- Kamran Mofid
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Remaking Economics in an age of economic soul-searching
My continuous journey and quest for economic meaning, values, thoughts and vision
‘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 real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”- Marcel Proust
The above quote by Proust reminds me of another, by Sir Tom Stoppard: “It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”
Yes, its true: Everything I knew, everything I was taught and everything I taught my own students about this so-called modern economics is still wrong. It is time to try and put right the wrongs:
Remaking Economics in an age of economic soul-searching
"The next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it”-Samuel Johnson
It is high time to shift and broaden the purpose and practice of economics to generate true wealth, prosperity and well-being for all.
The lackluster economy, continuous and deepening global crisis since the crash of 2008 and much much more are delivering a humbling lesson about economics: Values-less theories and models, laced with large doses of incomprehensible mathematical mumbo-jumbo, resulting in top-line growth, doesn’t ensure either bottom-line prosperity nor ethical/moral/spiritual behaviour or a good life.
Yet, the practice of conventional economics remains focused solely on the former while the latter is deemed someone else’s responsibility, which has resulted in socialism (with all the benefits) for the 1% and capitalism (with all the costs and consequences) for the rest!
However, now, years of soul-searching have spawned movements that could change fundamental aspects of the field, from the way it is taught to people who practice it and the underlying theories it treats as gospel. This GCGI Common Good Project- Remaking Economics- examines the foundations of a revolution with far-reaching consequences for our understanding of the world, our lives and ultimate wellbeing.
Below, you will find a sample of my take on ‘Remaking Economics’:
Firstly, lest we forget, the big questions are:
Can we Remake Economics and Create an Economy for the Common Good?
Can we have an economic system that places human beings and all living entities at the center of economic activity?
The answers to my mind is an emphatic Yes and Yes.
But only if economics stops being a ‘Bastard Science and Clandestine Fundamentalist Religion of Self-harm and Destruction’
Please Join the Conversation below:
"Today's neoclassical economist is an emperor with no clothes who's fooled us all long enough."
Economics Today: A Clandestine Religion Masquerading as a ‘Bastard Science’
The telling story of how rather than being wielded as a tool to serve society, economics has been practised like a religion and used to shape the conduct of our lives, not for better, but for worse, far worse, than you can ever imagine.
'The real science of political economy, which has yet to be distinguished from the bastard science, as medicine from witchcraft, and astronomy from astrology, is that which teaches nations to desire and labour for the things that lead to life; and which teaches them to scorn and destroy the things which lead to destruction.' John Ruskin- 'Unto This Last'
Bastard Economics, Neoliberalism and People's’ Tragedy
(Letter to the editor of the Times on 8 March 2011)
Sir, Around 1991 I offered the London School of Economics a grant of £1 million to set up a Chair in Business Ethics. John Ashworth, at that time the Director of the LSE, encouraged the idea but had to write to me to say, regretfully, that the faculty had rejected the offer as it saw no correlation between ethics and economics. Quite. Lord Kalms, House of Lords
And now, the first paragraph of a letter I wrote to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 27th November 2008, regarding her question at London School of Economics, when she asked: “Why did nobody notice?”
“I note, with much interest, Your Majesty’s recent visit to the London School of Economics. Given the current financial calamity, Your Majesty asked a very pertinent and important question: “Why did nobody notice?”
I firmly believe that the director of research and his colleagues present there, should have provided Your Majesty with truthful and honest answers. However, given what I have read in the press, I do not believe this was the case. Their failure to do so, clearly goes a long way to prove the detachment of economists and the modern neo-liberal economics from the real world. They have turned our profession and subject into a comedy of errors, a dismal science of irrelevance.
This is very sad indeed Your Majesty. An entire profession now appears to have suffered a collapse. Trust and confidence in my profession has all but been demolished, the “dismal science” at its worst.
Many mistakes have been made. Many economists have compromised themselves and their profession by remaining silent, not criticising the extremism and the neo-liberal fundamentalism present in their profession. Lessons should be learnt, someone should be held accountable. Otherwise the same mistakes will be repeated and nobody will believe what an economist says again. In other words, Your Majesty deserves a proper and honest answer…”
'On September 11, 1973—now referred to as the “other 9/11”—Augusto Pinochet staged a successful coup to oust Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. Backed by the CIA, American business interests, and the blessings of Henry Kissinger, Pinochet, enlisting economists trained under Milton Friedman and the so-called “Chicago boys,” restructured the Chilean economy in the image of what has now come to be known as “neoliberalism,” that state apparatus which seeks to deregulate markets, privatize formerly public assets, minimize the power of unions, unleash all manner of austerity measures—in short, to ensure, in the name of freedom, an increasingly frictionless flow of capital across borders and into the bank accounts of those in power.’+
'Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power.'
The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits, whilst the businesses' sole purpose is to generate profit for shareholders”- Milton Friedman, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
"The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit" – James Murdoch, Chief, News Corp
Marketisation, privatisation, liberalisation, deregulation, self-regulation, downsizing, outsourcing, cost-cutting, profit-maximisation, cost-minimisation, highest returns to the shareholders, values-free actions and education, alternative facts, falsehood, lies and deceitful thoughts, brainwashing, bribery and corruption,…:
Oxford Theology Society Lecture: Values to Make the World Great Again (My lecture at Keble College, University of Oxford, 8 March 2017)
'In spite of the utter failure of academic and professional economists to predict, explain or find solutions to the financial and economic crises sweeping the globalised, marketised world they have created, there is still little challenge to the narrow and one-sided way that economics is taught in our universities. In spite of the fact that economics is about complex human relationships, and is therefore bound to be the subject of debate and disagreement, there is no problem with university courses that only teach the neoclassical pro-market approach.’ Calling all academic economists: What are you teaching your students?
A new economics: Teaching of discipline needs to rely less on abstract models’-Financial Times editorial (November 12, 2013)
‘There is no doubt that today capitalism is under fire. It is besieged and under attack. To my mind this is the best time to revisit Adam Smith and to try to see if we can locate the true and real Smith. As what has been mainly known about Adam Smith and ascribed to him, are far from the truth. The right-wingers and the market-fundamentalists for too long have abused Smith in order to promote their obnoxious agenda and to legitimise exploitation of people and resources for the benefit of the 1%.
‘In the interest of accountability to truth and to Smith himself, this must be challenged and attempts must be made to discover the real Adam Smith and his true values.’ Imaging a Better World: Moving forward with the real Adam Smith
My take on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)& Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs)
‘As well as setting goals every now and again, what people need to hear is an account of why there is so much suffering in this world. Why is there such a sickening level of abject poverty and inequality in and between nations? Why is there such a level of global mistrust and injustice? Why is there so much environmental degradation? Why are we told there is not enough money for education, health, sanitation, drinking water and social services, but there is always plenty for military expenditures and waging wars? If we try to answer these questions first, then there would be a greater possibility of attaining those goals.
To find those answers we need to appreciate that the ethos of neo-liberalism is destructive of the very SDGs we are seeking to establish in our relationships in society and with Mother Nature. The current neoliberal capitalist paradigm – economic liberalization, marketisation, privatisation, free trade, endless economic growth, profit-maximisation, cost-minimisation, fierce competition, huge bonuses for short-term gains, and more – provide strong incentives to ignore distributive justice and ecological sustainability, the very aims of the SDGs.’ Sustainable Development Goals: Where is the Common Good?
Economics and Values-less Teaching: A View from Students
Economics students from 19 countries have joined forces to call for an overhaul of the way their subject is taught, saying the dominance of narrow free-market theories at top universities harms the world's ability to confront challenges such as financial stability and climate change.
In the first global protest against mainstream economic teaching, the International Student Initiative for Pluralist Economics (ISIPE) argues that economics courses are failing wider society when they ignore evidence from other disciplines.
The students, who have formed 41 protest groups in universities from Britain and the US to Brazil and Russia, say research and teaching in economics departments is too narrowly focused and more effort should be made to broaden the curriculum. They want courses to include analysis of the financial crash that so many economists failed to see coming, and say the discipline has become divorced from the real world...GCGI supports the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics
The sad and dysfunctional image of humanity that has been created by economists
My take on a better economics, fairer economy, prosperity, well-being and happiness for the many and not the few, as expressed in my Open Letter to prime minister Theresa May:
…’Now the Big Question: How may the feral, greedy, dishonest, selfish and untrustworthy capitalism be reformed?
The answer is: Very easy indeed, if heart and mind work together in harmony for the common good.
Please reform our education system and model: It is the current educational values that have given respectability to feral capitalism.
So away with the current model and usher in the new education model:
"Education to Build a Better Future for All"
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.-Lao Tzu
'We live in a world with many complex problems, at all levels, local, regional and global. It is said that education is the key that opens the door to a more harmonious world.
The pertinent question is: What kind of education and learning would help us address these challenges and create a sustainable world and a better life for all?
T.S. Eliot posed the question: "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?"
Reflecting on the questions above, we are going to need an education system that respects planetary boundaries, that recognises the dependence of human well-being on social relations and fairness, and that the ultimate goal is human well-being and ecological sustainability, not merely growth of material consumption.
The new education model recognises that the economy is embedded in a society and culture that are themselves embedded in an ecological life-support system, and that the economy can't grow forever on this finite planet.
In short, we need to listen to our hearts, re-learn what we think we know, and encourage our children to think and behave differently, to live more in synch with Nature.
If we do this successfully we can become wiser as a species, more “eco-logical.” We and the planet that gave birth to us can be happier and healthier, healed and transformed.'...
The rise in corruption must be tackled head-on.
Based on my own extensive experience and observation, I must admit that the ordinary British are not corrupted so far. But many institutions, high-ranking officials, MPs, Lords, business and financial leaders, media tycoons, and more have become corrupted to the core, since the rise of Thatcherism with its inhumane values.
This has resulted in a huge erosion of trust at every level, destroying the fabric of our society.
How can we restore trust? We need to be guided by the values that are not informing our actions today, the values that have brought us disaster, leading to the continuation of crises after crises.
We need to encourage simplicity and a more simple life.
“Simplicity is not grinding poverty: It is not the polar opposite of wealth. To live simply is to pursue a quiet path of moderation. In a life of balance between opposite extremes lies inner happiness.
People everywhere, in their quest for happiness outside themselves, discover in the end that they’ve been seeking it in an empty cornucopia, and sucking feverishly at the rim of a crystal glass into which was never poured the wine of joy."...
And finally, if we are true to ourselves, if we truly wish to reform this horrible economic system, then, there is only one option:
All we do has to be for the common good. Our economy must become just, and all our actions should be taken in the interest of the common good. No ifs or buts, if we are truly serious and honest.
How may we achieve that?
Thank you prime minister. I do hope you may find time to reflect and ponder on the common good, as you formulate your economic policies in more detail.
The time is now for a radical departure from our recent troubled past. Let us seize this opportunity and stand side by side to build a better, kinder, and a more gentle Britain for the good of all. Carpe Diem! Dear Prime Minister-Britain needs a New Economic Model
For more reading on an alternative to Bastard Economics and Ideology of Neoliberalism see the links below:
What is this life all about?
Why am I here? What’s my Life’s purpose? How can I make the most of my Life?
This is how, why and when, I discovered economics to be a subject of beauty, elegance and wisdom
The Biggest Bank Robbery of All Time by Robbers all with PhDs and MBAs in a nutshell
I wanted to write something simple, jargon-free, easy-to-understand on the 10th Anniversary of the Financial Crisis, for all those, lucky enough, not to have a PhD in Economics (The once elegant, beautiful, moral subject, now turned into a dismal science of mumbo-jumbo)...