Wednesday, 10 August 2016

I want to be a consumer, sir

 

In the era of Keynes, Punch magazine was sharp enough to see through the whole bullshit “aggregate demand” charade – sharper than most economists today. This, from their 1934 edition …

‘I Want to be a Consumer’

(by Patrick Barrington. Originally published in Punch, 25th April 1934)

“And what do you mean to be?”
The kind old Bishop said
As he took the boy on his ample knee
And patted his curly head.
“We should all of us choose a calling
To help Society’s plan;
Then what do you mean to be, my boy,
When you grow to be a man?”

“I want to be a Consumer,”
The bright-haired lad replied
As he gazed up into the Bishop’s face
In innocence open-eyed.

“I’ve never had aims of a selfish sort,
For that, as I know, is wrong.
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the world along.

“I want to be a Consumer
And work both night and day,
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists say,
I won’t just be a Producer,
Like Bobby and James and John;
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the nation on.”

“But what do you want to be?”
The Bishop said again,
“For we all of us have to work,” said he,
“As must, I think, be plain.
Are you thinking of studying medicine
Or taking a Bar exam?”
“Why, no!” the bright-haired lad replied
As he helped himself to jam.

“I want to be a Consumer
And live in a useful way;
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists say.
There are too many people working
And too many things are made.
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help to further Trade.

“I want to be a Consumer
And do my duty well;
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists tell.
I’ve made up my mind,” the lad was heard,
As he lit a cigar, to say;
“I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And I want to begin today.”

(by Patrick Barrington. Originally published in Punch, 25th April 1934.

“And what do you mean to be?”
The kind old Bishop said
As he took the boy on his ample knee
And patted his curly head.
“We should all of us choose a calling
To help Society’s plan;
Then what do you mean to be, my boy,
When you grow to be a man?”

“I want to be a Consumer,”
The bright-haired lad replied
As he gazed up into the Bishop’s face
In innocence open-eyed.

“I’ve never had aims of a selfish sort,
For that, as I know, is wrong.
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the world along.

“I want to be a Consumer
And work both night and day,
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists say,
I won’t just be a Producer,
Like Bobby and James and John;
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the nation on.”

“But what do you want to be?”
The Bishop said again,
“For we all of us have to work,” said he,
“As must, I think, be plain.
Are you thinking of studying medicine
Or taking a Bar exam?”
“Why, no!” the bright-haired lad replied
As he helped himself to jam.

“I want to be a Consumer
And live in a useful way;
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists say.
There are too many people working
And too many things are made.
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help to further Trade.

“I want to be a Consumer
And do my duty well;
For that is the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists tell.
I’ve made up my mind,” the lad was heard,
As he lit a cigar, to say;
“I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And I want to begin today.”

[Hat tip John Ridpath]

.

2 comments:

  1. Thinking at the aggregate level wasn't just a Keynesian thing. It had a long history before Keynes. The mercantilists, physiocrats and the classical economists all, by and large, worked at this level. Nicolai Foss and Peter Klein note that the mercantilists and the classical economists worked largely at the aggregate level with microeconomic analysis acting as little more than a handmaiden to the macro-level investigation,

    "[e]conomics began to a large extent in an aggregative mode, as witness, for example, the "Political Arithmetick" of Sir William Petty, and the dominant interest of most of the classical economists in distribution issues. Analysis of pricing, that is to say, analysis of a phenomenon on a lower level of analysis than distributional analysis, was to a large extent only a means to an end, namely to analyze the functional income distribution".

    So depending on the question asked, working at this level can be a useful approach. And as Roger Garrison notes in his essay 'Austrian Macroeconomics: A Diagrammatical Exposition', "[...] the model is constructed with aggregate quantities and deals with the relationships between these quantities, {...]". So even Austrians can work at the aggregate level. Albeit in a different way than standard macro.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paul, I think you're a little confused. The poem is not taking aim at thinking in aggregates, which as you note is what all the best Classical economists were mostly doing. What it *is* taking aim at is the nostrum foisted upon the world by an increasing number of cranks like Malthus and (two years later) by Keynes, that it is *aggregate demand,* i..e, that it is consumer spending, that drives the economic system.
      This is of course illogical nonsense, consumption being a final cause not an efficient cause. That's the stupidity being satirised here.

      Delete

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