Human Motivation in Political Economy
Chapter 1: Inspiring, Dismal or Boring Economics?
ECONOMICS TODAY In the days of the classical economists, such as Malthus or Marx, economics was considered to be a dismal science. The future looked bleak; catastrophes, such as famines, or the destitution of the working class, were considered to be inevitable. Today, the situation is totally different. Economists are probably the most optimistic of all social scientists; they truly believe that the major problems of mankind can be solved by adequately using prices and markets. The problem with economics today is that it has turned from a dismal science into a boring science. A long-time editor of the most prestigious professional journal in the ﬁeld, the American Economic Review, has the following comment to make about his work: What was remarkable was the absolute dullness, the lack of any kind of new idea, that predominated in the selection of papers I got. Close to a thousand papers a year – and I swear that the profession would be better off if most of them hadn’t been written, and certainly if most of them hadn’t been published. (Clower, 1989, p. 27) Present-day economics is concerned, to a considerable extent, with selfdeﬁned problems that few, if any, other persons are interested in. There is a well-known joke about economists, stating that: ‘An economist is someone who cannot see something working in practice without asking whether it would work in theory’. This joke is only partly right. Unfortunately, most economists do not look at the real world at all. Rather, they live...
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