The major-general theory
by Andrew John
If you postulate a market place for every sort of oddity,
Suppliers and demanders of each different commodity,
Like literature's accustomed tales of infinite variety:
Free To Choose, Das Kapital, The Affluent Society;
Assume the same for labor too, no matter how ephemeral
Like bankers, bishops, actresses and even majors-general--
Yes, you can buy a carpenter, a medical practitioner,
A judge, a politician, a police-force chief-commissioner;
And equally for capital (though with a brief parenthesis:
As no one knows just what that means, don't give it undue emphasis)
And guns and butter, clay and putty, laudanum and librium,
Then you have the basic model of a general equilibrium.
And then elect a man to put a sign up saying "Talks on Here"--
For want of a better term, he could be called the auctioneer--
And as the world is timeless he negotiates on and on and on
And settles all the prices by a process of tatonnement.
But this is not an auction that is anything like Sotheby's,
For there is no commission charged, nor any sort of other fees,
And there's no risk of any lot not selling or appearing twice
For every good is guaranteed to have a market-clearing price.
And everyone, of course, is economically rational
And also very trusting, given that there is no cash at all,
So every single person is a sovereign consumer there--
Provided, that is, they can all agree upon a numeraire.
But when it's expressed like this it lacks the right complexity,
So redefine it all in terms of theorems of convexity,
Then look for a solution in the bounds of possibility
And test it for existence and uniqueness and stability.
And after that, ensure the mathematics cannot get slicker,
So it has all the qualities to make Econometrica,
Which means that though it has not got a trace of credibility,
Very few will ever dare to question its utility.
So though some condemn it as a meaningless tautology,
It is not concerned with such fine points of methodology,
For in that world where no one gives a damn about reality,
Perfect Competition gives Pareto optimality.
And if you find this leaves you in a state of great confusion,
Just remember the assumptions follow straight from the conclusion.
Disclaimer: This poem, originally published in the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, is intended for private use.