I have been reading up on some basics in economics, and it turns out that economics are enormously complicated.  The issue I keep running into, however, is that economics seem to be based purely on logic.

I dropped out of logic in college, by the way.

Logic is a funny idea.  Like common sense.  Hmm…common sense, something that all human beings possess….

Yet, so quickly common sense becomes about one individual’s idea of common sense.  One individual’s (or a dominant culture’s) version of logic becomes applied (with much pressure) on a diverse social system.  And very bad things can happen…

Take Hannah Arendt, the historian and scholar, who studies the use of logic within the Nazi regime, first in Origins of Totalitarianism and then in Eichmann in Jerusalem.  She points out that the genocide of the Jews was the result of a logic, played out to its horrifying and bitter end.  The logic was self-absorbed and without thought, thoughtless.

Now think of this in terms of an economic system.  It’s easy to say, “Oh, well, those people in OompaLoompaLand are making more money sewing my Liz Claiborne shirt  that they would be any other way.”  This is one form of logic.  Yet, the complexities are born out with more thought.  What is the history of colonialism or conflict in OompaLoompaLand?  What sorts of oppressions have been happening here?  Whose pockets are being lined with cash, who is profiting from the presence of this factory in OompaLoompaLand?  What is my moral obligation as a person of faith to this situation?  Some economists say that if this hypothetical factory closes due to a boycott, the local economy will suffer.  Yet, who has been making the money?  Certainly not the factory workers.  Sadly, the close of the factory could just lead to one form of oppression to another.

The point is, economics is complex, yes.  But I need to know the human stories underneath it all.  I cannot bear to see the human life, our impulse for empathy, drained out of the economic analysis.  And, in economic recession, we need to hear stories of things that are going well and reflecting the ingenuity of our nation’s spirit. We need to know how human lives are affected by the economic policies and then see through to the real cost of things, underneath it all.

Underneath all the numbers and percentages are human lives and stories.  We cannot forget this; otherwise we lose the empathic connection that reminds us, “That could have been me.” patient_doctor4