- Written by: Kamran Mofid
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Will we ever learn just to be content? Asks John Lanchester in a very interesting article in today’s(10 December 2010) Independent
No. Says Kamran Mofid: As long as the foundations of our socio-economic and political systems and philosophy is built upon greed, envy, fear, competition and inequality, and as long as the measurement of “happiness” and “success” is based mainly on how much money one makes, how much one consumes and owns. And what a false philosophy this is: all is shattered when one discovers that their friends, neighbours, fellow-workers...are earning more, spending more, having more,...
Perhaps the answer is to debate this issue at our universities, the business schools and departments of economics and more. Maybe we should have courses on “What is Happiness?”: What is it that gives us a more lasting happiness, rather than the transient ones, which we mostly teach our students: money, power, position and possession? As it stands we are obsessed with unbridled growth, “more and more is better” philosophy. Can we not engage with our students and start thinking “about when we have sufficient – sufficient money, sufficient stuff – and whether we really need the things we think we do, beyond what we already have?”. Can we not tell them “that we should look less at what our next-door neighbours have, and more at what the rest of the planet dreams of having. Then, we should try to learn to be content where we are. In a world running out of resources, the most important ethical and political and ecological idea can be summed up in one simple word: "enough".
...”Living happily is “the desire of us all, but our minds is blinded to a clear vision of just what it is that makes life happy”. The root of happiness is ethical behaviour, and thus the ancient idea of moral education and cultivation, is essential to ideal of joyfulness”...
- Written by: Kamran Mofid, PhD
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In October 2010, an international student movement to free the economics curriculum from its neoclassical straightjacket was launched at the University of California at Berkeley)...
The Sorbonne, Oxford and Cambridge and now the Berkeley
In 2005, in my co-authored book, Promoting the Common Good, I highlighted the fact that students are rebelling against the way economics is being taught. Please see the following passage from the book.
…”The obviously contrived nature of neo-classical economics has begun to attract many calls for change. One of the most vocal has come from university students. This is music to my ears. It is something I would very much like to share with you.
In the spring of 2000 an interesting dichotomy between theory and reality in economics teaching appeared in France when economics students from some of the most prestigious universities, including the Sorbonne, published a petition on the internet urging fellow students to protest against the way economics was being taught. They were against the domination of rationalist theories, the marginalisation of critical and reflective thought and the use of increasingly complex mathematical models. Some argued that the drive to make economics more like physics was flawed, and that it should be wrenched back in line with its more social aspects. They called the economics they were being taught ‘autistic’– divorced from reality – and called for a post-autistic economics that would ‘rescue economics from its autistic and socially irresponsible state’. Autisme-economie, the Post- Autistic Economics (PAE) movement, was born”…
Read the whole chapter 4:
(Pages 34-39 deals with the Sorbonne as well as the campaign by group of PhD candidates at Oxford and Cambridge universities who issued their own manifestos “Opening Up Economics”)
Today the students of economics at Berkeley have started their own revolution against the dismal science of mambo jumbo. This is very significant, as now many around the world have discovered the role that neo-classical economics and economists have played in the current financial and economic meltdown. Given your own interest in this subject, I have provided you with the link to the Berkeley Students’ Manifesto for New Economics below.
The next obvious step for all those who love economics as it was, a subject of wisdom, beauty and elegance, is to come together and see how we may be able to rescue it from the “Guilty” ones and take it back to the fertile field on which it was born- moral philosophy amid the broader questions of human existence and meaning.
Below you can see further on the urgency of our task:
Put your trust in Socrates, not economists
Editorial, The Observer, 16 August 2009
"THE WISDOM OF Socrates was famously summarised as his ability to know that he knew nothing. So in modern times he would probably be an economist. Few saw the credit crunch coming. Since it arrived, opinions as to the severity of its consequences, its effects on different nations and the prescriptions to remedy them have varied wildly"...
- Read the Editorial: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/aug/16/socrates-credit-crunch-global-economy/print
Economists are the forgotten guilty men
Academics - and their mad theories - are to blame for the financial crisis. They too deserve to be hauled into the dock
From The Times
February 5, 2009
…” The answer was beautifully expressed two generations ago by John Maynard Keynes: “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”
What the “madmen in authority” were hearing this time was the echo of a debate that consumed academic economists in the 1960s and 1970s - a debate won by the side whose theories turned out to be wrong. This debate was about the “efficiency” of markets and the “rationality” of the investors, consumers and businesses who inhabit them.
On those two dubious adjectives “rational” and “efficient” an enormous theoretical superstructure of models, regulatory prescriptions and computer simulations was built. And without this intellectual framework, the bankers and politicians would never have built the towers of bad debt and bad policy that have come crashing down”...
…“ Equally pernicious has been the stifling of intellectual debate among academic economists, who have spent the past 20 years arguing about the properties of their imaginary mathematical models rather than the behaviour of the real economy these models were supposed to describe.
The question, not only for professional economists but for all those in politics and business who have relied on these ideas, is what will happen to economics now that its fundamental assumptions and mathematical models have been totally discredited by events.
There seem to be only two options. Either the subject has to be abandoned as an academic discipline and becomes a mere appendage of the collection and analysis of statistics. Or it must undergo an intellectual revolution.
The prevailing academic orthodoxy has to be recognised as a blind alley. Economics will have to revert to a genuine competition between diverse intellectual approaches - such as behavioural psychology, sociology, control engineering and the mathematics of chaos theory.
So economics is on the brink of a paradigm shift. We are where astronomy was when Copernicus realised that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The academic economics of the past 20 years is comparable to pre-Copernican astronomy, with its mysterious heavenly cogs, epicycles and wheels within wheels or maybe even astrology, with its faith in star signs.
The academic Establishment will resist such a shift, as it always does. But luckily economists understand incentives. They should now be given a clear choice: embrace new ideas or return their public funding and Nobel prizes, alongside the bankers' bonuses they justified and inspired”.
Now is the time for a revolution in economic thought
Anatole Kaletsky: Economic View
From The Times
February 9, 2009
…”While some economists had warned for years about global trade imbalances, escalating house prices, of excessive consumer borrowing, none of them remotely foresaw the truly unprecedented feature of the present crisis: the total breakdown of financial markets caused by the unforced blunders by investors and banks. Modern economists were inherently incapable of understanding such a problem because they assumed that investors were “rational” and markets “efficient”…
“…George Soros is no mathematician like Mandelbrot, but he has repeatedly demonstrated far better understanding of how market economies work than any professional economist by using psychological and philosophical ideas”…
“…One reason why such fruitful insights have been ignored is the convention adopted by academic economists some 30 years ago that all serious ideas must be expressed in equations, not words. By this weird standard, the intellectual giants of the subject — Adam Smith, Ricardo, Keynes, Hayek — would not now be recognised as serious economists at all”…
Who taught them greed is good?
To what extent are business schools' MBA courses responsible for the global financial crash?
Peter Walker, The Observer, Sunday 8 March 2009
…” Harvard MBAs are usually worn as a badge of pride, especially when, as with Hornby, you graduate as the top student in your year. But as the debris settles from the worldwide collapse in credit and banking confidence and the reckoning begins on who exactly led the financial system into chaos, an increasing number of fingers are being pointed at leading business schools”...
“Similar arguments have been made before, most recently when US energy giant Enron imploded amid a mountain of concealed debt, a scandal stewarded by another Harvard alumnus, Jeffrey Skilling. Too many MBA programmes, the simplified version goes, draw in young, greedy types with little business experience and indoctrinate them with half-baked management and finance theories, along with an unshakeable belief in their own talents, before sending them out to earn ill-deserved fortunes in investment banking and consulting”...
…” Unusually for a business school professor, Rao expresses serious misgivings about the fundamental ethos of such institutions: "Our top business schools are really not education institutions, they are indoctrination institutions. There are certain things which are so much dogma that you don't even want to encourage any challenge to them - the primacy and efficiency of markets, maximising shareholder value. These things are not in question."
He believes that notions developed in business schools such as agency theory, which argues that the managers' interests and those of their shareholders need to be aligned through devices such as stock options, have created a world of short-term profits in which executives gorge on bonuses”...
A Note on what Economics should be:
”The focus of economics should be on the benefit and the bounty that the economy produces, on how to let this bounty increase, and how to share the benefits justly among the people for the common good, removing the evils that hinder this process. Moreover, economic investigation should be accompanied by research into subjects such as anthropology, philosophy, politics and most importantly, theology, to give insight into our own mystery, as no economic theory or no economist can say who we are, where have we come from or where we are going to. Humankind must be respected as the centre of creation and not relegated by more short term economic interests"...
- See: http://www.globalisationforthecommongood.info/globalisation-for-the-common-good-initiative/how-it-all-began/
Kamran Mofid PhD (ECON)
- Written by: Kamran Mofid, PhD
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A Reflection by Kamran Mofid
There is a lot going on in the UK and the rest of the world and in particular in Canada and France, amongst others, which I strongly believe is very relevant to all the good things that we are all involved with, including the value-based economics/business education and globalisation for the common good, for example. The headline in today’s Guardian (14 November 2010) is all about how the new coalition Government in Britain is aiming to make happiness and well-being a major part of how the “New” GDP should be measured. I hope they mean what they say. Sometimes, given the record of politicians of all parties, it is so difficult to believe them.
I am, nonetheless, very excited about all these. At least they are talking sense for a change! I like what I am hearing. I was amongst a number of economists whom many years ago, well before it became fashionable to say so, began to write and speak about this. It was very costly to me, professionally and personally. I said what I said, at the height of Thatcherism, Reaganism and the dreaded Washington Consensus. However, now I am humbled by the turn of events. Who said there is no justice in this world!
Below I have provided you with a sample of what I wrote and said all those years ago, as well as the links to the articles in the Guardian. They speak for themselves. This is a golden opportunity for us all to come together for the common good. Let us explore and see how our collective wisdom, work, experience and know- how can be utilised, so that indeed the politicians will carry out what they say they wish to do. We, together, must ensure words will be translated into actions. We must ensure that this is not only a gimmick, indexing and measuring! We know that great thinkers and sages throughout the ages have all reminded us that measuring happiness and well-being is always more than just a box-ticking exercise.
They must be encouraged to see the bigger pictures of life by asking the deeper questions that rarely find their way into political debate or public discourse. The questions that are deeply spiritual: What is the source of true happiness and well-being? What is the good life? What is the purpose of economic life? What is true affluence? What is genuine wealth? Does money hold the secret to having a happy life? Should money be a means to an end or the goal itself? Other questions include: What is education? What is knowledge? What does it mean to be a human being living on a spaceship with finite resources? How can we contribute to creating the new civilisation for the common good?
For me, these are some of the most important questions, requiring a great deal of attention, reflection and thoughtfulness. How can one proposes paths of happiness if one does not know who he/she is, where have they come from, where are going to, and what is the purpose of this journey we call life?
In order to heal ourselves, to heal our Mother Earth, to propose solutions to the many and varied global crises we must learn, once again, The Art of Living in a loving and caring World. We cannot begin this journey, without, first and foremost, finding inner-peace and contentment ourselves first. We should acknowledge that a truly genuine and sustainable world is grounded in what is most valuable in life: love, meaningful relationships, family, friendship, freedom, sufficiency, comradeship, volunteerism, altruism, cooperation, kindness, generosity, sympathy and empathy.
On these and please read more on the GCGI website.
What I said all those years ago
“From 1980 onwards, for the next twenty years, I taught economics in universities, enthusiastically demonstrating how economic theories provided answers to problems of all sorts. I got quite carried away by the beauty, the sophisticated elegance of complicated mathematical models and theories. But gradually I started to have an empty feeling.
I began to ask fundamental questions of myself. Why did I never talk to my students about compassion, dignity, comradeship, solidarity, happiness, spirituality – about the meaning of life? We never debated the biggest questions. Who are we? Where have we come from? Where are we going to?
I told them to create wealth, but I did not tell them for what reason. I told them about scarcity and competition, but not about abundance and co-operation. I told them about free trade, but not about fair trade; about GNP – Gross National Product – but not about GNH – Gross National Happiness. I told them about profit maximisation and cost minimisation, about the highest returns to the shareholders, but not about social consciousness, accountability to the community, sustainability and respect for creation and the creator. I did not tell them that, without humanity, economics is a house of cards built on shifting sands.
These conflicts caused me much frustration and alienation, leading to heartache and despair. I needed to rediscover myself and a real- life economics. After a proud twenty-year or so academic career, I became a student all over again. I would study theology and philosophy, disciplines nobody had taught me when I was a student of economics and I did not teach my own students when I became a teacher of economics.
It was at this difficult time that I came to understand that I needed to bring spirituality, compassion, ethics and morality back into economics itself, to make this dismal science once again relevant to and concerned with the common good. It was now that I made the following discoveries:
• Living happily is “the desire of us all, but our minds is blinded to a clear vision of just what it is that makes life happy”. The root of happiness is ethical behaviour, and thus the ancient idea of moral education and cultivation, is essential to ideal of joyfulness”…Read more on the GCGI.info website.
The Guardian articles: