By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 21, 2018
I am always struck by Colm Imbert’s casual cruelty; his notion that he possesses superior wisdom; is always in the right; and his access to privileged information makes his utterances irrefutable. Such advantages, he believes, give him the right to demean and insult anyone he chooses.
On May 11 he was at his most incorrigible presumably because God blessed T&T with greater accesses to nature’s riches than say Jamaica. He accused Mariano Brown, Patrick Watson, Roger Hosein, Indera Sagewan-Alli, and Maria Dukharan of being “unfair and biased in their criticisms of Government’s handling of the economy” (Guardian, May 13).
None of them has clean hands.
Hosein “was associated with multi-million [dollar] contracts flowing from the Ministry of Planning and Development”; therefore he cannot speak objectively about the government’s economic performance.
Sagewan-Alli’s membership in the UNC renders her unfit to offer any valuable comment about the government’s economic performance. Imbert thundered: “I looked across the other side of the Parliament and saw Sagewan Alli as an Opposition MP and now I have to listen to people like that talking as unbiased, neutral, dispassionate commentators.” How far would we get if Sagewan-Alli looked across the aisle (or wherever she is) and accused Imbert of presenting a biased and disingenuous message?
What was Brown’s sin? When the government was doing the liquidation of CL Financial he “surfaced on the other side working against the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, trying to prevent taxpayers from getting back the $23 billion that was put into the Clico bailout.” Conclusion: whether one is a present or former PNM member, one is misguided if one criticizes PNM’s positions.
Watson is the deputy leader of COP. This affiliation invalidates anything he has to say. Dukharan dabbles in cryto-currency which makes her equally unfit to speak about “real” economic conditions. On Monday Michael Harris became the latest victim of Imbert’s inanity. Why? He belongs to Tapia. Forty-two years ago a PNM candidate defeated him in the national election.
Such an approach to public policy leads one to ask: Who possesses the necessary neutrality to analyze the government claims? Does belonging to another party or having other political convictions prevent one from making a meaningful contribution to our national debate? Does one’s party affiliation give one the right to slander another?
Not even Imbert can stand up to the criteria that he sets for impartiality since he organizes and interprets the information at his disposal from a PNM point of view. Or is it that PNM’s point of view is more pristine than UNC, COP, Tapia, or anyone else?
Facts never speak for themselves. They speak as the interlocutor bids them speak. When Imbert thunders that he is speaking the truth or has the best command of the facts, he misses an important point: facts or information always have to be interpreted by the interlocutor. There is no reason to believe, except in Imbert’s mind, that his interpretation of the facts is superior to those of Watson, Hosein, Brown, Dukharan, Alli, or Harris.
This brings us to an epistemological question: How do we know or how can we tell that the economy will turn around for the better next year? More money shall be poured into the economy because of higher energy prices but does that mean ipso facto that our society will be better off because of it?
Our historical experience does not necessarily confirm this. Eight murders a day makes one wonder if we should proceed along the same trajectory.
Economic development cannot be reduced to numbers and unmediated facts alone. Adam Smith, the father of economics, began his journey as an economist and a philosopher. After he published The Wealth of Nations (1776) he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1795). Karl Marx, one of most influential economists of the nineteenth century, used David Ricardo’s labor theory of value and Hegel’s dialectics (philosophy) to develop his critique of capitalism.
Four years ago Thomas Pikkety penned Capital in the Twenty-First Century, one of the most important economic works of this century. He made three claims: 1) “economic theory must be rooted in historical sources that are as complete as possible” 2), society must be organized in such a way “to achieve a just social order”; and 3) economics should not divorce itself from the social sciences.
In Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson suggest that successful nations usually follow “an approach rooted solely in institutional economics, which studies the impact of political environments on economic outcomes” (Economist, March 10, 2012). In reviewing Alan Blinder’s Advice and Dissent, Alan Beattie remarked: “Economists and politicians often work to different timelines (long-term versus short-term), to different ends (promoting efficiency versus pleasing interest groups) and with different goals (being right versus being re-elected” (Financial Times, May 14).
In his hectoring and his hubris, it might be well to remind Imbert of Adam Smith’s sentiments: “No matter how selfish you think man is, it’s obvious that there are some principles [or drives] in his nature that give him an interest in the welfare of others and make their happiness necessary to him even if he gets nothing from it but the pleasure of seeing it” (Moral Sentiments).
Let us be magnanimous with one another. It’s only in this way we can deepen our economic and political discourses.