The internet is an intricate web of data connections which display some of humanity’s greatest written sources of knowledge, grandest symphonies, and moments captured on film, all a few clicks away from anyone. The internet is also a place of great disappointment, because instead of being a grand digital library, it’s a place where people post anxious selfies, buy counterfeit Viagra from India, and most importantly, consider serious research to be the top Google result that matches one’s existing worldview.
If there is anything more disappointing, it’s the reemergence of the flat Earth theory, thanks to the internet. The recent rap battle debate between rapper B.o.B. and popular astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the controversy of a round Earth highlights how even in a world where information is everywhere and free, people can still attach themselves to insane theories. Now, for any amateur historian, the question of the Earth’s shape was settled either between the age of Pythagoras through some basic observations of shadows cast by the Sun in various points on the planet during daytime and by phases of the Moon at night, or during the 19th century when steamships crossed over every corridor of the ocean and transatlantic cable was laid around it without a report of ship sailing over the edge.
The idea of a flat Earth should be outright dismissed if you account for the number of people globally who would have had to observe a flat Earth. Flying in the upper atmosphere, military jets and the entire scientific community that build and maintain state of the art satellites remain blissfully unaware of the shape of the planet and don’t take this into account when designing their works.
When one brings up the fact that the knowledge of a round Earth is so fundamentally crucial for telecommunications, navigation and even long distance sniping, a Flat Earther will claim that most critical and influential members of the scientific community are aware but have conspired to keep the truth of our planet concealed. NASA, according to Flat Earthers I have encountered online, is deceitful and wicked, because it hired Nazi scientists to design rockets; the Saturn V rocket that took Neil Armstrong to the Moon was a designed by a once card-carrying Nazi Party member, Werner von Braun. It doesn’t take away from the truth that NASA builds rockets that go into space and which orbit around the Earth, and that NASA was so hungry for talent that could make this possible. It was willing to give powerful positions to men who had participated in the Holocaust.
It’s around this point that you are mocked as an ignorant shill who has fallen for the lies of the scientific conspiracy that also produces and plants fake fossils, and poisons us with vaccines because of the Anti-Christ or something. You would have to be blind not to see this conspiracy: It’s lit by the small Sun that dances around the great flat disk floating in oceans we call Earth.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m going into detail about the conspiratorial mindset of Flat Earthers. What does this have to do with economics? Many people on the internet, like the Flat Earthers, believe themselves to be Galileo who speak truth to power on their YouTube channel with its six subscribers. It’s interesting that people who see themselves to be modern day Galileos reject his entire corpus of scientific study, just like a group who describe themselves as revolutionaries champion an economic order run by a one-party state.
When it comes to today’s economic debates, people tend to forget that within the discipline there is a broad consensus on the two most–talked about economic topics: The minimum wage and free trade. Even the most pompous Democratic talking head, Paul Krugman, who earned his Nobel Prize studying international trade, considers those who refuse to accept the truth of the comparative advantage of free trade to be as willfully deluded as those that deny evolution.
Until recently, Krugman even denounced the idea of a minimum wage as counterproductive: “So what are the effects of increasing minimum wages? Any Econ 101 student can tell you the answer: The higher wage reduces the quantity of labor demanded, and hence leads to unemployment.” Looking at the opinion pages of today, this near consensus of economics is dismissed as outright economic orthodoxy, sometimes a conspiracy of the powerful elite that publishes bogus papers from Koch Brothers-owned presses to confuse the worker and potential pro-proletariat allies alike.
It’s also a supposed conspiracy of George Soros’ New World Order which, besides turning our nation homosexual through vaccines and fructose corn syrup, is also purposely destroying factory jobs to weaken the spirit of working America and give such noble occupations to godless Mexicans. But don’t worry: Trump will stop this. If you bring up the fact that the relative stagnation in wages and the decline of factory jobs has a lot to do with automation and the rising importance of higher skill sets in our workforce (which our lazy tenured educational system hasn’t bothered to keep up), you are dismissed as a shill: A Koch Shill or a Soros Cuck, depending on which Reddit thread you happen to be on.
Today, there are many that want to rip down our market system and replace it with one that is modeled on their fanciful economic vision that would quickly crumble like a tower designed without accounting for the forces of gravity. There were many grand experiments, based not on the evil free trade orthodoxy, but the truth reveled by the great bearded prophet Karl Marx: That man should submit himself to an all-powerful social order that controls his life in labor so to maximum and equally distribute its fruits among his brothers. Billions of people lived through such experiments in the 20th century and over one hundred million died from famine, or in the killing fields of their paranoid leadership.
Whenever one says communism has been tried, you are met with a lecture by someone who, though they openly admire the tenacity of the killers revolutionaries, say that the USSR, Hoxa’s Albania or Kim’s Korea were never really communist – just some other brand of capitalism.
It’s interesting to note that the only thing that kept communism on life support was hidden free market activity which was the only way many people could have access to the basic necessities which the state promised. This free market activity didn’t emerge from a secret top hat-wearing capitalist cabal, but spontaneously as needs were left unwanted and people were incentivized by mostly selfish desires to have access things like soap, condoms, rock records, and American blue jeans. But somehow economic laws don’t exist and are only bourgeois ideological fantasy pushed on us by suppressive people and organizations.
By standing in one place and looking at the horizon, you can delude yourself into thinking with observation that the Earth is flat, just like taking a single data point about the US having high employment along with high taxes and factories in the 1950s. However, you could walk around the Earth and notice how the horizon changes, and how the shadows of the Sun fall, and that the US in the 1950s still had a comparative advantage in its tax rates compared to other first world industrial nations which were still recovering from our bombs dropped in the World War and were held back by their own experiments with socialist policies.
There is debate as to whether or not economics is actually a science. Maybe, in its strictest definition, it may not be, because it deals with the observation and measurement of complex interactions of individual humans who, because they possess free will, cannot have their trajectories calculated like those of celestial objects that only react to Newtonian forces. Disproving Flat Earthers should be easy, but from what I’ve seen they are set in their delusion because they define themselves by it. The world is complex, but it certainly is not flat. However, those who cannot be convinced of its actual shape may still attempt to sail off of it and find themselves forever lost and adrift just like those who try to create prosperity by taxing and creating artificial barriers for market interactions.
In the end, the truth will win. North Korea recently launched a satellite: I’m sure the engineers and technicians controlling it will observe the spherical shape of the Earth, and from the vacuum of space, will also see the difference between the pitch black void that is the skyline of communist North Korea and the brightly-glowing skyline of the capitalist south.
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