I resigned myself recently that no matter how much empirical data, history, facts and information I provide about the merits of capitalism, the desire of the masses to believe what they want to believe will override it. The appeal or the draw to such a childishly simplistic ideology that if we "just tax the rich a little bit more" everything will be alright, or the blackhole-gravitational attraction of socialism where "you DON'T have to work, but you still can eat" has this scary and eerie ability to turn what would be normally intelligent thinking adults, into greedy, selfish little children. And try to rationalize with them though I might, the exercise is largely futile as charts correlating tax rates versus GDP growth figures just pales in comparison to Obama promising everything under the sun.
Ergo, since trying to reason with them doesn't work, there are only two ways I've found that works.
One is to bet them. It's one thing to advocate socialism and socialist policies, but when a savvy, educated economist challenges a socialist on their philosophy and forces them to put their own hard earned money on what they "know" to be "true," you'd be amazed how many of these zealots won't even wager $20 on something they not only feverishly support, but insist on forcing the rest of society to live under.
The second is to just let them have their way, as no matter how pretty your charts, and beautifully scripted your power point presentations, nothing convinces socialists they're wrong like a collapsing economy, a Stalinist regime, 40 million people dead from starvation and the TRUE elimination of their social freedoms. Give them a little bit of their utopia and they'll be BEGGING for full force free markets to come back.
Now, it takes a while, and as humans are prone to do, they may have to repeat their mistakes several times to finally learn a lesson or two (Tulip Bulbs, Dotcoms, Beanie Babies, and Housing), but inevitably they learn from them, and if they're smart, they start teaching and instilling these hard-learned lessons to future generations, allowing them to avoid the mistakes of the past (and make whole new ones).
But it was this line of thought that got me thinking about economics and how if we mastered it, or at least instilled some basic, simple economics principles in our society, it would not only eliminate a whole host of social problems and ailments, but basically be the guiding force to govern society. I still contest to this day, a population adequately educated in economics could inoculate itself against recessions. I still contest to this day, that I don't care how "mature" the US economy is, RGDP growth of 7% per year is possible. I still contest to this day that if we mastered economics as a society we could have income per capitas of $250,000 per person and effectively eliminate poverty, not to mention extend life expectancies to unfathomable ages. All these benefits are possible if we just master economics.
However, as these advances in economics occur (more so, instilling what we already know about economics in the masses), it will be at the expense of a much larger and older institution; religion.
If you think about it, religion was not created by a "god" or "gods" by which to govern the people. It was created by people to govern people - and not necesarily without merit.
Disagree with religion much as you would like, it provides an otherwise unorganized society a means by which to organize and progress. Religion provides laws, it provides order, it keeps peace, etc. Religion in other words was nothing more than the ancient version of government. ie- it's no coincidence that in the olden days (and even in many archaic societies today) religion WAS the government. The Ten Commandments and other remnants of Christianity are instilled in US government to this day. Not to mention, rules and laws such as how to butcher animals and swine in Jewish texts were not done so because "god" ordained it as such, but rather because it was for the health benefits of society at the time (pre-refrigeration).
However, religion has one primary flaw; in order to give it teeth, and give its clergy "authority" or "legitimacy" to rule over the masses you had to create things like "hell" and deities and wrath, largely things that could not be proven until (conveniently) somebody died and went there. The problem is technological advances in science have not only made some of these rules obsolete, but have disproven or dismissed a lot of the tenets by which religions are founded on. We no longer need to butcher various animals certain ways due to refrigeration. We no longer have to worship the sun as, well, as it turns out it's just one of a gazillion stars out there. And no, AIDS wasn't created to hurt or banish any one group of non-believers or another, it's frankly just a really bad virus.
However, this spells trouble for religion in that as humans learn more and more about the universe and solve its mysteries, it disproves and obsoletes more and more aspects of religion all together. This relegates religion to the position it's in now, second to most governments and secular law, and more a means by which to provide moral guidance and comfort to its followers.
The question is as religion goes the way of the dinosaurs (or adapts to become more acceptable and marketable to the modern day masses - a perfect example being a church in the Twin Cities that has "pet baptismals") what will provide the matter by which we create the laws to most efficiently govern society. And that is where economics steps in.
Economics is such an encompassing study that it is more or less the only thing that could replace religion. It's designed to allocate the resources of society to not only advance it, but keep it from regressing. It's purpose is to enrich the most amount of people to the maximum extent current resources and technology will allow. It insists on relative peace, calm, stability and order within society in order to achieve this, and if it doesn't get it, it mercilessly punishes its people for their mistakes (as it is doing so today).
Ergo, the more people study economics, all the goals and aims religion was designed to achieve (or perhaps I should qualify it by saying, the NOBLE goals and aims) can be achieved without resorting to fairy tales of hell, burning bushes, killing infidels, gays and whatever outmoded hogwash is out there.
The question is whether we will force our children to study economics, finance and personal financial management as much as we force them to study catechism, or in some parts of the world, force them to learn the economic merits of an engineering degree over blowing themselves up.