Friday, February 22, 2013

We need a better educated Representatives--why "ethics reform" is a Strawman.

I've always thought that the "ethics reform" bandwagon--especially in state politics--is at best a solution in search of a problem that doesn't exist; at worst, a Trojan horse to undermine democracy/citizens voices.  

Let us not forget that democracy and the ability of citizens to influence lawmakers--without having lawmakers be bought off or manipulated--is the fundamental origin within public discourse that is pushing for "ethics reform" to begin with.

Sitting in the HB 361 hearing on Wednesday I was reminded of a few things.  

First, most of our State Representatives in Georgia don't understand the fundamental political economy of America in the 21st century.  

They are clinging to cliche orthodox "Econ 101" which is based in and on neoclassical economic theory long ago discarded in its fundamentalist form by legitimate economists.  Not only that, but the major challenges facing us do not fit within the frame/narrative/plight of small business owners in small town America of yore and are rather set within a framework of multi-national corporations in a global marketplace--and the massive economic inequality that has been created since the late 70's neoliberal era began.

But not only do we need to be electing people who understand the fundamental political economy questions before us.  We need to be electing State Representative's that have caught up to speed with the economic data/empirical research we have acquired as a society.  We've come a long way in improving our understanding of how markets function, and how human beings function within markets.

So rather than focus on "ethics reform"--since it will likely just end up keeping citizens from being able to go to the Gold Dome without paying a fee.  Maybe we should just start making sure we elect people who understand the major challenges that undermine neoclassical "econ 101" such as Information asymmetry  and Principal–agent problem --both of which were stunningly missing from the arsenal of the Republicans sitting on the HB361 subcommittee hearing I testified at on Wednesday. 

While some people blame ALEC and the Chamber for just buying off these Republicans at the hearing I don't think its quite that simple. The questions and comments from the Representatives during the committee hearing exposed that they literally don't even have the first clue about some really important things the economics profession has learned over the past few decades; not to mention the day to day challenges, struggles, and realities of working class people who make up the majority of the constituents in districts.

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