Fri | Nov 24, 2017

Gordon Robinson | Growth in economists

Published:Tuesday | October 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Economists live in self-constructed bubbles that exclude reality and treat statistics, surveys and numbers as divine.

It's sad, because they only ever experience mathematics gone mad. In that regard, they're a lot like some doctors. I've always maintained that Jamaican doctors are the best in the hemisphere. I'd rather have my grave illness treated by a Jamaican intern than by any bigwig American practitioner.

Why? It's partly because of my favourite Bible passage, which I believe sums up life spiritually, physically and other-ally. I refer to Romans 8:28:

"And we know that ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."

Readers who recall the spiritual lessons learned in these columns KNOW that, no matter what Pastor tells you in a desperate attempt to control your mind so you'll tithe, God is within you.

So what Pastor describes as Ten Commandments is really God's offer that, if you love yourself, you won't behave in any of the so-called commandments' antisocial ways. The mandate is to love yourself because, since God is within you, to love God, you MUST love yourself. To love your neighbour "as yourself", you must first love yourself. Hate yourself; hate your neighbour!

So, ALL of us who truly love ourselves will live exemplary lives AND discover all things working together for good, no matter how bleak they may appear. Now, where was I? Ah, yes, doctors. In Jamaica, there's a persistent complaint about lack of facilities, BUT the upside is that our doctors learn to lay hands on and listen to patients. American doctors listen only to machines.

So it is with economists. Having attended high-brow universities, studied 'economics' from erudite-looking textbooks, learnt varied economic 'models' and 'principles', they see only numbers. Yet they never learn the first rule of economics cast in stone (using club and chisel) by the first economist, Caveman Fred. Fred chiselled, "Man Hungry!"

I know. I know! I'm defecating on centuries of erudition, ignoring thousands of deeply scientific studies, and desecrating hundreds of economic 'theories'. Yawn. Yes, I am. So what? Like it or not, "Man Hungry" drove world economic activity for centuries until some attention-seeking economist invented cash as substitute for barter. Ever since, economics' driving principle has been the hackneyed 'gimme-a-money' principle. This principle was refined by a non-economist into Goodman's Law: "Don't ask if it's about the money. It's ALWAYS about the money."

So, when I'm forced (only because some easily impressed person on my timeline has retweeted) to read economists patting themselves on the back as follows: "We predicted that the reduction in inflation would also stabilise the exchange rate. Last 12 months, exchange rate depreciation was only one per cent."

 

Pure genius

 

WOW! Ain't that pure genius? Of course, I could as easily have predicted, if the exchange rate stabilised, inflation would remain low. Both priceless redundancies mean NOTHING to a stagnant economy beset by crime, undereducation, pathetic health services, and joblessness, so I replied:

"Congrats. While collecting your winning bet, please advise how much Jamaica's economy grew in that time and why inflation reduction ALONE should catalyse continued growth."

No answer. So I pressed on:

"Economists insist on playing these numbers games that have ZERO meaning to real people. We won't even get into the accuracy of the inflation stats."

This brought forth torrential fulmination but no answer to my original question. Eventually, after two reminders, this was his retreat (didn't appear on my timeline wasn't directed to me):

"Low inflation consistently reduces poverty because inflation hurts poor people. Valuable for itself. Why does everything need to be about growth?"

DWL! Must I really point out economies that don't grow while populations do create more poor people? Tell you what: Instead, I'll quote from the latest World Bank Overview dated September 29, 2017:

"Jamaica's GDP rose by 1.4% in 2016 and similar growth is expected in 2017 [GR: economy contracted in 2017's first quarter]. That follows three years of steady growth. According to STATIN, poverty fell to 20 per cent in 2014 from 25 per cent in 2013, but still remains higher than pre-2009 levels.

Despite the progress, faster economic growth is needed to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity. Crime and violence levels remain high. Youth unemployment is a persistent problem.

Unemployment in April 2017 was about 12.2 per cent, while 26.2 per cent of those 20-24 years of age were unemployed ... ."

The only thing that seems to be growing in Jamaica is the number of economists. Lord, deliver us!

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.