showed up in Bhopal, it was all over the news over there 🙂

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