Economists Going Against the Tide

Can economists ever leave the market-glorifying paradigm behind?

If we look at the prescription of greening the system, we might as well think nothing really changes. But slowly but surely, different voices emerge in the academia.

The Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger wrote today that in Switzerland and Germany a new current within economics emerges. The group calls itself MeM, Menschliche Marktwirtschaft (Humane market economy) and it seeks a “ethisch-integrierte Sicht auf das Wirtschaften” (ethic-embedding view on the economy). Their main claim is that economic and business studies must open the doors to interdisciplinarity. In their view, young economists can only turn out opportunistic because they are only taught the bibles of free trade.

The founder of the Humane Market Economy (MeM) group, Ulrich Thielemann, is professor in economic ethics and an outspoken voice against the Swiss bank-secret. He clearly states that we can no longer have economics which do not include ethics. The group has published a memorandum which has been signed by over 100 professors in Switzerland and Germany. About half of which are, however, not directly involved in business studies. They teach socio-economy, ethics and even some less related topics like art.

The Financial Crisis and all the little crises and scandals we have been hearing of over and over again make the urgent calls for a new economic worldview more widespread. Talk of an “economic imperialism” are getting loud and more and more people ask for a different take on the way we make money. Topics which the MeM include in their concerns like sustainability, fairness and regluations might therefore hit the right nerve for these people.

A very different road took Mark Boyle even if he too started off as a student of business science. I an recent Guardian article he writes “I live without cash – and I manage just fine”. He had studied economy for six years but never came across the idea of ecology. Luckily, the concept got to him anyway and it changed his life. “After managing a couple of organic food companies made me realise that even ‘ethical business’ would never be quite enough, an afternoon’s philosophising with a mate changed everything.” He did no longer want to fight the symptoms of what is wrong with the world but actually reach and attack the root cause. Read his story here and find out where he thinks is the source of all evil in the world. You can also join his freeconomy community.

Radical like Mark Boyle or ethical like the MeM, we definitely need a change of perspective. But even more than us the business students and economists should get it!

Picture by Jose Téllez, thank you!


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