Today’s Big Question: Should we take modern economics and economists seriously?
- Kamran Mofid
- Hits: 4481
Those familiar with my writings know well that in the last number of years I have been at the forefront of highlighting the serious shortcomings of modern economics, as well as the failure of the majority of economists who teach and practice the subject. Please note: “the majority of the economists”, of course not all economists are to blame. For a long time now, I have been saying that the current global crises has given us a golden opportunity to ask ourselves some fundamental questions on what economics is or is not. Soul-searching and self-criticism should not be seen as a source of weakness, but as a source of strength, humility and the search for wisdom.
My attempts- as well as those other like-minded colleagues around the world- to shed light on the shortcomings of modern economics have never meant to be an exercise in academic point-scoring. As Winston Churchill once remarked: “The use of recriminating about the past is to enforce effective action at the present.”
Our task- to challenge the delusional mindset of “neoclassical” economists- was no less ambitious. We sincerely wished to name and shame those voices in modern economics that have been responsible for the current tragic global socio-economic crises, and therefore, enable the resurrection of sensible and humane economic policies, and returning the “dismal science” to its true position: a subject of beauty, wisdom and virtue
But, what can I say now?
It seems that we have not succeeded so far. Nothing has changed. To date, the world’s major economics associations have declined to censure the major facilitators of these grave crises or even to publicly identify them. This silence, this indifference to the engendering of human suffering, constitutes grave moral failure. It also gives license to those economists who continue to indulge in axiom-happy behaviour. Nor has the economics establishment offered recognition to those economists who were not taken in by fads and fashion and whose competence, if listened to, would have prevented these crises. These two silences reveal a continuing moral crisis within the economics profession”. (See Real-World Economics Review Blog, January 11, 2010).
As trained Economists who love our field and who have taught it for many years, while aware of its shortcomings, we are deeply troubled by the multiple crises that are engulfing the economy as well as Economics and our profession.
Economics must change. What we teach students must change. How it is practised must change. It must change if it is to play a constructive role in solving the multiple and multi-dimensional crises that so engulf our world, our species, the fabric of human community, relationship, and the web of life. We are running out of time. If our field does not change, if the revolution in thinking we have called for does not happen, if we do not revisit the rich and fertile soil in which our field was born, that being moral philosophy amid the broader questions of human existence, meaning, and ecology, then not only will we have retreated from the chance to play a constructive role in solving these crises, we will inherit well deserved scorn and contempt.
And as long as we do not change, show humility and respect, then, our profession and thus, ourselves, will remain a popular subject of ridicule and the butt of jokes, deservedly so.
See below for such examples:
Why do we take economists so seriously?
They have no foresight, no hindsight, and little humanity. Are they really the best people to lead us out of this crisis?
“Economics is not a science; it's not even a social science. It is an antisocial theory. It assumes behaviour is rational. It cannot calculate for contradiction, culture, altruism, fear, greed, love or humanity at all.”
What will happen in the eurozone? Don't ask the experts, they don't have a clue
“Conventional economics is now largely useless in trying to analyse the twists and turns of the unfolding euro crisis: it has long since left behind any rational calculation of what is good and bad for the Continent."
And now follow the above with those below, on what the consequences of amoral economic policy and agenda might look like. Economics used to be all about human well-being in society. This was well before the ascendancy of neo-liberal economics. It was when morality, ethics, spirituality, philosophy and the common good mattered most to economists. It is a pity that times have changed for the worse so much.
The jubilee jobseekers show modern Britain at its worst
“The audacity of these contractors makes me want to laugh, but what is paralysingly unfunny is how much larger this is than two organisations; how much desperation there is that people would do this job for nothing; how much sheer unfairness there is in society recasting the cost of training as something to be borne by the person starting out; how much inhumanity there is in abasing the unemployed.”
Jubilee workfare: A Dickensian tale brought to life
“It’s as though Charles Dickens himself penned this story, and authorities in power have sought to bring it to life 142 years after his death. What a throwback to the dreary Victorian era often portrayed by the novelist; the forgotten unemployed bussed into the capital under moonlight and told to get their ‘heads down’ under a dirty bridge in readiness for a gruelling 14-hour shift.”…