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Econ 101

Posted: March 30, 2011 in

Here are some introductory articles that first appeared in Adbusters #85:

  1. Paradigm Lost
  2. Fresh Perspectives
  3. Meet the Mavericks
  4. Your Place in the Revolution
  5. Early Pioneers

I – Paradigm Lost

  • 15 July 2009, 8:55 AM

    The Delusion Revolution

    Imagine you are riding comfortably on a sleek train. You look out the window and see that the tracks end abruptly not too far ahead … The train will derail if it continues. You suggest the train stop immediately and the passengers go forward on foot. This will require a major shift in everyone’s way of traveling, of course, but you see it as the only realistic option. To continue barreling forward is to court catastrophic consequences.

    Read more …

  • 14 July 2009, 4:40 PM

    Fulfillment Paradox

    On a Tuesday morning in June, a Vancouver man named Salim and his beloved decided to get married. They tracked down a minister and a few hours later in Choklit Park, realized they needed a witness. I was crossing the street when I saw three people waving me over. “Sorry, I’ve got a meeting,” I said, when they asked me to help. “It will take five minutes,” the minister assured me. “We’ll say the vows, you’ll sign the registrar and then you’ll be off.” So in Choklit Park – overlooking Yaletown’s office towers and million-dollar condos – Salim and his bride made their solemn oaths.

    Read more …

  • 15 July 2009, 9:19 AM

    A New Kind of Global Marketplace

    What is the real cost of shipping a container load of toys from Hong Kong to Los Angeles? Or a case of apples grown in New Zealand to markets in North America? And what is the true cost of that fridge humming in your kitchen, that car purring on the road or that steak sizzling on the grill? Practically every one of the products we buy in the global marketplace is undervalued because the environmental costs haven’t been taken into account. As a result, every one of the billions of purchases we make every day pushes the world a little deeper into the cosmic red.

    But what if we were to implement this simple idea: true cost? Read more …

II – Fresh Perspectives

  • Paul Ormerod

    “Do you need math to study economics at university?” is a question I often get asked. Here is a cautionary tale for anyone who still has illusions about the relationship between the two disciplines. A friend of mine teaches economics at Cambridge, England. Recently she had a first year student who was very good indeed at math. So much so that he complained there wasn’t enough of it in his course. For his second year, he was sent on an exchange to the other Cambridge: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Emails of an increasingly desperate nature began to whiz back to my friend across the Atlantic. The final one said simply: “Help! Please let me back home. There isn’t any economics in this course. It’s all math.”

    Read more …

  • They’re happy to take the credit in the good times, but the disciples of this false science are hard to find in a recession.

    So the Footsie has tumbled again. Forgive me for asking, but where are the economists? As the nation is mired in a recession, an entire profession seems to have vanished over the horizon – like conmen stuffed with cash – leaving thousands destitute. They said recessions were over. They told politicians to leave things to them and all would be fine. Yet they failed to spot the subprime housing crash … and now look at the mess.

    Read more …

  • 15 July 2009, 10:10 AM

    Confessions of a Radical Prof

    Wellesley hired me in 1978 as the college’s first and only radical economist. I was hired in response to student pressure: while doing their junior year studies abroad, students had been exposed to theories other than mainstream American neoclassical economics and they wanted these views represented at school. The department posted a job for someone to teach what they called “competing paradigms of economics.” I was a PhD candidate in economics at Yale, where I studied with David Levine (Yale’s one Marxist economist … he didn’t get tenure). I applied and was hired.

    Read more …

III – Meet the Mavericks

  • 15 July 2009, 2:13 PM

    Lourdes Benería

    Lourdes Benería is a professor of gender and economic development at Cornell University and the author of Gender, Development and Globalization: Economics as if People Mattered. Her research centers on feminist economics, labor markets, women’s work and globalization, with a special focus on Latin America. She spoke with ecological economist Tom Green.

    Read more …

  • 15 July 2009, 2:27 PM

    Joseph Stiglitz

    Joseph Stiglitz has served as both vice president and chief economist for the World Bank. Stiglitz also chairs at the Brooks World Poverty Institute and is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Stiglitz, along with George Akerlof and Michael Spence, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001. His latest book is The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. Ecological economist Tom Green talked to Stiglitz about the shortcomings of contemporary economics.

    Read more …

  • 15 July 2009, 2:52 PM

    Herman Daly

    Herman Daly is one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of ecological economics. Formerly a senior economist for the World Bank, he moved to the University of Maryland, College Park in 1994. He received the Right Livelihood Award (the “Alternative Nobel Prize”) in 1996 for his work in developing ecological economics, incorporating “the key elements of ethics, quality of life, environment and community.” The following excerpts are from his interview with ecological economist Tom Green.

    Read more …

  • 15 July 2009, 2:22 PM

    George Akerlof

    George Akerlof is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics (shared with Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz) for his paper “The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism.” Akerlof has worked to incorporate human psychology into economic models since 1970. His recent publications include Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism, Explorations in Pragmatic Economics and Thoughts on Global Warming. He spoke with ecological economist Tom Green about what’s missing from mainstream economics. Read more …

IV – Your Place in the Revolution

  • 7 August 2009, 1:28 PM

    Beyond the Growth Paradigm

    A new intellectual renaissance has begun, and it promises to do for the 21st century what the first one did for the 14th: reassert reason over dogma to redefine our collective frame of reference. The difference this time is that the dogma is economic not ecclesiastic, and the stakes for the planet are immeasurably higher.

    Read more …

  • For years economists who have challenged free market theory have been the Rodney Dangerfields of the profession. Often ignored or belittled because they questioned the orthodoxy, they say, they have been shut out of many economics departments and the most prestigious economics journals. They got no respect.

    That was before last fall’s crash took the economics establishment by surprise. Since then the former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has admitted that he was shocked to discover a flaw in the free market model and has even begun talking about temporarily nationalizing some banks. A Newsweek cover last month declared, “We Are All Socialists Now.” And at the latest annual meeting of the American Economic Association, Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said, “The new enthusiasm for fiscal stimulus, and particularly government spending, represents a huge evolution in mainstream thinking.”

    Read more …

  • 16 July 2009, 10:42 AM

    The New Spirit of Economics

    For Hayek, a market was a personal voyage of discovery. Malthus once told Ricardo to be wary of becoming too attached to abstract ways of thinking. Keynes believed in “animal spirits.” Schumpeter sensed a brutal dynamic of “creative destruction” at the heart of capitalism. Heilbroner sternly warned economists to abandon their “suicidal formalism” if they wanted to progress … but such crunchy, philosophical insights into the soul of economics have largely been lost on the last few generations of its practitioners. Read more …

V – Early Pioneers

  • 18 July 2009, 2:27 PM

    Howard Odum

    Few economists – love for scientific rigor notwithstanding – understand how concepts like chaos theory and the laws of thermodynamics could possibly impact their work. For Howard Odum, however, scientific principles were central to both the study of economics and life in general. As he saw it, “The struggle between order and disorder, between the angels and devils, is still with us.”

    Read more …

  • 14 February 2011, 12:07 PM

    E.F. Schumacher

    E.F. Schumacher didn’t mind when fellow economists dismissed his unorthodox ideas and called him a crank. He chose to take it as a compliment, reasoning that “the crank is the part of the machine which creates revolution and it is very small. I am a small revolutionary!” Schumacher would in fact build his legacy around the idea of small, which in the world of economics is a revolutionary feat indeed.

    Read more …

  • 14 February 2011, 12:00 PM

    Kenneth Boulding

    Kenneth Boulding was an economist known for having a way with words and refusing to mince them. His most biting criticisms were reserved for the myopia of his own discipline: “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist” and “Mathematics brought rigor to economics. Unfortunately it also brought mortis.”

    Read more …