Big History Anthropocene Conference – Ecological economist Professor Jon Erickson

PROFESSOR JON D ERICKSON: all for having invited me. Yes, who invited
the economist anyways but we’ll see what happens by the end of this. This morning was, I don’t know a
little bit depressing for me but I am from the dismal science
so we’ll see if we can ramp up the level of concern for
humanity a little bit further. I was asked to give a title many
months ago and I dreamed this up and then of course 2 nights ago I say, “Jeez
what’s the title of my talk?” I have to come to terms with
this fairy tale to true crime. Shift in economic genre
in the age of humans. I’m inspired by Big History here. That Big History is ultimately about telling a new narrative
and so when I was thinking about the title I was thinking about
what is the narrative of economics. I have
this kind of continuum in mind. It starts with a fairy tale. A type of short story that typically
features European folkloric fantasy characters and this is certainly
the economics that I learned in graduate school and I want to pick
that apart a little bit about what fairy tale economics is
and what it is not and how economics has been in my
estimate, one of the social sciences that is probably most distant. Most disconnected from
the modern and contemporary understanding of the world that you
heard so much about this morning. That the fairy tale economics
really at the basis of so much of what we teach in introductory
courses in economics to quite literally millions
of undergraduates every year. Or this economics is the genre of
economics shifting towards and do… There’s our work under
economics for the anthropocene closer to a genre of true crime. A non-fiction literary
and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details
the actions of real people. For a true crime book you couldn’t do better than my
collaborator Peter Brown’s new book, Ecological Economics for
the Anthropocene really showing how economic thinking and economic dogma
and the discipline of economics is so disconnected
from the contemporary scientific understanding of what
we’re calling the anthropocene. That it’s maybe better characterised
by a genre of true crime. I told you it would be depressing. what I’d like to do is walk us through a little bit about the reign
of economics, get to a point where I can contrast world views from this
fairytale to the true crime genre. Give you a sense of the promise that
a field called ecological economics brings to bear, a grounding if
you will of the economic discipline within the natural sciences. A little bit of sense of how
ecological economics has made me been coopted by an economic
world view and then conclude with kind of a taste of what you’ll get,
what you’ll hear from Dr. Brown, Friday morning
as he opens up the day. The making of a fairy tale or the superiority
complex of economists. I’m an economist, I was
trained as an economist. I certainly look in the mirror
and this is what I see. A kind of much younger,
thinner version of myself. My wife constantly reminds me that
that’s not true but that’s another story altogether. Thankfully there are sociologists
now who study economists. I’m thankful for an article by a
colleague Marion from the University of California Berkeley,
wrote recently published an article in a top tier journal called
the superiority of the economists. Marion makes the point that economists first and foremost
have the superiority complex because we make more money
and we have influence on the established power structure
in particular other social sciences. She cites a book that’s coming out
by the University of Chicago Press called Finance in the Common Good, that has a finding that 40% of
the income of economic authors in fields such as industrial
organisation and finance come from consulting activities
with business and governments. Economics is kind of
not surprisingly meant to perpetuate a status quo that we’ll talk
more about in my short time. According to economists, economics is the most scientific
of the social science disciplines. A colleague of mine, David Colander
at Middlebury College did a survey of economic graduates from
top tier elite programs. Those are considered kind of the top
5 big programs in the US at least, schools like Chicago
and Princeton and Harvard. 77% agree with the statement
that economics is indeed the most scientific of
the social science disciplines. An article by Ed Lazear
in the quarterly Journal of Economics sort of elucidates this superiority complex. The ascension of economics results
from the fact that our discipline has a rigorous language that allows
complicated concepts to be written in relatively simple abstract terms. Language from its economists
to strip away complexity. Complexity that may add to
the richness of description but will also prevent the analysts
from seeing what is essential. If all of that nonsense that you
heard this morning about complexity, throw it in the garbage. Economists say you’ve got to get
it down to a very simple adomistic system of a selfish rational agent
who doesn’t care about the future, doesn’t care about
people around him or her, is what Thorstein Veblen called in 1899 a
homogeneous globular of desire. OK. That’s the core model of economics. For example, core to economics is a
conception of cost benefit analysis. That at the margin we can
measure the next benefit, the next cost of doing an action. Quite logically walk through an exercise of deciding
whether or not to do that action. For example, Kip Viscusi a professor
of law and economics at Harvard University most known for his
work on estimating the statistical value of a human life did a quite well known decided
piece of work for the national bureau of economic research called
cigarette taxation and the social consequences of smoking. Using the impeccable
logic of the economic model came to the conclusion that most of healthcare cost come at the end of
human life and rather than taxing cigarettes we should be subsidising
cigarettes to encourage smoking and to reduce the tremendous
burden of healthcare on society. The economic logic was impeccable. Carlin and Sandy in a top tier
journal, the Economic Journal published an article
on estimating the implicit value of a young child’s life. To do that,
they estimated that the time that a mother saves by improperly buckling
her son or daughter into a car seat and using that estimate of saved time
to come up with a value of a child’s life at least in the United States
of $500,000. Of course with the cheap currency here, would be
much less than 500,000. Be about 350 or something like that. Again using the logic
of cost benefit analysis, the marginal revolution of economics
to quite easily tease out these kinds of economic values to make
rational public policy choice. One other example, Colin Clark, a bio economist from the University
of British Colombia, quite convincingly
did a piece in 1973 in a journal of political economy that showed if you
follow the economic logic to a tee, that profit maximisation leads
to the extinction of species, particularly slow growing species
like whales. We can pick on cost benefit analysis
a little bit more but Harman Daly,
a colleague of ours in ecological economics really kind of the modern
father of ecological economics did an article called
When Smart People Say Dumb Things or something like that. He quotes for example, William Nordhaus who’s been a
very, very influential climate economist is saying agriculture,
the part of the economy that is sensitive to climate change accounts
just for 3% of the national output. This means that there’s no way
to get a very large effect on the US economy. Colleagues of Nordhaus at
Cambridge have said similar things that agriculture is 3% of national output and even if
you lose half of agriculture, that’s not a very big economic
impact. This kind of marginal analysis
and marginal thinking is really quite large and the core
mainstream of economic thinking. The Nobel Laureate Robert Solow,
the world can in effect get along without natural resources
so exhaustion is just an event not a catastrophe. There’s an implicit assumption
in the science of economics of substitutability. That sustainability is simply making
sure that future generations are as well off as ours by substituting
resources for one another. Substituting in this case technology
for natural resources. Cost-benefit analysis we could go
on and talk about its assumptions of straight line discounting that feels like psychology
have since disapproved. Uncertainty is always in everywhere
reduced to risk, and our climate change economics models which are
largely the result of a kind of wait and see strategy of the United
States over the last 2 decades is because of a climate economy model
that reduces uncertainty to risk and all kinds of
monetary framing effects. That when you put things in money
terms, people actually behave kind of like the money
model says we should. Selfish, self-interested,
not thinking about the future. There’s all kinds of framing effects
that we can talk about when it comes to cost-benefit analysis. Marion Fourcade and her
colleagues go on to ask the question, what’s the secret? Why has economics kind of gotten
away with claiming to be the queen of the social sciences, gotten
away with claiming to be the most scientific, gotten away with this
kind of cost-benefit analysis framework
that morally and ethically kind of puts the hairs up on your neck. Well it’s a very insular discipline
and certainly we can pick at lots of disciplines for insularity. Purpose of a meeting like this is
to kind of break down some of those boundaries between our disciplines
and be a little more modest in our claims and a little bit more,
a little braver to step out of our disciplinary comfort zones. Economists aren’t so good with that. The insularity from without
and the hierarchy from within is quite extreme. Some research that’s been done on
publications within economics publishing in the top
25 journals from the top journal. Economics stands out amongst
other social sciences. Political science and sociology
in this example as kind of being a discipline that tends to
sight itself from its own top tier journals with its own top tier
authors of those journals in those 5 or 6 top departments. The insularity is also a kind of
disagreement with a statement like this. In general interdisciplinary
knowledge is better than knowledge obtained by a single discipline. Economists really stand out here
of disagreeing with that statement. A lot of it has to do with
that kind of self-referential, insular thinking within the field
of economics that I want to make the cases as quite dangerous
in the anthropocene. I already mentioned high market
demand for services particularly from powerful wealthy parties. Someone’s benefiting from
the status quo, someone’s benefiting from putting
economists in a position of power. Tight management of the discipline
from the top down so again, you can parse this out and say this beyond
just anecdotally we know that something like the American Economic
Association that dominate global force and kind of economics
education, economics research is controlled really by just
a handful of the departments. That control hasn’t
changed much from decade to decade to decade to decade
because we’ve created a fortress if you will, around this field of
of economic studies. So dominate within the social
sciences and in higher education more generally. This has led to a lot of a lot
of self-confidence. A lot of self-confidence of the field of
economics and that self-confidence has led to some significant
influence on other social sciences. You look at top tier
management programs, political science programs, finance programs
even psychology to some extent has been influenced by this rational act
or model that economists promote. This cost benefit analysis framework
for public policy choice that economists have carefully crafted
and a growing influence on applied sciences. Engineering,
natural resource management and increasingly particularly in
my field of ecological economics on conservation biology. Where conservation biologists now
are being forced to make economic arguments to conserve nature,
to make economic arguments to protect species, to make economic
arguments to surviving anthropocene. This extension of rational
choice theory is known by many to all kinds of social problems,
the economist Perry Becker from University of Chicago won a Nobel prize for this extension of
the rational choice theory to questions of discrimination, crime,
marriage, divorce and increasingly questions around the value of
the ecosystems themselves. What are they worth to us, these species that is getting in
geological epic named in our honour. It’s created a generation of
brilliant mathematicians, OK, I wouldn’t argue. I mean this… Basically economics has taught in
this top tier graduate programs is a branch of mathematics. My answer to the fill in the blank is
a generation of magical thinkers. What I learned in graduate school
was to believe in my whole heart in magic of the market
to solve all our problems. We got a lot of magic thinkers out
there and I’ll contrast these world views here in a minute.
But if we look at… This is a study that follow these
varioustas high school classes in the US from the class of ’72,
’82, ’92 and the courses they took. Certainly those students in the 80s, really a dominant train, a dominant experience they had in
school was principles of economics. Just behind Phys Ed, psychology
and freshman composition, biology is a little further down
down the road here. Some more recent data
points to the fact that 40% of undergraduate in North America take a
principles of economics class. That’s over 1 million students are
taking an introductory economics class with the kind of world view
that I want to pick a part here. Most popular majors for post-secondary students right now,
and this is again North America, they are looking at
the United States. Business, that the foundations
of a business degree is economics, social sciences and history,
so history is in there, health professions, psychology, education. At the masters level, business
really stands out as the most popular degree at the masters level. With a core foundation of business education being near classical
mainstream, market based economics. A colleague of ours Tom Green that does graduate work at the
University of British Colombia and analyse the themes, the environmental themes
such as the sustainability that is taught in all of these introductory
economics courses. That’s taught to the million plus students graduating
from North American institutions with an economics training that’s
part of their background found out…
I was kind of pleasantly surprised that sustainability was
this high in textbooks. 3% , 4%, 2% of the content
of text books referring to sustainability, referring
to environmental arguments. But a little more accurate
is that most of this content falls in those optional chapters
on externalities or those optional chapters on public goods that when
you look at the actual curriculum in the syllabi aren’t taught. It’s in there
but it’s often not taught. What is taught
goes directly against the core message of our introductory text
books, in our introductory classes. Core message for example when
I’m selecting some quotes from Tom Green’s book, he did a full content analysis of all of the bestselling
introductory economics text books. A core message of humans
have unlimited wants and there’s really no distinction
between necessities and luxuries. In economics you’re
really not allowed to do interpersonal utility comparisons. You’re not allowed to say,
“My choice is better than yours,” or that someone should
give up luxuries in order to provide necessities
for someone else. That is not allowed in
the economic framing of the world. Most economists however agree that
absolute limits to growth are not relevant. This continues to the kind of
bashing of the limits to growth work of the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s
continues to be a dominant theme and are teaching you
in economics because growth and man kind’s ingenuity has offset the effects
of larger populations. Economics tells a story of
power of technology and the power of markets and the power of incentives
to continue to plow through any kinds of resource barriers
that we might be confronted with. Just to continue here
Princeton reviews for every US high school student lands
in their guidance counselor’s office and they get the Princeton
review out and they get advice for what they should study. This list of what you should
study is based on salary, employability, and popularity. Computer science and communications
are right up there as our government and political science in most
programs the foundation to political science now is an economic
worldview, a cost-benefit framework of business and economics. 5 classes every college student
should take no matter what your major coming from a recent
article in USA Today. Finance, Accounting and Business
Management right up there at the top, which makes a lot of sense. You want to get out there
and be part of the world, part of the anthropocene, part of this
narrative that we tell ourselves then you better take finance,
accounting and business management. Communication,
history is there which is great and sociology and computer science. The self-confidence of economists
has led to the significant influence on other social sciences,
the extension of rational choice theory to many, many, many
social problems, the education of thinkers
and I would argue the social acceptance of an economic worldview. That’s what I want to address now. What exactly is this
economic worldview all about that I’ve been eluding to. I want to develop these contrasting
worldviews if you will, an economic worldview and an ecological
worldview and come back to the field of ecological economics as something
that has the potential at least to be grounded in a more scientific
narrative. We’ve got to go back to
the roots of economics here. Economics, classical economics
was eluded to this morning. Actually Adam Smith and Ricardo and Mill, they wouldn’t have
called themselves economists. They would have called
themselves moral philosophers. The roots of economics
was in philosophy. This led to the era of classical
economics of the 17 and 1800s. Classical economics was developing
along the same time as a theory of evolution by natural selection. Along the same time as
the writings of Charles Darwin. In fact Ricardo and Darwin were kind
of borrowing ideas from each other. But there was a big split. There was a big split between
the classical and what we call today neoclassical economics. Neoclassical economics really
emerged in the 1860s and the 1870s not as an outgrowth of classical but
really as a challenge to classical. As an attempt to make economics
more scientific believe it or not and less philosophical, more rational and less moral. Neoclassical economics
reached back to physics, reached back to classical physics,
reached back to the mathematisation, the mechanisation that physics
provides the economists and their sort of tool kit of equilibrium.
Neoclassical economics led to in the early 1900s, the building of
the general equilibrium framework which at its core is a micro
foundations synthesis. You don’t really need to worry about the macro
economy because the macro is just sum of the parts, it’s the sum of
the micro and the micro is built on free market and it’s built on
just allowing individuals that do what they want to do unfettered
by any kind of moral obligation or government choice or public
policy goals. That became the kind of foundation of the neoclassical
model. Whereas classical economics continued on a course that actually
was a course that was more unified with the life science synthesis
especially of the ’40s and ’50s. The question that I pose especially
on a conference on the anthropocene is where do the environment land
in this 2 kind of pathways of economics and where are we today.
This split between the classical and neoclassical. The neoclassical
are the first forward one. The story here is that the neo classical
economic synthesis is what’s taught today. The neoclassical of course
has its roots back to Malthus, Ricardo, Mill where production…
The creation of economy, building, creating something actually had a
physical basis and early economists studied and thought about
the application of labor to the land. The production function
included, N natural resources or what economists call generally
the land, labor L and capital K. What happened in the neoclassical
revolution is that we kind of dropped in out of the equation.
Folks like Walrus, Marshall, Pigou, the kind of creators of
the neoclassical revolution of 1920s and 1930s, went to a source of
value that didn’t come from labor’s application to the land, it was a
source of value that came from me wanting what you have, an exchange
value. An exchange value that could be quite easy described in a
model of classical physics. Then post World War II, Samuelson
and Arrow and Solow and the Nobel laureates of our time, post-World
War II said, “Jeez, labour’s really “not a constraint anymore.
We can move factories around, we can move people around.” Economics
became a study of choice but a choice of how to apply technology, a
choice of how to invest in capital, a choice where everything that we
conceived of is being valuable or valued came from human made
artefacts, human made capital. Then what happened when I was in graduate
school, when I was studying is that the Chicago school was the kind
of ruling force of the neoclassical trajectory and capital dropped
out of the model. Nobel laureates and Nobel prizes were given to
people who could come up with clever ways to make something from
nothing, to move money around, to create value from valueless stuff.
We lost labour, we lost the land, we even lost capital and technology
and this was a trajectory that the neoclassical faith was moving on.
Environment was lost, there were many attempts to bring it back in.
There’s a field called natural resource economics that really
has its roots in the ’20s and ’30s and was working with fisheries
biologists and geologists and to say bring non-renewable resources back
in the equation, bring renewable resources back in the equation.
But it very neatly, comfortably fit within a kind of worldview of
economists of rational thought cost-benefit analysis, the marginal
revolution that was the neoclassical economic faith. Environmental
economics really emerged kind of out of the 1970s, economists were
reacting to not helping conceive but reacting to the national
environmental policy act in the US. The clean air act, clean water act,
these kinds of environmental policy acts that were happening around
the world, economists said, “Well “jeez, we can fit this into our
model. We just need to come up with “a way to price these things. We need
to come up with a way with pricing non-market attributes and put
them into our production model.” Environmental economics
really was about coming up with value equations.
How to value the non-market attributes of exchange. Daly &
Cobb in their book, For the Common Good which is really kind of a
historical moment of the development of ecological economics said,
“The concentration and money in “the market, rather than on physical
goods with the commitment decision “to model itself on the methods
but not the content of physics has been characteristic of
the whole of modern economics.” This is an important part of
the story because if we’re trying to link economics up to the story
of this morning, the story of a physical system that’s co-evolving
with humans…we need a physical basis for production, we need a
physical basis for that exchange, we need a physical basis to understand
the constraints and opportunities of the economic system.
That has been largely lost. This has led to an economic worldview.
An economic worldview that absolutely, always humans as
the species of concern and that’s a critique that you can apply to
just about any of our disciplines. An economic worldview that treats
environment as a resource to be efficiently managed. The environment
in fact is a sector of the economy. The economy is a subsystem of
the economy and not the other way around and the conceptualisation
of the economic model. Technology is seen as monotonic and forever
increasing and forever getting better and all these models that…
Climate economy issues to look out, 100, 150 years have very aggressive
optimistic assumptions about we can divorce ourselves in that Robert
Solow kind of way from the need to even use resources in the future.
The unit of analysis is the margin which is troubling from a scientific
point of view because that next marginal step might be our last
if it happens to be an irreversible threshold, to be thinking
about threshold responses of complex social ecological systems.
Remember we strip away complexity. The primacy of efficiency,
efficiency is the golden rule in economics. Marginal benefit equals
marginal cost. That’s the only thing I learned in my PhD at Cornell.
If you raise your right hand and say marginal benefit equals marginal
cost, I will give you a North American PhD in economics because
that’s the golden rule. That is the golden rule. Everything else
is meant to take care of itself. Distribution and the core
economic model is given. It’s the start of analysis.
Someone tells you how resources are distributed but you never question
how you got there or whether it’s a just or unjust distribution. It’s
a substitute of inputs which I’ve already mentioned is implicit in
the core economic model so that we can kind of divorce ourselves away
from, emancipate ourselves if you will from our earthly bounds. Always
and everywhere we’re concerned with conditions of equilibrium, economics
as a branch of mathematics, a theoretical branch of mathematics
is largely about, this is my conclusion. What are the conditions
for equilibrium that need to set up to reach that conclusion.
Progress is seen as deterministic. Ecological economics in an
ecological worldview kind of came down this other pathway. Believe it
or not it started in philosophy but led to the life sciences synthesis,
the synthesis of political economy, economics as a social process
and the synthesis of thermal dynamics and the understanding
of the kind of core constraints on the economic system as a sub
system of the ecosystem. It’s a really important starting point if
you’re going to believe in science and feels like systems ecology
and complexity science really sort of created the conditions in an
alternative view of the economy that today we call ecological economics.
The study of the economy built on a foundation of the natural sciences.
The study of the economy as a subsystem of the ecological system.
A study of the economy that always and everywhere knows that there
are constraints to a system that is growing within a finite planetary
earth system. Foundations of an ecological economics and I won’t go
through all of these but ecological economists have drawn from the moral
imperative of the classical economic era, have drawn from notions of
the physicality of production. Folks like Quesnay did the Tableau
Economique. He was a doctor who was trying to model the economic system
on the human body system and keeping track of resources and in waste out.
Systems theory, the great traditions of Kenneth Boulding, Howard Odum,
Jay Forrester, Donella Meadows. Macroeconomic, money
and trade critique from Keynes and Schumacher and the great chemist
Frederick Soddy and others, all kind of unbelievably were absorbed
by and written about in a very trans disciplinary way and spirit of
Big History by Herman Daly. Brought together in the late ’60s and early
’70s with his colleagues from all across these different buckets
if you will, brought together what today we call ecological economics.
Daly’s contemporary included John Cobb a theologian he wrote with,
Robert Ayres an economist, Elinor Ostrom who won a Nobel price for her
work on the Commons, Peter Brown who won’t tell me when he was born, all
of these kind of were contemporaries of Daly who brought together a
scientific narrative of the economic system. This led to an ecological
world view or I should say drew from an ecological worldview
and the conception of the economy. The conception of humans as part of
a whole. The economy as a subsystem of the whole. Technology as a social
process with social goals and social aims, complexity and discontinuity
and drawing from complexity science to understand the economic system
as a complex co-evolving system. The primacy of skill
not efficiency where the chief task of the ecological
economist is to ask the question, how big should the economy be within
the containing sustaining ecosystem. Distribution as a goal not as a
given, complementarity of inputs always and everywhere economic
processes require low (INDISTINCT) matter and energy. You can never…
The thermal laws of thermodynamics, say it so that you can’t
produce something from nothing. The reality of this equilibrium
in our complex socioecological systems and instead of a kind of a
story of progress is deterministic, a story of co-evolutionary change.
You can see a story that’s much more consistent with the Big History
narrative. There is a lot of promise of ecological economics, and about
10 years ago I did a piece with my colleague John Gowdy asking kind of
where ecological economics was going because it seemed to us at the time
we were at these crossroads. We were at these crossroads where we could
either double down on the ecological worldview and build the study
of the economy as a subsystem of the environment, build the study of
economy, built on the foundations of science. Or we could be co-opted
by an economic worldview that said, “Sorry, we’ve got to play the game,”
put dollar values on things that if they’re worth anything. We
asked this question, is ecological economics still ecological? I’ll
jump to the punch line here. What’s happened in these 10 years… Look
at that fact, that’s cool. Is that ecological economics has drifted.
It’s kind of in our opinion, and this is according to Peter’s
book that I had the honour to write the foreword to, ecological economics for the anthropocene
has lost its way a bit. That even folks, our colleagues from
conservation biology are looking to mainstream economics to help make economic arguments to
protect the natural world. Ecological economics has sort of… The popular notions of it has formed a kind of amenity function
that now we just need to get about valuing the earth’s ecosystems
and everything will be just fine. We again can put it back into the economic worldview, we could
focus on efficiency and we don’t have to ever have these touchy
feely talks about distribution and we don’t have to worry
about science constraints. We can get about our business
of economising the earth. Since we wrote this article there’s
been a lot of great work on asking this question, is ecological
economics still ecological? 10 years later have we chosen wisely
and basically the conclusion is that we’ve become more of an economic science and less
of an ecological science. Just to pluck one of these
examples that has claimed that through a rigorous content analysis that ecological economics has
drifted towards what we would call environmental economics, pricing
valuation, that sort of thing. To move towards a more
pragmatic position that’s becoming more shared widely with
environmental researchers at large. That we have to…
In order to make a decision, you have to have a price. We’ve formed a project to get at
this notion of how do we kind of take back on ecological worldview. How do we build an economic
built on a scientific narrative? How do we borrow from the framing of Big History and this modern
scientific synthesis and just build a true science of
economics on top of that. I’ll wrap up here as we move toward
an economics for the anthropocene. There’s lots of old
maps that we can look to. I suggested some of the sort of
moral foundations of classically economists is a
great place to start. Daly’s book with John
Cobb, For the Common Good. If you will an
ecological economics 1.0. when ecological economics was
first conceived as a life science. Go back to the 1968 article
by Harman Daly on economics as a life science, can you imagine
if we could build economics as a life science back in the late ’60s
early ’70s where we would be today? There’s new maps, borderland
economics where economics are crossing the divide to the natural
sciences and working in fields such as behavioural economics,
experimental economics, neuro-economics, evolutionary
economics, big, big big attempts to cross boundaries between the social
science and natural sciences. Fields like evolutionary psychology
that are fundamentally making us rethink of this narrow version
of that’s called homo-economist. This particular type of homo
sapiens, that is this rational act or model that we know from
psychology just ain’t true. Fields like socio-biology and of course Big History that are
helping us kind of creating new maps for weaving together a more trans
disciplinary view of the economy. We’re finding that not just ecological economics but economics
is at a crossroads and it’s kind of an exciting time in economics
because economists are working with for example the neuro-sciences
and going, shit that’s not true. This thing in the text book with
the assumptions and the math, we’ve hooked people up to function MRI
machines and we watched their brains fire and it’s not true.
What do we do? We’re starting to see the kind
of beginnings of a new kind of economics that’s built on scientific
understanding of the human animal. Economics can be a helpful
servant but makes a terrible master. We need economists. We need economists as technicians to help
us measure these things and figure stuff out but the economic world
view is in my view responsible for, largely responsible for
the destruction of the earth. The bad anthropocene if you will. Ecological economics show some
potential by embedding economy in society and ecosystem but is
in danger of being captured by this economic worldview. We really need to come to
terms with this contrast between an economic worldview
and an ecological worldview. We’ve built a project called
Economics for the Anthropocene to do just this and I’m happy to
say that Macquarie University is a partner with us as is
the Big History institute. You can check out all
the details at Thank you very much.

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