Zachary Antoyan is a political science junior and Mustang Daily liberal columnist.
For the most part, everyone I know accepts the laws of physics as truth.
There was this one kid on my street a while ago who thought he could fly, but after several caped-jumping-from-high-places attempts and a broken leg, these notions were quickly dispelled.
When we drop something or push something, the laws of physics dictate how that something is going to act. Ignoring quantum mechanics, we believe these rules that we have discovered to be absolute, and that they exist outside of our control (again, IGNORING quantum mechanics).
These absolutes are extremely different than say, the rules of Calvinball from the comic Calvin and Hobbes, which has been described by the creator Bill Watterson in this way: “People have asked how to play Calvinball. It’s pretty simple: you make up the rules as you go.”
The other day while perusing the Internet, I saw someone by the username Cannikin_MK3 make the very astute observation: “I just realized the whole concept of economics … is essentially Calvinball. I’m gonna go hide in a dark closet in the fetal position with a bottle of tequila now.”
Thank you Cannikin_MK3 for drawing this connection, and I hope your dark space and hard alcohol are treating you well. The economy is a creation of humankind, and is therefore subject to scrutiny, very unlike the laws of physics. And yet, there are those who believe the forces of the economy are just like the laws of physics — pervasive and absolute.
Even though we have indeed been making up the rules of this economic system as we go, after observing how people act within a free market, economic theories dictate that specific actions yield specific results. Those in favor of one economic theory over another will argue their theory, whatever it may be, will cause the market to react in a specific way (and most of the time that reaction is positive).
We believe these rules to be so stringent, that we have limited our entire economic system to their absolute power, such that policy dealing with the economy can only act within certain parameters.
When we do enact economic policy, the end result is almost never as we planned. The market is so volatile that, almost in spite of the rules, these policies act in ways we do not expect, the result of factors like market speculation. Then we accuse countries like China of not even following the rules, by artificially keeping the value of their currency down.
How, then, can we expect the rules that define the system to be absolute if some people don’t follow them, the results don’t follow the expectation, and everyone argues over what those rules are?
If you haven’t noticed, we can’t exactly choose to NOT follow the laws of physics. And when (if) something acts contrary to the laws of physics, scientists lose their collective shit to figure out why (and build something like the Large Haydron Collider). But instead, when something in the economy goes differently than planned, you have all those opposed to the action saying, “Called it!” and those originally in favor of the action saying, “The market just isn’t ready.”
When John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, the famous economic theorists and rap stars (Google: fear the boom and bust), established their theories, they did so under the belief that the market acts in specific ways, and their respective theories would lead to the best possible solution to a country’s economic woes.
Since their advent, economists and politicians have argued ceaselessly over which approach is best: an engaged active policy, or the free-market animal spirit.
Next week, we will deal with these two theories: why believing either one is the end-all be-all will screw us, and how thinking outside of the box and creating new rules to our game isn’t such a bad idea. Because only the “dark side” ever deals in absolutes.
This is Zachary Antoyan, wanting terribly to throw something into the gaping mouth of the sleeping person across the table. Good luck with midterms, and have a kick-ass week.