Economists seem to have a historical blindness in that what happened in the past has no relevance today. Unlike contemporary economists I see a continuity in economic policy making that stretches back from now to the earliest civilisations. One such policy is the practice of human sacrifice,that is the practice of sacrificing certain individuals to appease the Gods.
One early civilisation that practised human sacrifice was the Mayans. I mention the Mayans, because they practised a peculiar ball game in which the losing side where sacrificed to the Gods. They were in fear of the Gods that controlled nature, in particular the great God Itzamn. If these great Gods were satisfied with the sacrifice, the Mayan cities would be spared earthquake and other natural catastrophe’s that threatened these cities. In times of great peril the angry Gods would require even greater sacrifices. The remnants of Mayan cities are graveyards containing the remains of the hundreds of people sacrificed in the vain attempt to prevent impending catastrophe.
The nature of human sacrifice has changed in our more civilised society, it is not human life that is sacrificed but the hopes of the people, usually the young. While the Mayan invented cruel Gods to explain the threats that the Central American climate and geology posed to the people, economists and politicians have invented a God called the market to explain the seemingly random catastrophes that market failure inflicts on the people. Instead of killing their young people in barbarous rituals, they appease the market God by making a sacrifice of hopes the young have for the future. A sacrifice made through the ritual of austerity. In a Southern Europe young unemployment amongst the young has reached 40% in Greece and it’s even 20% in the UK, one of the so called success stories. Generation Y is expected to accept willingly a lifetime of poverty so as to pay for the follies of their betters and elders.
One perceptive American IT zillionaire has warned his fellow American super rich that they risk the people coming after them with pitch forks. Probably the best phrase to describe the febrile situation in both the USA and Europe.
There is one common theme that underlies the practice of human sacrifice. In both examples an elite group has invented a malign God to explain their failure to control the environment to the benefit of the people. The only policy that can offer is one of human sacrifice to appease the angry Gods. Both groups offer the same storyline to justify the policy of human sacrifice, that is the people have angered the Gods and must pay the ultimate price of human sacrifice. In contemporary Europe and the USA it is the feckless borrowing of the people that has angered the God of the market. Only by giving up part of their income and rendering themselves poor can the angry market God be appeased. If their sacrifice pleases the market God, prosperity will return to the people. Not really very different from the Mayan practice.
What the ruling caste of priests and the ruling caste of economists, financiers and politicians have in common, is an ignorance of the causes of the misfortune affecting their people. Priests and politicians both create seemingly plausible stories to explain the misfortune visited on the people, stories which conceal their ignorance. From the perspective of time it is easy to see the folly of the Mayan priesthood in ascribing natural events to the activities of supernatural beings. It is humbling to realise that the great combined caste of politicians, financiers and economists have little more understanding of the events of 2008/9 that caused and perpetuate the crisis of that date. Can anybody really believe that any of the current generation of policy makers have any idea of how to end the current crisis. The only criteria they have for judging the effectiveness of a policy is the scale of human suffering, the more pain caused the better the policy.