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The perils of leaving economics to the experts

One hundred years ago the idea of ‘the economy’ didn’t exist. Now, improving ‘the economy’ has come to be seen as one of the most important tasks facing modern societies. Politics and policymaking are increasingly conducted in the language of economics and economic logic increasingly frames how political problems are defined and addressed. The result is that crucial societal functions are outsourced to economic experts. The econocracy is about how this particular way of thinking about economies and economics has come to dominate many modern societies and its damaging consequences. We have put experts in charge but those experts are not fit for purpose.

A growing movement is arguing that we should redefine the relationship between society and economics. Across the world, students, the economists of the future, are rebelling against their education. From three members of this movement comes a book that tries to open up the black box of economic decision making to public scrutiny. We show how a particular form of economics has come to dominate in universities across the UK and has thus shaped our understanding of the economy. We document the weaknesses of this form of economics and how it has failed to address many important issues such as financial stability, environmental sustainability and inequality; and we set out a vision for how we can bring economic discussion and decision making back into the public sphere to ensure the societies of the future can flourish.

Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

enormous influence. Academic economics, through its widely accepted claim that it explains how the economy works, now provides a logic that shapes how to think about and make decisions in vast areas of political and social life. As we outlined in Chapter  1, this state of affairs gives economic experts a unique authority. Economics is a complex, technical language and those who can speak it can engage with politics and policy in a way others cannot. Economic experts now have important positions in some of society’s most important institutions. But what makes someone an

in The econocracy
Ariane Agunsoye, Michelle Groenewald, Danielle Guizzo, and Bruno Roberts- Dear

as a discipline to be able to claim legitimately that it represents society and the public interest. It must be more diverse and representative to claim to be able to understand the economic experience of different social groups. More broadly, a diverse and inclusive discipline of economics fosters greater social mobility and trust in experts, which in turn underpin democracy

in Reclaiming economics for future generations
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Ariane Agunsoye, Michelle Groenewald, Danielle Guizzo, and Kamal Ramburuth-Hurt

economic frameworks and policies imposed on them by others. 16 To democratise economics, we need a new type of public-interest economist who recognises that collective decision-making is a social not technical process and therefore must be done ‘with, not to or for’ citizens. We need a new social contract between experts, politicians and citizens that sets out these shared commitments

in Reclaiming economics for future generations

The well-being of Europe’s citizens depends less on individual consumption and more on their social consumption of essential goods and services – from water and retail banking to schools and care homes – in what we call the foundational economy. Individual consumption depends on market income, while foundational consumption depends on social infrastructure and delivery systems of networks and branches, which are neither created nor renewed automatically, even as incomes increase. This historically created foundational economy has been wrecked in the last generation by privatisation, outsourcing, franchising and the widespread penetration of opportunistic and predatory business models. The distinctive, primary role of public policy should therefore be to secure the supply of basic services for all citizens (not a quantum of economic growth and jobs). Reconstructing the foundational has to start with a vision of citizenship that identifies foundational entitlements as the conditions for dignified human development, and likewise has to depend on treating the business enterprises central to the foundational economy as juridical persons with claims to entitlements but also with responsibilities and duties. If the aim is citizen well-being and flourishing for the many not the few, then European politics at regional, national and EU level needs to be refocused on foundational consumption and securing universal minimum access and quality. If/when government is unresponsive, the impetus for change has to come from engaging citizens locally and regionally in actions which break with the top down politics of ‘vote for us and we will do this for you’.

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Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

Introduction The perils of leaving economics to the experts Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Albert Camus1 The authors of this book are of the generation that came of age in the maelstrom of the 2008 global financial crisis. It was a crisis that came as if from nowhere, interrupting our teenage years and sending shockwaves reverberating around the world. On the news we saw worry and confusion

in The econocracy
Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

Chapter 6 Economics is for everyone Renewing democracy In the last chapter we set out our vision for how the education of economic experts could be improved, and the temptation might be to end there. However, this would at best be addressing only half of the problem. While we have been following one path to an important set of conclusions, there has been another path running alongside, just out of sight but interwoven with our story; neglecting its ultimate conclusions will only leave us at a dead end. Throughout this book we have shown how economics underpins

in The econocracy
Abstract only
Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

Chapter 1 Econocracy econocracy (e·con·oc·ra·cy) n. A society in which political goals are defined in terms of their effect on the economy, which is believed to be a distinct system with its own logic that requires experts to manage it. Living in an econocracy The existence of econocracy is apparent in everyday language. It is commonplace for the media to talk about ‘the economy’ as an entity in itself, and how something will be ‘good for the economy’ or ‘bad for the economy’. The economy can speed up, slow down, improve, decline, crash or recover, but no

in The econocracy
Abstract only
Jack Mosse

publication, it is also advertised as bridging the gap between expert investors and the person on the street. As such, I thought it would be a suitable space to explore the generation and dissemination of economic myth in the media. The institutional context behind the myth Selling the economy The Money Matters 4 office was located on the eighth floor of an imposing office block in central London. The office was open-plan and the magazine

in The pound and the fury
Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins

practice are undermined by the attempt to define economics as a single perspective, and pluralism is necessary to rectify these shortcomings. The status quo in economics is not legitimate from an educational or intellectual perspective. We then go on to make the practical case for pluralism. Neoclassical economics has strengths, but it also has shortcomings and blind spots, and experts trained only in neoclassical economics are unable to address many of the most important challenges the world faces. We show this through three case studies: macroeconomic stability, the

in The econocracy