Money issues, like ownership issues, touch upon a very deep-lying nerve of social life. The issues of who owns the money and who gets it and how are not limited to the purely economic area, also having an express social and political context.
By no means are all the economy problems solved using market methods; certain social groups permanently struggle for advantages. Think of how many economic advantages are obtained through social struggle rather than economic mechanisms. Wherever workers are better organized and fight together for their rights, they are much more likely to have better incomes than in societies with weak trade unions. Besides commercial success per se (i.e., being in consumers’ demand), lobbying abilities are critical in business. In many third world countries, power coalesces with money. Big fortunes are made through direct use of political power and not businesses’ usefulness to the society. Developed economies are riddled with corruption, too, only the process is not as distinct and expressive, coming along well-established rules of the game that restrict social competition. The financial system, too, plays an important role in restricting the competition.
However, various groups’ interests are often disguised under economic slogans, ideas, and doctrines all claiming to be economically true. One is highly unlikely to hear from a politician or an economist a phrase like “We would like to generate maximum profit by investing minimum effort, and this is why we advocate these measures.” Instead, one will probably hear about benevolent motives and lofty goals. When doctrines are specifically tailored to interests of a specific group of people, we talk about ideology. We cannot help touching upon this topic as it is vital for any discussion of economics.
Ideology is economic interests made into an edifice shared by a group of people, with its own rituals, symbols, and leaders. An ideological platform significantly affects people’s opinions, and ignoring it would be a major mistake. Groups of people whose interests are affected by economic reality often perceive it as a challenge to their social position and try to find their own alternative explanations for the issues that are publicly discussed. Whenever that happens, ideology-driven economists rationalize the interests of this group, that is, create a more convenient edifice that fits better into someone’s interests than the economic reality that looks so unpleasant. This is an inherent part of human psychology. We are inclined to see the world the way we would like it to be.
The economy is one of the most ideology-driven disciplines since distribution of benefits is a highly fertile ground for search of privileges for oneself, in the name of the self’s group. I strongly doubt that you have ever heard of a leftist physicist or a rightist chemist, with regard to their respective scientific views, but terms like “leftist economist” or “rightist economist” are so widely spread that they surprise nobody.
Ideology is so deeply rooted in economic theories that many people who believe themselves to be economists cannot even imagine themselves apart from ideology. They are absolutely unsusceptible to their opponents’ views, no matter how convincing, regarding them as their enemies’ opinions by default. Nevertheless, having paid a tribute to our own past and personal experiences, every one of us can always be brave enough to look at the world with no bias, stop indulging in illusions, and draw conclusions that make us closer to the truth.