Econobabble by Richard Denniss

econobabble_0I wish everyone could and would read this book. It cuts right through the economic spin at the heart of all of the political dogma we’re subjected to every day.

The constant lies and misinformation we’re fed by politicians and business leaders are exposed and explained. Sadly most people won’t read this book.
They’ll remain hoodwinked by their country’s leaders and resign themselves to the whims of “the market”, that voracious beast to whom the world is made to believe it is subject.

Denniss is very quick to expose the myth of “the market”. He writes:

While the markets are real, it’s absurd to suggest they have ‘feelings’, ‘needs’ or ‘demands’. Markets are a place where buyers and sellers of a product come together. It might be a physical place like a fish market, or a virtual place like eBay or a stock exchange. But regardless of their form, markets never have feelings.

Rich people, on the other hand, do have feelings. And rich people who own billions of dollars’ worth of shares in a company often have very strong feelings. They have feelings about government policies and they have feelings about tax rates,

But the feelings of rich people are quite different to the feelings of ‘the market’. Consider the following example which shows how effectively economic language can conceal what’s actually going on. Both the following reports describe the same event:

[report 1] Markets reacted angrily today to news the government is considering tightening thin capitalisation provisions which have provided foreign investors with strong incentives to expand their Australian operations.

[report 2] Rich Foreigners reacted angrily today at news that they might have to pay tax on the profits they earn in Australia. After the government announced that it was considering clamping down on some of the most lucrative forms of multi-national profit-shifting, some very wealthy Americans threatened to take heir businesses away from Australia if they were forced to pay tax.

Words matter

While I highly recommend this book, I also find it reflects very badly on the majority of us. It’s the kind of book that seems like it shouldn’t need to have been written. Denniss makes his points seem so blatantly obvious that I wonder why we need to be told at all. But clearly we do, because too many of us gullibly fall for the politically expedient rhetoric that we’re constantly fed by our nation’s leaders.

Denniss says at the beginning of the book:

When public figures and commentators dress up their self-interest as the national interest, to make the absurd seem inevitable or the inequitable seem fair, or even to make the destructive seem prudent, they are econobabbling.

Ever day econobabble silences democratic debate about our nation’s priorities and values and conceals the policy options we have at our disposal. The aim of this book is to expose the stupid arguments, bizarre contradictions and complete lack of evidence which econobabble is designed to conceal.

See here for a lengthy extract:

An interview with Richard Denniss: