Economiasma – A Weekly Whiff of Economic $cents – by Bill Dahl

Welcome to the first of my weekly whiffs – discerning the various $cents floating around in the sphere of economics. I call it; EconomiasmaA Weekly Whiff of Economic $cents.” Here’s the banner for this weekly column:

In Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map, I garnered a vastly deeper appreciation for the blinding effects ideas can have on man. As Johnson writes;

 “but these were not unreasonable men. They were not hacks, working surreptitiously for Victorian special interest groups. They were not blinded by politics or personal ambition. They were blinded, instead, by an idea.”[i]

You see, in mid-nineteenth century London, the overwhelming consensus was that cholera was transmitted through the air. The odors that penetrated daily existence in London were overwhelming. This condition was referred to as miasma or a pervasive noxious atmosphere attributable to putrid matter or decomposing organic matter that was believed to cause an unwholesome atmosphere that spawned disease.

Today, I am overwhelmed by the intensity and diversity of the economic $cents that pass through the nostrils attached to the noggins of ordinary folks like me on a daily basis. It’s kind of like walking through a food court in one of those huge malls in America…you’re bombarded by scents from every imaginable source. Yet, as you stand their discerning these scents, attempting to capture a whiff of one that you believe will satisfy you at the moment – well, it gets confusing for most of us, at least for a few minutes We typically wander from one proprietor to the next relying upon our sense of vision and smell, attempting to discern what seems most palatable and plausible for our consumption at the moment.  Then, we  make our choice and digest the meal we ordered – for better or for worse.

To go back to the thesis of Steven Johnson’s book, The Ghost Map, the  miasma overwhelmed the senses of those charged with identifying the scientific source of cholera transmission. They could not overcome the deception that the pungent atmosphere had confined their thinking to. Although it appeared apparent to the vast majority of investigators that the problem, cholera, was transmitted via the air, two discerning outliers  were able to stand outside the predominant view, and confirm irrefutably that cholera was transmitted via water – not through the air.

Such is the case with economics today. We global citizens or common laypersons experience an atmosphere of economic miasma as a pungent, unavoidable fact, of our daily existence. Depending upon which way the winds of mainstream media are blowing on any particular day, our senses are overwhelmed with a particular $cent one day, then another on the next…yet, what are the actual causes of the economic contagion that produce these odors, and cause uncertainty and confusion for the vast majority of our kind?

Well, that’s what this weekly column, Economiasma – A Weekly Whiff of Economic $cents will explore.

I hope you will enjoy the column and invite others to join us.


[i] Johnson, Stephen The Ghost Map, Riverhead Books, Published by The Penguin Group n(USA) Inc. New York, New York, Copyright © 2006 by Steven Johnson, pp. 183-184

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