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The Commercialization of Everything April 22, 2014

Posted by larry (Hobbes) in economics.

George Monbiot has brought up once again the essential issue of the commercialization of the environment, which is part and parcel of the neoclassical economic worldview. In his discussion, he mentions an interview of George Lakoff done by the Guardian last February. Lakoff states outright why he thinks the Liberals lose and will continue to lose every time against the conservatives. I will not summarize the arguments of either, but Lakoff’s argument is more important than ever, and the Labour Party and the TUC and others are failing to get it. It isn’t about facts or money, it is about moral perspective. Whether you agree with Lakoff or not, it is now essential to engage with his argument.



The interview refers to Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant: The Essential Guide for Progressives (1990). Since Lakoff’s argument relies on what are known as frames, ways of framing a point of view or an argument, I think it apposite to mention one of the first works in this area, that of the late Erving Goffman’s Frame Analysis (1974). It is unlikely that Lakoff is not aware of the book, but Monbiot has never mentioned Goffman with respect to this issue. I have not myself read this particular book of Lakoff’s, but if you have read Goffman, you may not need to.

Frame analysis, which can be tricky, is quite straightforward. It isn’t going to be sufficient for Miliband & Co. to have read Piketty’s Capital, they had better read Lakoff in addition and frame their ethical stance allied to the data without worrying about what the Tories are saying. It is data married to ethics that is required. Not simply pointing out the other chap’s empirical errors. These errors must be placed in an appropriate frame of reference.

Balls’ thinking has been captured by the alternative party’s position, as shown by virtually every statement he makes. He just tries to make it more acceptable. It seems doubtful to me that he can change. But Miliband might have a chance, if he can make himself cognitively and emotionally independent of those around him. I realize that this is nontrivial but I don’t know what else can really work in turning around the cultural capture of the economic system and its ancillary institutions that has taken place by adherents of the neoclassical worldview over the past 30 or so years. For this set of vested interests, for whom data is an irrelevance, if you have seen one Redwood tree, you’ve seen them all (attrib. Reagan). A more dangerous perspective is difficult to imagine.


Utilizing frame analysis, one could argue that Galbraith’s criticism of Piketty lies in what Galbraith conceives is a poor choice of frames of reference for analyzing and even cataloging his data. If Galbraith’s critique is accepted, this need not vitiate Piketty’s entire analysis, only that care must be used in assessing some of his conclusions and possibly some of the operations he carries out on his data. Whatever its faults, Piketty’s analysis is of greater worth than the dynamic duo’s upcoming sideshow on the so-called British economic recovery. Claims adduced will be either mendaciously inaccurate or at best misleading. Piketty is at least attempting to unravel what might be conceived to be the truth surrounding the issue of economic inequality.


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