July 08, 2006

Sinister pluralism

The International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE)
announces its second international conference:
Economic Pluralism for the 21st Century
June 1-3, 2007
University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA)

In the second half of the 20th century, neoclassical economics and its derivatives came to dominate economic thinking, teaching and policymaking. Humanity is increasingly feeling the consequences of this blinkered vision: the ever-widening gap between the very rich and all the rest, and between developed and underdeveloped nations; globalization without global coordination for the common good; and economically induced climate change, with the mid-century prospect of an Earth unable to support even current levels of human population. Meta-externalities from economic systems are draining the resources on which they depend, from families and other institutions that educate and socialize human beings, to water, air, soil, and the diversity of species.

In a positive vein, economics in the 21st century has already taken a decidedly pluralist turn, spurred in part by the struggles of economists – mainstream and heterodox – to increase the relevance of economic theory, policy, and education in a changing and challenged world where no single theoretical tradition or institutional structure can reasonably claim to hold “the key” to human betterment.
I am fascinated by how someone can say in so few words so many things I disagree with (found via Ecological Economics). Are these guys envious of the very rich? So am I, but I do not regard this as a big matter. I can live with it. Is the "gap" between the underdeveloped and developed nations widening? It is narrowing, not to mention the fact that many nations are moving from the first to the second group. "Global coordination for the common good" smacks of global tyranny and corruption for someone's good. Saying that we are "draining" the resources on which we "depend" is like saying that I am draining my computer in order to write this.

And what makes the quote truly sinister is the reference to "other institutions that educate and socialize human beings." Ouch, what institutions do they mean? Prisons? Torture chambers? Psychiatric hospitals? The Inquisition? Government-run schools? Indeed, none of them "can reasonably claim to hold “the key” to human betterment."

1 comment:

  1. You are right, but it is also true that there has been much to critisize in economics. One of the reactions has been the organization of groups like http://www.paecon.net/. But the best critique has come from inside the profession, see. e.g. the sidebar on the Paecon web site

    Another interesting trend is the revival of political economy, often in Political Science departments. See e.g. books like Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Economic and Political Origins by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.