Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Political Ideologues On the Invisible Hand? I am not convinced

Posted by P. L. Thomas Ed.D on Daily Kos
HERE  "The Invisible Hand and Gutless Political Leadership"
"Backward or forward, this story is ugly. "No excuses" and the new paternalism themselves are classist and racist—ways in which the middle class and affluent allow "other people's children" to be treated, but not their own—yet the larger faith in the Invisible Hand is the ugliest part of the narrative.
Idealizing parental choice narrowly and choice broadly is the foundation upon which both political parties stand. Why is the Invisible Hand of the Free Market so appealing to political leaders?
The answer is simple: Abdicating political leadership to the market absolves our leaders from making any real (or ethical) decisions, absolves them from doing anything except sitting back and watching the cards fall where they may. And thus the charter school movement, with its school-choice light that allows progressives to tap into their closeted libertarian. Experimenting with impoverished children, African American children, Latino/a children, English Language Learners, and special needs children—this is the acceptable playground for the Invisible Hand.
Political leaders bask in the glory of Capitalism because the free market requires no moral conviction, no ethical stands, no genuine decision making based on careful consideration of foundational commitments to democracy and human dignity and agency. Capitalism allows Nero to sit and fiddle while Rome burns. If the fire needs putting out, and someone can monetize that, the market will take care of it, right?
Political leadership has ignored and marginalized children in poverty for decades, notably in the schools we provide high-poverty, majority-minority communities. The school-choice light commitment to charter schools is a coward's way out of facing that reality and doing anything about it.
So it goes."
I am sometimes asked by friendly colleagues why I bother about the “invisible hand”, given it’s out of the bag and its now firmly embedded in popular discourse and nothing can be done about it.
It’s a fair comment and I often try to answer it.  I agree we cannot reverse 60 years of the myth taking hold in popular public discourse.  I would also be surprised if Lost Legacy penetrated anywhere into public discourse and therefore its penetration into public discourse undoubtedly is smaller than epsilon.
My sole target is the Academy.  I believe that there is a space among scholars, old and young, who, reading about the origins of the myth from the late 1940s, might re-consider their allegiance to it and question those repeating it, especially those who link the IH metaphor in their economics to Adam Smith.
For this work, I read the piece from P. L. Thomas Ed.D on Daily Kos, a Blog I occasionally read because it turns up irregularly in my Google Alerts re: ‘Adam Smith’, and ‘Invisible Hand’, from which I get a dozen or more a day. 
This leads to anther question of Lost Legacy that I was recently asked in a version of my opening sentence: to what extent does the IH metaphor really matter in recent and modern politics?  Who has relied on it for what policies?  Name, names!
To this challenge I have responded, revealing as it was, though disappointingly for me, the answer threatens to drag me into politics, which regular readers know is something I prefer to avoid, except when discussing politics in the country in which I vote (Scotland).  The rest, including the rest of the UK, I prefer to avoid.
However, I feel it might be appropriate, and if not readers will let me know, to comment on the above piece in the Daily Kos, of which I know nothing – I am not sure what ‘Charter Schools’ are – and I discuss the patent nonsense spoken about an “invisible hand” that does not exist in reality nor metaphorically, nor is its non-existence worthy of “faith”, or the belief that it exists in a “free market”, or even in an “acceptable playground”, and, when the writer’s rhetorical fancy drives him to cry that “Capitalism allows Nero to sit and fiddle while Rome burns”, it surely is a stretched simile too far.
My point is that the “invisible hand” metaphor has become part of common discourse, often between ideological protagonists, which bears no relation to its use by Adam Smith. In so far as market ideologues believe that the IH actually exists as a mystical miraculous entity, they adhere to a belief that it ensures market equilibrium; and in so far as those who reject the existence of free markets and claim their alternative of some-kind of state-managed entity would have “moral conviction”, “ethical stands”, with “genuine decision making based on careful consideration of foundational commitments to democracy and human dignity and agency” (should they ever agree as to what, and most importantly, who exactly would decide what constitutes such a state-managed entity), I believe its safer to say, in Moll Flanders’ old fashioned, 18th-century language: “a pox on both of your houses”!  I 


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