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Political Power in the Hands of Learned Witch Doctors

No one will dare contradict them. By Jan Guillou.


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FRIGHTENED. Neither Stefan Löfven nor Fredrik Reinfeldt would dare contradict mumbo jumbo dressed in the language of economics. They end up in the hands of the nation's economists.

Once upon a time, theology was the leading 'science'. This would be until the beginning of the 1700s. And right wingers could lean on the premise that their 'god' was always on the side of the wealthy - 'tribute to those who have'.

Jurisprudence replaced theology within politics, The right wing could then find support in the thesis that private ownership was the foundation of everything in human and social existence, with all legislation adapting after the fact.

But economists have now taken over, and the right can find support in the scientific truth that rich people are industrious when they're given more money, whilst poor people in the same situation turn lazy.

That's to say: reduced taxes for the rich will get them to kickstart an economy again - they'll create new jobs and contribute to financial growth. The poor, at the same time, will become passive and dependent on benefits.

This is a highly conventional way of thinking for the right. Nothing unusual. The problem is that it's been couched in scientific nonsense. The highly inexact and at times extremely dubious science of economics has, like a cuckoo bird, eaten its way into politics of today. As a political northern light, economics is hardly better than astrology or theology, but today it's accepted.

The process of transforming right wing economic theory into scientific truth has been underway since the 1930s. With rampant unemployment in Germany, mostly due to the stock exchange crash in New York of 1929, there came an outright clash between left and right. What the right, then as today, regarded to be scientific crisis management was lowering taxes for the rich so they could get the economy going again, as well as huge reductions in unemployment compensation and welfare payments. The left believed one must invest more in support for the unemployed to keep production and consumption up, and raise taxes for corporations and the wealthy. But the right won, and things went literally to hell, that's to say they went the way of Adolf Hitler. And under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler, one could attempt to remedy unemployment with methods only allowed in a dictatorship: weapons production and military expansion. Don't try it at home.

But in a capitalist democracy we encounter the curious paradox that capitalists want as few asian employees as possible, and the politicians want as many Swedish employees as possible - they always promise they'll fix the jobs.

This paradox is replayed every time we have a political debate on television. Reinfeldt says he'll conjure up the jobs by lowering taxes for the ultra-rich, with his 'job tax deduction' programme, and by privatising Swedish schools, healthcare, the chemists, the railroads, and soon even state water and air corporations. Venture capitalists can then supposedly get the wheels turning again. But everyone knows the VCs don't risk a thing - they live on tax subsidies, and they get richer by cutting employment rather than increasing it - that's the cutback system.

Cutbacks are the latest economic truth. The same truth used in Germany in the 1930s.

Year after year, the 'truth' of cutbacks becomes more 'scientific'. The latest attempt was by the two Harvard professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff who unveiled an exhaustive study which happened to prove precisely what Angela Merkel, David Cameron, and Fredrik Reinfeldt want to be found as truth - that certain countries have been spendthrift and built up huge state debts and thereby created the current financial crisis. There's only one scientifically approved antidote: cutbacks, more cutbacks, then even more cutbacks.

The problem with this economic truth was that it was incorrect as could be, and revealed to be so by a 28 year old student. What the study of the respected professors actually proved was that it was the banks who created the current financial crisis, and the financial crisis knocked out economic growth, and then state debts soared - the exact opposite of what the esteemed professors set out to prove.

Mumbo jumbo disguised as economics creates bewildering problems for politicians. Neither Stefan Löfven nor Fredrik Reinfeldt would dare contradict this mumbo jumbo. Politics becomes a fetid art of calculations with no ideology, and power in politics shifts from the politicians to the witch doctors at the universities, and they're normally right wing. They can sit there in their ivy towers and bluff with anything under the sun, and they often terrify both Löfven and Reinfeldt, who both want to appear to be 'responsible' and ethical prophets of cutbacks.

This authoritarian belief in the bean counters has squeezed Swedish politics into the middle, to the extent that no one can distinguish between the parties anymore, almost as if left and right no longer existed.

The return of political ideologies and the dismissal of the illusion of economics not being political wouldn't be an imprudent antidote. Right wing economists are right wing and left wing economists are left wing. To separate them, one can, as in the days of old Rome, ask: who benefits by your proposal? Then you know if they're right wing or left wing.

Politics is to choose - not to rely on mumbo jumbo.

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