postmessage_74901″> The nature of innocent fraud
This treatise must, at the outset, contend with a seeming and severe contradiction: How can fraud be innocent? How can innocence be fraudulent? The answer is of no slight significance, for innocent, lawful fraud has an undoubted role in private life and public discourse. However, by neither those so believing nor those so guiding is there spoken recognition of that fact. There is, to emphasize, no sense of guilt or responsibility.
Some of this fraud derives from traditional economics and its teaching and some from the ritual views of economic life. These can strongly support individual and group interest, particularly, as might be expected, that of the more fortunate, articulate and politically prominent in the larger community, and can achieve the respectability and authority of everyday knowledge. This is not the contrivance of any individual or group but represents the natural, even righteous view of what best serves personal or larger interest.
An articulate community, liberal in the United States, social democratic or socialist in Europe and Japan, does ascribe economic or other motive to the interest-serving view. This can be quite wrong. What rewards particular interest may reflect only a normal tendency to self-benefiting expression and action.
As I have indicated, most of this extended essay has to do with economic matters. The reason, as I’ve also said, is a lifetime, and by common statistical standards rather more, of teaching, writing, discussing economics and on occasion directing economic action. The discussion has extended to the distinguished economic figures of the time, including those encountered during my term as president of the American Economic Association. Economics has been large in my life.
What I have read, heard, taught, was, I trust, well motivated. But there is always popular error. What prevails in real life is not the reality but the current fashion and the pecuniary interest. So compelling is this that, as the next chapter tells, even the everyday characterization of the economic system has been affected. When capitalism, the historic reference, ceased to be acceptable, the system was renamed. The new term was benign but without meaning. To this I now turn.