Two versions of the American Christmas
Christmas is one of those times of year which are just better without the contributions of historical economists(or historians period…i know jesus wasn’t born on december 28th!). As my negotiations professor (or Krugman currently) might say…economics seen as the dismal science is in a bad negotiating position(around Christmas time). (but is is actually not as dismal a science for Keynes). Anyone consider that after January 1st the deficit hawks might have a seasonal puritan ideological advantage?
But it may also be the case that Santa or St. Nick represents Satan. This is actually from a very ancient school of deficit hawk (lol) from a sort of manichean idea that “sin”=debt. The idea of the year of jubilee(forgiveness of sin and debts/tresspass) and so on. Do not covet your neighbors wife, or his donkey, et al. according to some this means do not accept it as collateral. Don’t let him pawn it for trinkets. Certain things are not alienable et al. So the Puritan view you acknowledge develops out of this, and might have given rise at least rhetorically to demonization of jews(despite having its origins in Jewish traditions! History is a serious bitch!) But both loaning money and borrowing it was at one point considered sin.
But Ayn Rand herself I think comes out against Santa Claus and against “giving” period. No celebration of the unearned! (such a huge bright line rule for her…her Kantian(she hated Kant), but her principle to be willed as a universal if she is a universal legistlator(not far from Kochism). Christmas as the celebration of the unearned or as the celebration of the birth of christ (for God so loved the world…forshadowing his death for our sins.) Is complete anathema to the fiction of Ayn Rand. In her view the capitalist himself is without sin, but the consumer/moucher/ the mouths to feed is sinful.
The example of giving in Atlas Shrugged is Hank Reardon giving his wife something made of Reardon Steel. Not a celebration of what she wanted, or even anything close to giving, but a pure celebration of Hank Reardon creator !(patent). That is I can’t think of a single instance of giving in Ayn Rand that isn’t an open display of the greatness of the giver. In a sort of comic way, I think Ayn Rand is more Puritan than you think. Ayn Rand is substantially different from say Mandeville (which Kate seems to make her). Ayn Rand is also explicitly Copyright. In fact in many ways Copyright celebrating patent(all the creators are creators).
I have no problem with Ayn Rand provided folks figure out she is engaged in fiction/copyright. Economics itself is closer to the study of the supply chain that distributes Atlas Shrugged+ say Das Capital. So a study of UPS which delivers it, Amazon that sells it, and how the liscensing fees for the copyright get back to in the case of Marx (the university of Chicago press).
Or as you note, economics might be concerned with urban economics, or how urban sprawl impacts travel time to brick and motar shopping malls, or the impact of the internet on Christmas commerce”alism”.
Of course Christmas as the celebration of consumer spending is a great holiday for Keynesians and store owners…and perhaps even a mythological part of what the deficit debate misses. In fact the Keynesians accuse the randians and the pure puritans (of many things not the least of which is being pure fiction/copyright). Nothing but a long line of un-ecological fallacies! Basically they are all idiots! In truth it is the Keynesians who agree with Mandeville and the view of the necessity of sin (which Ayn Rand’s fictional capitalists are without, thus capable of throwing rocks, and not requireing Santa or Jesus, or salvation(redemption of debts.)
While modern day Keynesian Macro is mainly mathematical, Keynes himself was a student of history and borrowed and improved a lot of his ideas from Condorcet, Malthus, Marx and Mandeville. It is really from Mandeville that we get some of the views of selfishness attributed to Rand. Ayn Rand’s fictional selfish creators are without sin and thus neither need God or government to structure or redeem them. For both Mandeville and Keynes on the other hand God is a possibility and the need for government is a certainty. In any case what Keynes gets from Mandeville is the Paradox of thrift, but the Paradox of Thrift in some way stretches all the way back to Jewish law, and the rule of jubilee. Essentially for Keynes and Mandeville the ancient equation: debt =”sin” is good on a macro level and but bad on a micro level.
So it is better to have debt and forgiveness/bankrupcy(year of jubilee) than to have an increase in savings which is bad for the political economy. Both loaning and borrowing money is good (provided the laws are fairly just…no crazy horizontal loan banking a la fiscal crisis.) But even here the Keynesians might say that even the bad loans produced new construction and productive activity. Certainly not clearly macro sin in the way of the treaty of Versailles(vindicative), Nazi Germany(vindicative) all the outgrowth of those evil puritans who demonize loans + borrowers(the true Marxists!)
Now the Puritan deficit hawks don’t like this one bit. They never have. Did Kant’s universal legistlator ever take into account the business cycle? (did the Germans or the bureacrats in Brussels consider it when thinking about the fate and structure of the Euro?)But it is interesting that Christmas follows into the new years which is even more of an animal spirits party, followed by very sober (puritan) pronouncements about finding God/virtue or loosing 30lbs.
The American Christmas is more Keynesian…thus also more Christian than Ayn Rand could ever be (also perhaps more selfish in an unproductive way than Ayn Rand’s copyright only: Patent based inventor gods.)
Please, no more Marx… Go have a Keynesian Christmas!
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