Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

Norwegian brake pads

It becomes predictable when Bent Sofus Tranøy complains about the market logic, writes our reviewer Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.


[ideology] Before, the state ran its own canteens, forest nurseries and Drevsjø Trelast AS. Then came neoliberalism, and everything went to health. Bent Sofus Tranøy may not use these specific examples, but in the Market's power over the minds, they are hidden behind the usual phrases that the market has gained more power, while the state and the community have received less. When reading this, it may be okay to keep the privatization of Statens Skogplanteskoler AS, a neo-liberalist experiment, in mind.

The power of the market over the senses sounds like yet another bleak, pretentious, quasi-philosophical analysis of the advancement of neoliberalism and the leftist ideological collapse. In fact, it is not. Although the title invites late debate nights with red wine and Bourdieu, Tranøy has actually gone with humor and self-pity. Both parts are badly needed for a left-hand side so moodless that the Indemission's meetings appear to be frivolous

rave parties in proportion. The book is fun at times, spicy as it is with little everyday stories we have all experienced: the perpetual wait on the phone to get through to customer care, the stingy economists who are convinced that two lines can be put under the answer to the question of what is the meaning of life, and the haunting commercials that characterized our formative years.

Fun, but easy

In many ways, Tranøy's endless frustration with the advance of market logic is understandable, even sympathetic. He is a born-again child of the right-wing, dressed in Levi's, chewing on Juicy Fruit and with liberalization and privatization as the mantra on all sides. He resigns resignedly about the meeting with his old classmates who compare Norway before Willoch with Albania, and with newly saved economists who believe that everything the private sector takes in turns into gold, while everything the public sector takes in is destroyed. Tranøy analyzes, ironizes, simplifies and explains. It's fun sometimes, but always infinitely predictable.

There is something sad and sad about the state scientist who is cursed in economics, in market fundamentalism and in a world that is going in the wrong direction. Not because of the heavy nostalgic fog that rests over the book, but because the core becomes so unbearably easy. Why is not Statens Skogplanteskoler AS mentioned as a victim of privatization? Well, because, like other parts of the public sector that have been sacrificed on the market's altar, it is decaying for people.

Tranøy cries over the football matches that he now has to pay for on Canal Digital, the electricity market he no longer has the ability to choose a supplier in, the telecommunications market that is so difficult. Along the way we get tiny concessions. Liberalization has not always been wrong, but right now it has gone too far. Now it is no longer about making people's lives better, but about fundamentalism. This has become the left's new refrain: They admit to being on the wrong side in the important struggles for freedom of choice in the 1980s and 90s, but at the same time have a glowing belief that more freedom of choice will now be to release market power and let go everything we love. It was okay to choose TV channels and radio, but God forbid the same should happen in school or health care.

Like many others, Tranøy attacks the idea of ​​the rational human being, homo economicus. The big mistake of economists is to push the whole reality into one form, the idea that "one size fits all". The liberal economists end up as the Leninists of our time (not the words of Tranøy), a group so hampered by their own slips that they patiently push us forward towards their market liberalist utopia.

The criticism of this paradigm is partly entertaining, but not because it is enlightening. On the contrary. Tranøy lets dimming be the precondition for the entertainment value. It is certainly easier, but it would have been more exciting if he had managed to enlighten and entertain at the same time.

Tranøy attacks the public choice theory and claims it is an attempt to demonize public employees as stupid, lazy and selfish. The prerequisite for the theory, however, is that all people behave selfishly, including those who work in the public sector. In this way, the theory can provide an additional understanding of public bureaucracies. Also among the public employees there are power struggles, attempts to increase their own influence and the pursuit of prestige and money.

Model, not reality

Surprisingly enough for a political scientist, Tranøy's attempt to analyze economists' philosophy suffers from the lack of one fundamental insight: Models are models. Like any four-field table in political science or any theory of roles in sociology, the idea of ​​rational man is a model. It should explain by simplifying.

Sure, there are certainly reality-removing economists who believe the model is reality, and that "a perfect market in a perfect competitive situation" may exist, but it is just as unreasonable to attack any liberal economy based on this as to claim that Max Weber believed it there are only three ways dominion is asserted in a society. The idea behind the rational actor perspective is not that humans are always rational and maximizing benefits, but that it is not fruitful to assume that they are largely not.

People do not always make the best choices, neither in the public nor in the market. Traditions, norms, values ​​and institutions help to shape us – for better or worse. The state is not always stupid, and the market is not always smart. Personally, I find a good starting point for the American satirist and former Rolling Stone writer PJ O'Rourke: "The free market is ugly and stupid, in the same way that it is ugly and stupid to go shopping. The free market is just as ugly and stupid, only there is nothing you can buy at the mall, and they will shoot you if you do not go there. "

Reviewed by Torbjørn Røe Isaksen,

leader of the Young Right and political editor of Minerva

You may also like