Keep it simple?

Not to worry, we’ll scale up later, soothes the techno-managerial elite. Later on, presses the happy-talk, we’ll relax assumptions and add realism. Don’t bother your wee heads with all those quibbles; we already know how to reduce inequality (just give ‘em cash!), overpopulation (just don’t have babies!) and save the environment (just don’t cut down the trees!). So much of this suffocates in its own fat of “stop thinking about uncertainty and get on with what needs to be done!” This time it’s different, they say; we know what we’re doing, they promise. Leave complications to the academics.

A war? Not to worry, economists tell us, it only amounts to some 1% of national income. Lost $350 million in one quarter? Not to worry, that’s small beer when compared to the university’s endowment of $30 billion. Lost over $5 billion in trades? Little more than a flesh wound when compared to all the firm’s profits and assets. Government is predicted never to have a budget surplus again because of financial crises? Not to worry, there’s no need to balance the budget if the country’s nominal GDP normally grows at 5 percent per annum.

What’s going on here? Has economics lost the plot, like the actor playing Hamlet, who finished the bedroom scene with Gertrude but forgot to kill Polonius?

But not to worry: I’m pissing on your shoes, yet it’s only a light shower, right?

Wrong. We may make cuckoo clocks without the bird-shit, but that’s about all. Again, complex is about as simple as it gets these days.

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