“No, consumerism is not the belief I am referring to. I refer to wholesome belief. For here is the key. As far as the mechanics of economy go, the belief that drives it was always considered by economists to be irrelevant. Economic agents, as they were called – as if they were acting as spies for the capitalists – have all manner of preferences but economists were always agnostic to preferences. They could not distinguish between the purchase of a violent video and the purchase of an edifying book; both cost £7.99 and thus both contributed to the economy identically. They could not distinguish between spending £10 on healthy vegetarian food or £10 at Macdonalds – a so-called “fast-food establishment” popular in those days. It was a tenner into the economy either way.
“Yet we now know as a result of years of academic research and computer modelling something that the silent millions knew for years – the silent millions who lived lives of common sense amongst the hectoring and babble of marketers and wise economists – we now know that the economy where people preferred the violent video film decayed into a stagnant, algal mire and the economy where people preferred the edifying book prospered into a happy, flourishing society.”
The crowd cheered with glee. Fresh in their memories was the recent trial of 20 professors of economics who had a letter published in a small, scarcely known journal, The Financial Times. Once the great banner of finance and capitalism, now it only interested a few academics and economic historians. The police rarely prosecuted under the Promotion of Selfishness Act, but there was huge public outrage at this letter. It argued that advertising should be permitted again in order to stimulate economic growth! Any advertising! Advertising with no qualitative control! These were ideas from the middle ages; like suggesting we re-establish witchcraft or alchemy or car ownership! The Judge was a no-nonsense fellow from the east end of London and he committed the rascals to two years on the electrical treadmills, observing that they had never done a useful day’s work in their lives before and now was a good time to start.
“Of course the mechanism of the economy is not blind to the nature of our preferences. The expression of our preferences creates feedback in the economy which affects the level and character of economic activity. If we all preferred to spend our money on drink, then after a while there would be very little economic activity to speak of. Our bodies would be too tired and our brains too addled to engage in economic activity.”
“Thus a society must choose around what it bases its non-core economic activity. Some activities are wholesome and lead to more economic activity and lead to a happy society. Other activities are irksome and lead to a decline in economic activity and lead to unhappiness. Which economic activities the society chooses are a function of the beliefs which pervade that society.”
“Hence belief is the single most important factor of our economy. It motivates the holders of capital to produce and distribute food to the rest of us without coercion. It determines whether our society is wholesome or unwholesome.
“Therefore, ladies and gentleman, it is the task of economists, politicians and every one of us, to form and nurture wholesome beliefs which translate into wholesome economic acts. In this way our economy will thrive and so will our society.”
At that moment Professor Cabb’s voice wobbled, he tottered for a moment: Minnie leapt to his assistance and just managed to reach him as he toppled off the stage into her embrace and once again fell fast asleep, face pressed against her glorious bosom.
[to be continued]