June 03, 2008

ISAIAH THE ECONOMIST


Russian icon of Isaiah the prophet, courtesy of wikipedia.

El Cabrero has a certain friend who regularly reads this blog and who breaks out in hives anytime the topic veers toward the Bible or religion. I think this may be due to early exposure to Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian. You know who you are...

Here's hoping the person in question can momentarily endure because I'm about to make a non-sectarian biblical allusion.

One of the coolest passages in the Hebrew Bible is the 40th chapter of Isaiah, which deals with the return of exiles from captivity in Babylon. In the middle of all that is a short and sweet critique of idolatry:

The workman melts a graven image and the goldsmith covers it with gold and casts silver chains. He who is poor chooses a tree that won't rot and seeks out a skilled workman to make a graven image that shall not be moved.


The speaker here thinks it is absurd for people who can think, see, hear, and feel to make something that can't and then worship it. We do that all the time with the economy, which we often speak of as if it was a conscious being ruling over us.

I suggest that the way we think about things is important since it can affect how we respond to them. If we think of a given situation as intractable, we're not likely to do anything to change it.

But here's the deal: people make the economy and people can change it and are doing so every day and have done so ever since early humans began to barter and produce. The Greek word from which economy is derived means something like the rules of our household. The Greeks also distinguished between things that exist as a part of nature (phusis) and things that people create (nomos). That's the "onomy" in economy.

In other words, the economy is a good, not a god.

WATER AND WEATHER AND FOOD, OH MY! It's scarier than lions and tigers and bears.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN? Several scientists weigh in here.

SPEAKING OF SCIENCE, could you use a little more in your life?

MORE PIE IN THE SKY for the late great Utah Phillips is here.

CHARM SCHOOL DROPOUT DEPARTMENT. Vice President Dick Cheney dissed El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia recently. Many of our elected officials were not amused. The best response came from Congressman Nick Rahall, who said "We may owe the vice president a debt of gratitude for yet another great West Virginia slogan: 'Dick Cheney is not from here.'"

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and Dick Cheney is a perfect idiot.

El Cabrero said...

It has been quite a cast of characters the last few years, huh?

LevelPantsHatfield said...

After the way we were treated by the media following our primaries, maybe Dick thought he'd try to be one of the cool kids and pile on too.

HIPB said...

can we sponsor scott mclellan?

El Cabrero said...

Dear LevelPantsHatfield,
Great name by the way.

I'd say WV has been way nicer to Cheney than he has been to WV...and I'm not even thinking primarily about the latest stunt.

Dear HIPB,
If we do sponsor SM, can we extract a promise that he won't wait so long before pointing out that something is a disaster?

Thanks!