Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Big Issues: Economics for flourishing Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I threw my hat in with many in the blogosphere who consider neoclassical economics to be a disappointingly unscientific undertaking. For me though, the substantive question is not whether neoclassical economics is a science, but whether we should entrust our collective futures to it?

If we believe (and I admit that this is highly contentious) that one of the most important roles of an economy is to serve human development (or, in other words, to support Sustainable Human Flourishing) then all evidence seems to suggest that Chicago School neoliberalism is simply not fit for purpose.

For this reason, what concerns me even more than the current global economic crisis is the fact that even most honest, reflective economists seem only to want to get things back on the track that they were on before the crisis, refusing to acknowledge that the track itself was unsustainable. As professor Tim Jackson notes in his brilliant "Prosperity Without Growth" report on behalf of the Sustainable Development Commission
In the last quarter of a century the global economy has doubled, while an estimated 60% of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded. Global carbon emissions have risen by 40% since 1990 (the Kyoto Protocol ‘base year’). Significant scarcity in key resources – such as oil – may be less than a decade away. 
A world in which things simply go on as usual is already inconceivable. But what about a world in which nine billion people all aspire to the level of affluence achieved in the OECD nations? Such an economy would need to be 15 times the size of this one by 2050 and 40 times bigger by the end of the century. What does such an economy look like? What does it run on? Does it really offer a credible vision for a shared and lasting prosperity?
The summary to Jackson’s report is freely downloadable and, at only 9-pages, should be compulsory reading for everyone with eyes – The full report (also freely downloadable) should be compulsory reading for everyone with even the slightest interest in the future. (Note, if you prefer a slightly less academic version, you can get the book - but sorry Tim, the report is so well written that it hardly makes sense to pay - as an economist, I'm sure you'll understand ;-)

Alternatively, you could check out other, similar books like Economics Unmasked, which also has some very interesting stuff to say on the matter - great review on PositiveMoney.org here.

In the next installment, I'm going to get back to the theme of the theme of this blog - Sustainable Human Flourishing and finish the thought process about just how a system so demonstrably damaging to SHF as the Chicago school ideology became so bloody influential? 

I hope you'll keep reading.

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