Listening to the Today programme this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that somewhere along the line, “reality” has become synonymous with “economics”. People who advocate austerity etc. talk about being “realistic”. I believe they are being anything but “realistic”.
The idea that money is the only reality is such a fundamental and profound lie that most of us don’t even question it. But economics is merely a model constructed by humans for the use of human society. It only works because we all subscribe to it, and we have made it virtually impossible for an individual to live without subscribing to it. Nevertheless, the fact is that economics is not reality. It is a fiction, woven around reality.
Reality is the earth we tread upon and the air we breathe. It’s the life around us that arises because of the way the planet works. It’s the people we love, and the people who love us. It’s the roof over our heads, a warm bed and a full stomach.
“Economics” is a construct we’ve created to model some of the complex social interactions that mankind engages in – bartering, investing, creating, cultivating, growing, husbanding. As a framework that codifies these interactions and gives guidance on how to assess the value of a person’s labour, skills, creative talent, or the products of that labour, skill and creative talent – what these are “worth” to the rest of society – its very useful.
But however good a servant economic models are, they make a truly dreadful master. When we subjugate the earth we live on and the air we breathe, the life around us, the people we love and the basic right to food and shelter to the economic model, something has gone very, very wrong with the civilization we live in.
MPs, industry bosses, bankers and financiers all say this is the only suit of clothes to be wearing, and no-one tells them they are naked. We just accept it as an “obvious truth”. After all, everyone knows you cannot live in today’s world without money. Everyone knows that wealth is power and to be poor means a desperate, miserable and probably brief life. But we – human beings – have made it so, and we can make it differently. But we cannot leave such changes to those who have gained most under the current model, and therefore have most to lose by changing it.
Only when we truly understand what can be changed and what can’t be changed, and what “reality” is, can we shed the fear and start thinking about new and different economic models that make the world anew.