Economics as jam theory

Economics exemplifies what literary critic and poet, William Empson, called Jam Theory. All you need to know is under the lid of that wee jam jar of economics.

For those spooning it out, there are never enough markets until reality matches the design of market competition. So what if actually existing markets are one of the most hybridized of social institutions? Not to worry, we make cuckoo clocks without the bird-shit, so too can we make markets.

In its rush to eat and be eaten, has economic theory lost its place, like the actor playing Hamlet who finishes the scene with Gertrude but forgot to kill Polonius? Is this one more confirmation, in case we needed it, that economics differs little from other disciplines knee-deep in uncertainty?

Which then is more bloviating? The economist’s “the opportunities are attractive, if technological and regulatory challenges are overcome” or the engineer’s “the opportunities are attractive, if economic and regulatory challenges are overcome”? The scapegoating of regulation in both cases, of course, is essential to their hard sell.

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