Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Master Economics, Learn Ecology

Do you know how this recession is going to eventually turn out? You can either defer to economists or ecologists in order to make up your mind.

To begin with, let's find out the difference between economy and ecology. The best approach is to dig up their root words, i.e., their etymologies. Both are derived from Greek. Their common prefix, eco, comes from oikos, Greek for house. Economy can be traced to oikonomia, house management while ecology derives from oikologia, study of the house or house knowledge. Surely, you would study the house first before you can consider yourself qualified to manage it. But our economists have plunged headlong into managing the house without mastering its plans and inner workings. It certainly makes for a lot of crisis management along the way as they switch from one crisis to another. In the meantime, we, the house occupants bear the consequences of their half-baked knowledge and shoddy repairs.

Another big difference between economists and ecologists is the approach they take to learn their trade. Both share the misfortune of not having the luxury to conduct their study in a controlled lab environment. However, the ecologists can go back to millions, if not billions, of years of earth history to learn how the various components of the environment relate to and interact with one another. The economists, on the other hand, do not study economic history. And for those enlightened few who study economic history, the most they can go back is to the beginning of recorded human history.

The danger of the economists has been highlighted by none other than the eminent British economist, John Maynard Keynes as regards the so-called economic experts, "The ideas of economists and philosophers, both when they are right and and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economists."

In order to demonstrate the relevance of ecology to the mastery of economics, my next post will be on Globalisation and Global Warming. Once everybody gets the hang of pattern recognition, the economics faculty of every university will be devoid of students; they will be flocking instead to the history or biology faculty.

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