“Ethics is not enough for me – I’m an economist”

12 08 2008

By Economicsfairy


It just came back to my mind: Once in an “Aid and Development”-class, a lecturer made a comment about debt relief (it was all about the pros and cons etc.), and he said something like, well, of course, there is a moral argument for debt relief, but that wouldn’t be enough for him, because he was an economist. Therefore, he had to ask himself: Where (in which country?) does debt relief pay most? I think that idea makes perfect sense, but please note the separation: moral arguments – economic arguments. How can we bridge the gap between the two at least a wee bit?


In this context, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Adam Smith, the Godfather of Economics, wrote his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” before the “Wealth of Nations”. He was a (social) philosopher after all. Economics has to be quantified with the help of mathematics and statistics, no doubt – but it is more than that. It is not a pure natural or mathematical science. It is inextricably linked with politics and so there always has to be some kind of judgement. Many countries have accounted for that fact in some way or other by their constitutions, rules of law, social systems, protection of minorities etc.


But on a global scale, this kind of thinking (and acting!) is absolutely lacking. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want a world government (really not, just imagine the horrible bureaucracy, the red tape and the opportunities for corruption!) but we need a reliable framework to make the global economy truly work – concerning trade, debts, labour, social security, migration – a framework backed by the people and by more than economic calculations. What power does the UN have? Is the WTO democratic? Who can effectively fight global pollution? So much needs to be done – we shouldn’t leave it to economists and their limited worldview alone.




One response

18 08 2008
Debt Relief Story

Thank for your very cool economy articles.
It’s best articles in these day of me ^^

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