We have come to expect in recent years little from the BBC Reith Lectures but the current series of three by Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England, beginning today will not be without interest. Link here
Carney provided today a clear explanation of how neo-classical economics disregarded most of Adam Smith’s teaching and turned the rest on its head, substituting subjective value for the labour value employed by classical economists. The dire consequences for us all were well described – a society that knows the price of everything, the value of nothing and considers itself powerless to address the distribution of wealth. There were references to Bentham and John Stuart Mill, but no mention of Marx’s Labour Theory of Value with which he overcame the problems inherent in classical value theory. Where Carney really began to flounder was when he touched on solutions. Calling for a limit to the expansion of markets into every corner of society and for corporate leaders to be induced in some unexplained way to act more ‘responsibly’ simply won’t cut it. It will be interesting to see whether he bottles out of calling for a comprehensive carbon tax in the final lecture. It can be argued that a carbon tax such as advocated by James Hansen is the only means by which capitalism can now survive.
The BBC could be relied on to pick only the most anodyne of questions following the lecture and it didn’t disappoint. Questions were taken from, amongst others, John Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Ed Balls, the former Economic Secretary. This speaks for itself.
The depth of Carney’s economic thinking was, nevertheless, profound compared with what passes for much economic discussion in our mass media today. The remaining lectures will be worth hearing; but in my experience you will, nevertheless, find much more profound and insightful analysis and discussion at Communist Party meetings, in the pages of the Morning Star and provided by the Marx Memorial Library.