Orthodox free market economists often like to portray their discipline as being as objective and impartial as any of the natural sciences. Milton Friedman once argued that economics should be considered an ‘exact science’, like chemistry, physics or medicine.
But when free market principles have pushed us into financial meltdown and are stoking the fires of global climate change, practitioners of those ‘exact sciences’ are rejecting the Friedmanite orthodoxies of deregulation and unrestricted growth. This week’s NewScientist is a case in point. It features a special report on the economy, with contributions from the likes of Herman Daly, David Suzuki and nef‘s own Andrew Simms.
The conclusion? We need a steady-state economy, with upper limits on wages and a drastically reduced financial sector. If we want the planet to continue sustaining human life, then we must steer the economy away from growth and ever-increasing production of consumer goods.
Susan George’s article will be of particular interest to Green New Deal fans. She calls for a Roosevelt-style reshaping of the economy along the lines of ‘ecological Keynesianism’.
Perhaps it’s worth remembering that history is littered with human pursuits which failed to qualify as real science. Alchemy. Phrenology. Astrology. If the ‘dismal science‘ doesn’t change quickly, it’ll be the next on the list.