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August 13, 2019 04:24 pm PDT

"Productivity" is a perfect example of the pseudscience underpinning economics

Economists are famously fragile about their field; after all, this is the field that created a fake Nobel prize to give its practitioners the veneer of credibility and empiricism that actual sciences enjoy.

A favored tactic among economists is the use of complex equations that make it hard for nonpractitioners to spot the cards they're palming. Just as con-artists like to lard complexity into bar-bets to make it hard to calculate the odds, and just as casino games like craps add extra lines and payouts the table to confound your ability to spot the house advantage, neoliberal economics has weaponized equations to exclude its critics from the discussion. Sometimes, this shitty math is so terrible that it threatens the whole planetary economy.

On Economics from the Top Down, York University PhD candidate in economics Blair Fix takes on the economic logic of measuring "productivity," demonstrating how it uses circular reasoning to prove that underpaid workers are receiving a fair wage.

The measurement of "productivity" began with John Bates Clark, who was responding to Marxist threats to the economic dominance of capitalism, and explicitly set out to find a way to measure "productivity" that would prove that workers' low wages were fair ("It is the purpose of this work to show that the distribution of the income of society is controlled by a natural law, and that this law, if it worked without friction, would give to every agent of production the amount of wealth which that agent creates," -The Distribution of Wealth). Read the rest


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