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Time for a Rethink

What is Economics and What is an Economist!

Applied Economics professor teaches in front of a chalkboard.

 N.B.This photo is via the University of Minnesota, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, describing and promoting the Study of Applied Economics to all potential students who are 'Seekers, Doers, Makers and Dreamers' - ‘The Applied Economics major is designed to give you a solid foundation in economics and how it is applied in the real world to improve people’s lives. You will develop strong critical thinking skills, data analysis proficiency, and the ability to communicate your ideas in writing…’- Applied Economics (There you have it: A Professor of Economics imparting Wisdom to the  Seekers, Doers, Makers and Dreamers!!)

“The point of studying economics is so as not to be fooled by economists.”- Joan Robinson (1903–1983)

As Robinson with prophetic words and a lesson that to my mind resonates in today’s turbulent and unequal economy and society has reminded us: ‘the task of the economist is to combat the idea that the only values that count are those that can be measured in terms of money.’

Modern Economics today is a lost and confused soul

What is wrong with modern economics? The clear answer is that it is mostly simply irrelevant. It has been becoming increasingly so for about seventy to eighty years now. Its formulations, in the main, are patently and repeatedly unrealistic, and so able to provide little or no explanatory insight or understanding of the world in which we live.’- Tony Lawson

Modern economics is sick. Economics has increasingly become an intellectual game played for its own sake and not for its practical consequences for understanding the economic world. Economists have converted the subject into a sort of social mathematics in which analytical rigour is everything and practical relevance is nothing.’- Mark Blaug

Time to make the study of economics a rewarding and meaningful path to an education that instils and helps to foster a sense of hope, pride and empowerment in shaping our future leaders’ moral and spiritual identity. Moreover and just as importantly, this approach to education at the time marked by a collapse of trust and respect in politics, economics, and education can help empower the younger generation to claim more say over their futures in these challenging times.

In schools of economics, courses, programmes and classrooms, there exists a very destructive and harmful imbalance between the professors and students, there is no meaningful dialogue, it's all a monologue. The students do not generally speak, they are spoken to. If we are seeking a better education, a better life and a good society, then, this kind of teaching must change. Dialogue must replace monologue. Carpe diem!!

 “Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T. S. Eliot

The world needs healing and healers with a careful recognition of what truly elevates and empowers the human spirit, to think good, speak good, and do good.

Time for Dreaming and Reimagining a New Economics

'Before we can build the world we want to live in, we have to imagine it.'

‘My Dream Economics’: Economics in the Service of Humanity and Economists taking Action in the interest of the Common Good

As long as greed, selfishness and competition are stronger than kindness, empathy, selflessness and cooperation, there will always be suffering and pain, fear and anxiety.

We need to bring economics, virtues and humanity together in dialogue and conversation if we are to find a common language to resist the downfall of humanity, environmental degradation and destruction.

At a time of collective and justified angst, given the state of our world and our lives, when the future seems so very short and uncertain, economists empowered by virtues and human values, must become storytellers of a better future, the flowering of the human spirit, enabling us to discover  the sort of imagery that is needed, not only to see the value of economic principles, but also to find a language of hope that can be nurtured and shared, everywhere, throughout the world.

The Pyramids | Deep Dream Generator

Photo: Via DeepDreamGenerator

With surveys after surveys, studies after studies, noting that economists by and large are among the least trusted and valued professionals ever anywhere in the world, is this not the time for a good dose of humility, repentance, seeking forgiveness from those that the mainstream economists have left behind and caused them so much pain, namely, the 99%? 

Economists Do Your Economics for One Reason and Let that Reason be to Transform Lives for Good: This is Where Economics Meets Hope, Beauty, Wisdom and Goodness

Academic economists should engage with their students on Life’s Big Questions, questions of meaning, values and purpose: 

1. What does it mean to be human?

2. What does it mean to live a life of meaning and purpose?

3. What does it mean to understand and appreciate the natural world?

4. What does it mean to forge a more just society for the common good?

5- In what ways are we living our highest values?

6- How are we working to embody the changes we wish to see in the world?

7- What projects, models or initiatives give us the greatest sense of hope?

8- How can we do well in life by doing good?

By their very nature, these questions involve thought and discussion around spirituality, ethics, morals and values.

‘We recognise that our socio-economic problems are a reflection of our attitude to life and to one another. Justice, peace and harmony will come about only when the connection between the spiritual and practical in life is valued by each one of us and in society at large. This is beautifully expressed in a Chinese proverb:

“If there be righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.

If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.

If there be harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.

When there is order in each nation, there will be peace in the world.”-Kamran Mofid

The way forward: So what is to be done? How can we get out of the vicious circle of modern economics?

To my mind the first step is dreaming and imagining what that New Economics might be 

“Before we can build the world we want to live in, we have to imagine it.” 

Can Economics become the Education of our Dreams?

Before anything else, I would like to share the most inspiring and timeless words of hope and wisdom from a teacher that has greatly inspired and influenced my teaching style and values. Here I am most humbly inspired by Lao Tzu, a mystic philosopher of ancient China, considered the founder of Taoism. He said:

‘Some say that my teaching is nonsense.

Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,

this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,

You reconcile all beings in the world.’

Lest We Forget

As a topic of research, teaching and studying, concepts such as, dreams, hope, love, imagination, emotions, feelings and suchlike, have long been ignored and discarded, and rarely ever mentioned by the  mainstream economists. 

We must never allow ourselves to be separated from some of the most important parts of our spiritual life, guiding us and putting us more in touch with true aspects of our humanity, who we are and why we are. 

I don’t know about you, but have you ever seen any modern economists, or any economic commentator/analyst  ever mentioning any of these concepts in their analysis, policy recommendations, classrooms, workplace, media outlets, and more? It seems that in the neoclassical paradigm with its focus on rationality, allocation of scarce resources, self-interest, and equilibrium , there is no room or any interest for normative and subjective experiences.  But we now clearly know that, these concepts have a huge impact on economics and economy.  To my mind, it is high time to shed more light on this relationship and this is the gist of this Blog.

I dream of the day when professors of economics engage with their students not only on economic and monetary issues and questions, but also with philosophy, theology, poetry, literature, arts and music-amongst others- that talk about empathy, compassion, solidarity, beauty, moral, spiritual and other similar humanistic values and aspects of life and living. 

This engagement, to my mind, has a unique capacity to help students connect holistically with the people and environment, as opposed to viewing them as an economic/monetary problem in need of fixing. This holistic approach to the study of economics, in goodness of time, will encourage the students to think and reflect on bigger questions of life, questions such as, Who am I, Why am I and What is the Purpose of this Journey We Call Life? 

Moreover, they will realise that life is not an exact science, which could quickly get reduced to the technical and mechanical manipulation of mathematical, econometric models and nonsensical jargons.

“We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside of us already. We have the power to imagine better.” - J.K. Rowling

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions. Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.” -  Albert Einstein

The Transformative Power of Hope, Love, Dreams, and Imagination in the Study of Economics to Create the Future We Deserve

A good question: How can we promote the common good?

Photo: Via ReformMagazine

Can we forge a society built on shared values, one that respects difference? Can we build a state that cares, not purely in a macroeconomic context, but in a personal and individual one? Can we find space for kindness against a backdrop of complexity and cost, where we have allowed compassion to be viewed as a luxury for the charitable rich?  Can we nudge people to behave altruistically? Can we build a view of society that is built not from the extremes, not from saints and sinners, but through the everyday kindness of action, by state, by organisation, by individual? Can greed be transformed into generosity, selfishness to selflessness, hatred to kindness,...,? Can we alter policies and practices to make the world a kinder place?

In ‘My Dream Economics’ the answers to all the above questions are, Yes We Can!

‘I Have a Dream.’

I Am Dreaming. Would it not be just wonderful if You too should decide to join me, so that we can dream together, empowering each other to become the architects of the New World we are all yearning for? We need to do away with the prevalent economic mindset that has brought us all a very bitter harvest.

Shaping the Wisdom, Sharing the Dream

‘One who dreams is called a prophet’

The world needs dreamers, and inspired by the everlasting words of Martin Luther King, ‘I Have a Dream’ I, too, dream that one day Economics becomes a collaborative partner that aligns itself with Life, Humanity, Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Wisdom, Social Justice and the Common Good.

'The world belongs to the dreamer and doer

That lives within you and me

We build a better future when we are willing 

To let our best ideas roam free 

Today, the world is calling upon us

To activate our power 

To dream differently.’-The World Dream Day

People are a part of economics, economy, and humanity  – not apart from them.

Economics is about the issues that affect the way we live, work, play, dream and interact with each other and with mother nature. Economists must then become the instruments of harmony, custodians of the values of the NEW Economics, the torchbearers, shedding lights, leading and inspiring others to walk on the path of economics of hope, happiness. wellbeing and prosperity for all.

As we study economics, we must learn to value the entire web of life in all we do and not only money, profit and economic growth!!

The core values In ‘My Dream Economics are to move away from the concept of Scarcity (Fear) to Abundance (Empowerment, Hope and Trust), from Competition ( Individualism, Selfishness, Losers and Winners) to Cooperation ( Common Good, Selflessness, Alturism, when everyone is a winner), From the Illusion of Infinite Economic Growth (GDP) to the Reality and Truthfulness of Life Sustaining Economics and Growth National Happiness, and From Market Economic System (Greed is Good) to Humanitarian spiritual system (People’s Economy, production for Human Needs with  Respect for Mother Nature’s Needs and Survival and Ecological Balance).

All said and done, ‘My Dream’ is all about us collectively becoming the Stewards of Creation and Not the Plunders of Mother Earth, marching forward to build a better world for all with love, kindness and commitment towards truth, honesty, beauty and goodness. Carpe diem 

Cultivating and Reclaiming Trust, Moral Sentiments, Ethics, Simplicity, Beauty, Wisdom, Civility, and Spiritual Courage for Modern Economics and Economists

Economics in the Service of Humanity and Economists taking Action in the interest of the Common Good

Elsewhere, I have explained in some details the path to ‘My Dream Economics’ which I encourage the interested reader to see for more:

Economics and What it Means to Be Human

A world reimagined

Hope is the Beginning of Reimagining a Better World, a Better Life

That New Path is Called the Path of Hope!

“We Are Here for the Sake of One Another”

The world needs hope; every person, everywhere, needs hope. HOPE gives us life. HOPE connects us. HOPE fuels us. HOPE moves us. HOPE keeps us. HOPE grounds us. HOPE protects us. HOPE anchors us.

The Path of Hope- a painting by Cicakkia

Hope’- as many wise teachers have reminded us- 'is a driving force for transformation, innovation, economic growth and wellbeing. Hope, often articulated as an endorsed desire for a future which is uncertain, has a clear economic significance as do the unfortunate opposites such as anxiety and inertness. Hence, hope is more than just an emotion or an optimistic attitude. It is related to reason and prudence in the sense of one’s rational assessment of a difficult situation, possible solutions and the prediction of changes. Hope is as complex and ambiguous as the human person itself. For many centuries philosophers and theologians have reflected on the meaning of hope. More recently hope has drawn attention to the young discipline of positive psychology. Also in economics, attempts are made to define the concept and measure its effects, opening up the way for policy interventions…’- Excerpts from my lecture at Oxford Theology Society: Values to Make the World Great Again

This is how we have been imagining a better world at the GCGI

Imagine a political system that puts the public first.  Imagine the economy and markets serving people rather than the other way round.  Imagine us placing values of respect, fairness, interdependence, and mutuality at the heart of our economy. Imagine an economy that gives everyone their fair share, at least an appropriate living wage, and no zero-hour contracts.  Imagine where jobs are accessible and fulfilling, producing useful things rather than games of speculation and casino capitalism.  Imagine where wages support lives rather than an ever expanding division and separations between the top 1% and the rest.  Imagine a society capable of supporting everyone’s needs, and which says no to greed.  Imagine unrestricted access to an excellent education, healthcare, housing and social services.  Imagine hunger being eliminated, no more food banks and soup kitchens.  Imagine each person having a place he/she can call home.  Imagine all senior citizens living a dignified and secure life.  Imagine all the youth leading their lives with ever-present hope for a better world.  Imagine a planet protected from the threat of climate change now and for the generations to come. Imagine no more wars, but dialogue, conversation and non-violent resolution of conflicts.

GCGI is our journey of hope and the sweet fruit of a labour of love. It is free to access, and it is ad-free too. We spend hundreds of hours, volunteering our labour and time, spreading the word about what is good and what matters most. If you think that's a worthy mission, as we do—one with powerful leverage to make the world a better place—then, please consider offering your moral and spiritual support by joining our circle of friends, spreading the word about the GCGI and forwarding the website to all those who may be interested.

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