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Since posting the text of the lecture I gave at London School of Economics, at the Annual General Meeting of the World Congress of Faiths Economics, Globalisation and the Common Good: A Lecture at LondonSchool of Economics I have received many encouraging notes, comments and some very good questions.

One of the questions from an undergraduate student of economics was:

Can you please tell me ‘Why Economics Needs the Common Good?’

I thought what a very good question. It needs my immediate response.

I began to reflect, formulating my response and answer. I went through some of my earlier writings and publication, and luckily I came across an article I had co-written with my very good friend and colleague, Prof. Steve Szeghi, Dept of Economics, Wilmington College, Ohio, USA, on 22 April 2010:

Economics and Economists Engulfed By Crises: What Do We Tell the Students?

I began to read it again, and wow it was all there:

“Four justifications for the common good which are not commonly discussed in economics

‘It is the belief in collective responsibility and collective endeavour that allows individual freedom to flourish. This can only be realised when we commit ourselves to the common good and begin to serve it.’

1) Human Beings need contact with other human beings.  We need relationships as we are social beings.  It is in our relationships that we find genuine happiness and meaning.  

2) Human Beings need community, apart and distinct from our individual relationships with other human beings. There is a connection to the whole, a belonging to the community which is the key to happiness and meaning. Such is manifest in socialization and education among many other aspects of community.  

3) A love for the Common Good is essential for the psychological and spiritual health of the individual.  

4) Nature, the web of life, and the integrity of the earth are also part of the Common Good, and neither the human community nor the individual person can be healthy without this aspect of the Common Good.

Economics must find ways to incorporate all of these lessons in equality, social justice, ecological balance, and respect for the earth, community and relationship into its standard approach.  And that incorporation will be the revolution in economic thinking for which we call.  We proclaim and demonstrate that now also is the time for a revolution in the teaching of economics.  It can not wait.  We need to teach students a new bottom line. We have described many specifics on what needs to be taught.  Finally we call for new economics textbooks, while citing the deficiencies of those most popular.  

This is an exciting time for our field, for our profession, for our passion.  Yet, it is also a troubling time.  As we have said, Economics is not without blame for the crises which are engulfing the planet, the economy, and our profession.  Economics must change.  What we teach students 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.  The opportunity is upon us.  Let us seize it.  Carpe Diem!”

I emailed the above to the student who had asked the question, and decided to post it also online, as I am sure there are others thinking on the same question.

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