What Is Wrong with the West’s Economies? Edmund S. Phelps; New York review of Books: AUGUST 13, 2015
A long read (in Internet terms), but worth it.
Introducing (in some cases) novel words: justice, inclusion, a good economy and human flourishing, into what Phelps sees as an overwhelming mechanised view of economics. And, he argues, “classical economics … has little place for creativity and imagination.”
It’s not all about money, however without adequate income, or the hope of contribution and improvement, human flourishing becomes impossible. “High-enough wages, low-enough unemployment, and wide-enough access to engaging work are necessary for a “good-enough” economy—though far from sufficient. The material possibilities of the economy must be adequate for the nonmaterial possibilities to be widespread—the satisfactions of prospering and of flourishing through adventurous, creative, and even imaginative work.”
The awful legacy of the predominant neoliberal economics is not shown in graphs, but in the lives of millions upon millions without hope for a better future. And the terrible waste of human potential who long for creative work and the possibility of human flourishing.
This failing in the West’s economies is also a failing of economics. The classical idea of political economy has been to let wage rates sink to whatever level the market takes them, and then provide everyone with the “safety net” of a “negative income tax,” unemployment insurance, and free food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. This policy, even when humanely carried out, and it often is not, misses the point that, even if we confine our attention to the West since the Renaissance, many people have long felt the desire to do something with their lives besides consuming goods and having leisure. They desire to participate in a community in which they can interact and develop.
…the good life involves using one’s imagination, exercising one’s creativity, taking fascinating journeys into the unknown, and acting on the world—an experience I call “flourishing.” These gains are gains in experience, not in material reward, though material gains may be a means to the nonmaterial ends. As the writer Kabir Sehgal put it, “Money is like blood. You need it to live but it isn’t the point of life.”