Summary of Economics of Good and Evil

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Recommendation

This exploration of the philosophical history of economic analysis illuminates and enlivens the field. Mathematics has reduced economics to formulaic amorality instead of robust debate over what distinguishes the right economic ideas from the wrong ones. Mythical and religious beliefs and the limits of scientific discovery bred many preconceptions that molded the modern economy. Professor Tomas Sedlacek contends persuasively that economists usually do not measure the impact of emotion as a driving force in decision making. He shows why society would benefit from a better understanding of the nonquantitative concepts that historically have characterized economic thought: good and evil. getAbstract recommends this rich, meaty (but not so easy) read to those who know economic concepts and want to balance their mathematical base with a historical review of economics’ roots in philosophy, religion, theology and other fields.

About the Author

Tomas Sedlacek, a member of the National Economic Council in Prague, lectures at Charles University.

 

Summary

The Ethics of Economics

Economists’ analytical disconnection from reality is one reason they consistently fail to predict the future, let alone explain past events. For instance, disagreements still continue over what caused the 1930s Great Depression. The 2008-2009 global financial crisis also shows economists’ inability to foresee massive perils and find ways to avoid them or soften their impact. Returning to reality would require economics to go back to its philosophical roots and de-emphasize its mathematical branches. Today, numerical elegance demands simplified models of reality. For example, economists often use only a few variables to elucidate mathematically intensive work. For analytic purposes, they assume that when just one or two variables change, the set’s other variables don’t change. This belief – called ceteris paribus or “all else being equal” – ignores “the living world.” Universal utilitarianism, which says people act only for self-benefit, is another debatable modern analytical assumption. As a frame, it negates the impact of selfless behavior.

Mathematics buries the meaning of economics – that is, its ethical content, its good and evil...


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