Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Econ 101

I have a confession to make: I never liked economics. (that is why I am an aspiring polymath).

My one and only class consisted of a half-semester blur of vague terminologies and amorphous ideas. I never had ‘econ’ (as everyone in college called it) in college—I avoided it like the plague.

Now, I signed up for cultural anthropology (i.e. social studies), math, science, English, speech, philosophy and even logic. But no econ. Wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

In retrospect, I can understand why. There was no simple model used to explain our complex system called Capitalism (probably because most of the writers were closer to Socialists). However, my thoughts were wooed back to the area of econ through a short essay in Imprimis (highly recommended and free).

This particular month’s speech digest (March) featured Walter Williams of George Mason University. He pointed out that many modern (postmodern?) theorists describe our system as though it were controlled by a small cadre of bigots who grudgingly handed out cash. Many talk as though a large money pile existed somewhere and only the rich know where it is.

In contrast, Wiliams’ model put a positive light on Capitalism: “serving one’s fellow man.” How? He uses a performance model: dollars are “certificates of performance.” I mow your lawn; you give me money; I take the money to the store; I buy something that someone else produced. The cashier takes the money as a claim of performance: “in effect the grocer says: ‘you’re making a claim on something your fellow man produced. You’re asking him to serve you—but did you serve him?’ I say ‘Yes I did.” The grocer responds, “Prove it!” That’s when I show him my certificate of performance”—money.

In opposition to the “man-is-selfish-let-us-monopolize-upon-it” view of Capitalism, Williams’ take seems to have a Christian twist. It is definitely a clear paradigm—easy to digest. I wish I had this in school.

The rest of the speech flushes out the implications and proofs for this approach. But that is for another posting.

I just might start liking econ.

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