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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

John B. Cobb on economics « Previous | |Next »
August 2, 2012

In this interview in Eurozone John B. Cobb, the co-author of For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future, says that:

the academic discipline of economics is based on the idea of Homo economicus. This assumes and reaffirms extreme individualism. Members of the species Homo economics compete with one another for scarce resources. Policies based on this understanding of human beings typically result in the destruction of human community. Even if the result is also that there is more consumption of goods and resources per capita, the people involved are, for the most part, not happier or better off.

If the neo-liberal system of governance is arguably in free fall, then what currently exists in opposition to neo-classical economics is an ecological economics that is premised on the interdependence and coevolution of human economies and natural ecosystems over time and space. It was largely a response to a real or perceived lack of physical and biological underpinnings in neoclassical economics.

Cobb adds that the idea of the common good is oppositional to market fundamentalism because it depends on an understanding of community:

If we approach matters individualistically, as standard economic theory does, then the good of a group of people is simply the addition of the good of individuals. But we believe that each persona is largely constituted by her or his relations with other members of their social group, and by the way the group as a whole is structured and relates to other societies. Individuals are much better off if some of the societies to which they inevitably belong are communities in which all feel some responsibility for all.

He adds that the good of the community involves a pattern of relationships among its members and a concern on their part for how the community as a whole is doing.

The wellbeing of the community directly improves the wellbeing of its members. Why cannot the ALP talk that language? Is it too beholden to economism to be able to do so?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:50 PM | | Comments (4)


Contemporary Australian conservatism, which ritually recites the safety net idea while working assiduously to transfer wealth from the poor (by cutting social programs) to the rich (by cutting taxes).

How many commentators in the Murdoch press sincerely care about the well-being of the worst-off in Australia? Their libertarianism demands radical change, of a kind that would empower the economically strong and crush the economically weak.

Under a neo-liberal regime favoured by The Australian trickle-down is all that the folks on the bottom can hope for. Their constant advice to everyone to buck up and cope is no more appropriate in an unregulated market than it is in an emergency room.

Gary, some times your thread starters are like a nice drop of fine SA red wine.
Is the only alternative a system run by managers of decline, with the eventual icing on the cake an Americanised "no tax for the rich" objective?
About time the nations got together to bring in a Tobin tax and began checking out where and how the global Big End are rorting out of their obligations to the tune of dozens of $trillions lodged in offshore banks.
The only alternative to this is neo feudalism and its getting way too late in the day for meaningful change, as the Greenland Melt indicates.