One Funeral at a Time

Max Planck, Born in Kiel, where I once lived (and I never realised). Did great work on black body radiation, one of the most fascinating areas of physics.

Steve Keen today quotes a fabulous phrase from the great physicist, Max Planck.

Science progresses one funeral at a time.

Meaning of course that knowledge, including scientific knowledge, is institutionalised and subject to all the petty jealousies and territorial debates you'll find anywhere else. So real progress only happens with a changing of the guard, when one generation dies out and makes way for the next. Of course not the hagiographic view mostly given of science today, where great scientists are treated as saints, although to be fair at the same time people begrudge them any money, unless they're building bombs. But you see it in debates about global warming, how we apparently just need to wait for 'the science' to tell us what to do. Now we absolutely do need good science as part of global warming debates, but it should never tell us what to do, as if we just need to put all the facts on the table and then the politics will fall away. Maybe another time.

Economics and popular views of 'the economy' are a nice example. Now that the sense of impending Armageddon has mostly past, people climb over each other to believe that it's all business as usual. The same completely failed theories whose foresight before the current crisis could be summed up as "oh shit" are being trotted out all over again to explain the (apparent) recovery. All the usual rubbish about the dangers of inflation and needing to raise interest rates, and being careful the economy doesn't 'overheat' with all that 'fiscal stimulus'. Tripe. Why would anybody listen to the clowns who hadn't a clue that this was all going to happen?

If you track the current situation against what happened during The Great Depression, as Keen often does on his site, you'll see that we're making the same mistakes all over again. They too had an early apparent 'recovery' where there was a lot of backslapping and self congratulation about having avoided the worst. And yet here in Australia as in a lot of the rest of the world, the levels of private debt are higher than at any time in history, and it's that private debt which fuelled the apparent boom which preceded our latest crash.

It's not going away, it's still out there.


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