Economics Doesn’t Have to Be Amoral
Steve Roth, publisher of Evonomics and at Angry Bear, sends this note and thematic list:
Economics Doesn’t Have to Be Amoral
The complexity economist Eric Beinhocker writes “economics has painted itself as a detached amoral science, but humans are moral creatures. We must bring morality back into the center of economics in order for people to relate to and trust it. All of the science shows that deeply ingrained, reciprocal moral behaviors are the glue that holds society together.” We evolved economic morality. It’s time to put it into practice!
Economists Forgot Smith and Darwin’s Message: Society Cannot Function Without Moral Bonds by Geoffrey Hodgson
What Is the Role of Morality in a Capitalist Economy? by Peter Turchin, Branko Milanovic, Herb Gintis, Robert Frank
It’s Time for New Economic Thinking Based on the Best Science Available, Not Ideology by Eric Beinhocker
Worse than trying to maintain that economics is amoral are those that have drunk deeply the Randian coolaid and believe that free markets are a basis for a new, better, more efficient morality. They believe that their vision of free markets (which begin right after the Government has ensured the IP licenses will be enforceable) will always provide the “right” answer.
Good stuff, thanks.
I remember (I’m old enough to remember) our reception as US Navy in Australia, Pakistan, Europe, … in the sixties.
I remember conversations with foreign students at Berkeley in the sixties.
I recall how the conversation turned to, “How /where did America go wrong?” by the eighties.
Are morals fixed? I’ve talked with those who wandered the nation during the Great Depression, asked them what it was like to be without a home, .., and they told me, “People would always give you something to eat.”
If everyone is solely motivated by greed, then cooperation is impossible. So much for the modern corporation. The truly greedy can only profit by relying on most people being motivated by things other than money. How could anyone build a business if one couldn’t trust employees to do their jobs and not to steal, one’s customers to pay what they owe, or one’s suppliers to provide what was paid for? Sure, there might be laws and courts, but that makes every transaction riskier and more expensive.
Economics never made any sense to me.
I’m not so sure that morality is the right term here. Morality can also be an abused concept – consider the Libertarian doctrine of “Taxation is theft”. (My answer: yes you are correct but so is property – and for EXACTLY the same reason – can we perhaps compromise?)
I am not really interested in whether economics (which as it is practiced is not really a science – even though it should be) is moral or not. What I want is that the policy choices are equitable. Economics is not policy choices.
To be honest as far as economics itself is concerned I have become increasing radical over time. It is like Persig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – what on the surface looks like a small problem becomes bigger and bigger the more you dig into it. I think economics really needs to be rebuilt from scratch. So many of its fundamental concepts are just wrong (e.g. Utility, General Equilibrium, Money, Capital, Savings). And so many of those concepts have so many accumulated connotations, that I think we need new names for many of the concepts.
And we have to put economic security at the heart of the analysis. Politics has shown beyond doubt it is what people really care about.