Ionuț Bălan: Economy Is Society, Not One of its Annoying Appendices3 min
One of the biggest contemporary intellectual and even popular fallacies is that, somehow, what we use to call “economy” is somehow separated of and superimposed to human life and society in general. Many people think, implicitly or explicitly, that economy is not “organic” and that it’s even “unnatural” in some way.
by Ionuț Bălan
That’s perhaps mainly because most of us feel that our lives are painfully split between jobs and everything else. We have to go to work to earn our living and we work (often unenthusiastically) so we could finance our personal (both private and social) life, the only one that matters and has real value. Thus, we perceive the economic part of our life as an unpleasant, though necessary burden or even as a curse. We can hardly wait for holydays and days off and we constantly dream of all the marvelous things we’ll do when we’ll finally retire and be free.
But these are normal human feelings and perceptions. The real problem is that, as strange as it may seem, this kind of suspicious attitude towards economy is cultivated and theorized by notorious economists themselves, at least part of them. For them, economy is more than just an unpleasant burden, but a true parasite of human life and society. Human flourishment and accomplishment is constantly sabotaged by the soulless unsympathetic commandments of the “economic machine”, fueled by greed and lust for profit.
It’s like all these economists are the disciples of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, for whom the “technological thinking” which underlines the economy deprives human race of creativity and authenticity. For him, men can only achieve accomplishment by culture and politics. Having to work and do business makes you lose your true soul to mechanical repetition, banality and lack of meaning.
One way or another, every ideology who preaches Revolution envisages to get rid of the economy. All of them promise to eliminate scarcity and to ensure abundance, liberating humans from their slavery to work. This is truly a perverted eschatological promise, the deliverance from the divine curse: “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). The end game of all this is abolition of work by full automation, with every member of society being provided with amenities by some sort of all-knowledgeable central planning and redistributing power.
The media loves this approach. That’s why you read so often that “economic” imperatives often undermine other, more “dignified” ideals and objectives, like social, environmental, racial and gender justice. The greedy capitalists and corporations keep us all hostages by force-feeding our brains with the “myth” of scarcity and with all their accounting formulas!
None of this is true, of course. Scarcity and adapting to it through economy is very much life itself. Peaceful voluntary economic cooperation in the marketplace is very much society itself. Economy is not an expandable burden, but intrinsic part of our human condition. All that is deemed “uneconomic”, like generosity, charity, cultural and spiritual things, is not undermined, but rendered manifestly possible by economic means.