Saturday, June 24, 2017

Unicorn Cult

One of my proudest moments as an academic came during a panel discussion on fair trade in 2013, when the economist sitting next to me wrote "pink unicorn" in her notebook, exclaiming that she would be borrowing my metaphor for her own teaching. This was especially gratifying to me, because I see almost the entire field of economics as deluded by its fixation on free markets.

What the Free Market looks like.
I recently became aware of Chris Floyd's short, brilliant, and important 2008 article, The God That Failed that sheds important light on how damaging that fixation has become, and how so many people have been taken in by it. Writing just after the bubble burst (and coincidentally, shortly before I started blogging), Floyd explains how the simplistic pronouncements of Thatcher, Reagan, and Norquist became deeply embedded in our politics over the previous three decades, normalizing the impoverishment of public institutions.

As dire as his words were in 2008, he could not have predicted the extent to which the public has accepted and even embraced austerity, transferring trillions of dollars from the bottom 80 percent to the top 1 percent via tax cuts, deregulation, and privatization.


I explain my use of the unicorn metaphor in my 2013 Return of the Pink Unicorn and 2014 Galloping Unicorns posts. Adam Smith's metaphor for the magical market, of course, is the invisible hand. See my 2012 Smashing Hand post for a Monty cartoon and links to several related, mildly risqué, comparisons.

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