Chris Dillow (continues) to wonder whether the left’s “statism has, in effect, crowded out interest in non-statist alternatives.” This paper suggests not, or at least suggests that there may be other factors at work, and points the finger at the economics profession in particular.
Panu Kalmi looks at the disappearance of cooperatives from economic textbooks. He finds that books from before 1945 were characterised by “theoretical insights and careful documentation,” while more recent books “are characterised by the absence of any systematic approach to cooperatives and, at worst, provide misleading information.”
There appears to have been a systematic if accidental scrubbing from history and academic thought of cooperatives as viable alternatives. Importantly for our discussion, there is little evidence that cooperatives have seen anything like a proportionate decline in actual economic significance, in some ways they are more prominent today. Rather, changes in the economics profession in particular and society in general may be the culprit.
The role of economist has changed from social theorist to “experts” whose role it is to specify optimal government policy. For this we may well have Keynes to blame, policy makers faced with seemingly insurmountable problems do not want to be told “its complicated.” No, they want a button to press.
Considering Keynesianism and subsequent developments in economics had to appeal to policy makers to gain influence, it is little wonder that the cooperative and other indirect forms of exerting influence and power were crowded out by more top-down policies.
Given 1) the dearth of good ideas, research and even mentions of cooperative forms in mainstream literature and 2) the difficulties such policies would meet in actually getting implemented, the reason the left remains statist appears obvious. We are all statists now.