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Beginning to Rethink the Economy,
with the help of Philosophical and Christian Perspectives

Abstract:

For nearly a year, a group of Christian thinkers have been discussing the economy. The discussions ranged widely, and in almost all areas, it was felt that it is necessary to rethink economic theory and practice. This page is an expression of that rethinking - which continues.

To serve the world aright as we meet the challenges of the future, economics needs to be rethought very deeply, and in several ways. Biodiversity loss, climate change, pandemics, obesity in affluent countries, technology, poverty, the importance households especially in low-income countries, and many other issues, have not been adequately served by economic theory and practice. Recent thinkers have begun to recognise these challenges, but piecemeal and few recognise all together. This page discusses four ways in which our understanding and practice of economic activity must change.

It then suggests a conceptual framework with which to systematize and accomplish this widening, and a way to enrich that systematization. The conceptual framework comes from Dutch philosophy. The source of enrichment is a Christian perspective.

[To original, draft, version.]

Contents:


1. INTRODUCTION

The 2020 Reith Lectures given by Mark Carney, once Governor of the Bank of England, offer a good launch pad for rethinking economics. He discussed values, then the Credit Crisis of 2008, the Covid Crisis and the Climate Crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed something of the real value of things, which standard economics hides. The climate and credit crises challenge us to urgently rethink economics as well as many other things in life. A host of other recent thinkers had offered similar messages.

A group of Christian thinkers began a series of Reith Lectures Discussions, over the first half of 2021 (that page also gives direct links to the Reith Lectures); here, we call ourselves the Reith Lectures Discussion Group (RLDG). We believe that our Christian perspective allowed us to step back a bit and see things that economists might not ('elephants in the room', perhaps).

These discussions ranged widely, through both micro, macro and global economics, across climate change, poverty and markets, across a host of different values and ways to measure them or not, and several recent thinkers in economics. It is from the findings of these discussions that this article was originally compiled, though it has developed since then. While recognising economic theory, we also were open to the complexities of everyday, practical life and economic activity. As one participant put it, "we've covered so much and we've talked about so many aspects from so many different angles."

Our proposal to rethink economics results from the breadth and diversity of that discussion. It has also been enriched by our previous ideas and by experience of trying to work out the wider perspective in practical detail, such as contributing to the United Nations Statistics Department's redesigning of the System of National Accounts, SNA 2025.

Most of us were familiar with the suite of aspects devised by Dutch philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977), and we would often make reference to them in order to clarify and separate out issues. This article explores systematically how Dooyeweerd's philosophy might provide a new understanding of economics, on which the four ways of widening might be grounded, and with which we might achieve all four together.

Then it discusses the role of a Christian perspective. It adopts a Christian-academic attitude of Listen, Affirm, Critique, Enrich ("LACE"). Though influenced by a Christian perspective, what is written here should be of interest to any reader, not just Christians, and is still evolving. We hope it might make genuine contributions to mainstream economics, finance, economic policy, etc. in all its varieties. Participants came from university and business, some tending towards a left wind and some tending towards a right, and in this way we believe that our ideas do not come from either camp.

The style of this article is such that anyone might read it, so in some places things might be explained that economists might think are basic. Though written primarily for a Christian readership academic readership, non-Christians might find it of interest too.

2. OUR PROPOSED FRAMEWORK

We seek to widen our understanding and practice of economic activity, to make it systematic and to enrich that systematiization.

2.1 Widening

We found ourselves going beyond conventional contemporary ideas, in ways that contribute towards those who wish to rethink some of the basics of economics, finance, etc. We saw the following types of widening as needed.

Other widenings might emerge as we proceed.

As far as we can tell, this widening was motivated and guided by our common commitment to Christ, but not constrained by either traditional nor contemporary views held by Christians or the Church. The above sets a direction for rethinking economics from a Christian perspective, but it does not indicate how to go in that direction. To do this, to make this workable, so that people can actually carry this out, we need a systematic understanding of economic activity, healthy living environment, harm, value, and measurement.

2.2 Systematizing

We need a systematic way to achieve these desiderata. Where can we find a systematic understanding of economic activity that might help us? Over the centuries, many economic paradigms and theories have been proposed, and many more are emerging today in response to the failure of the earlier ones. Many of the earlier ones fail at the first hurdle because they focus on the economic aspect to the exclusion of all others. Recent ones have begun to offer one or other of the widenings, but none offer all, as far as we know.

In our discussions, we first looked at 'Christian Values' as a foundation for the widening, but found them insufficient on their own. We found ourselves, instead, referring continually to Dooyeweerd's philosophy, especially his aspects. This occurred whatever topic we were discussing, suggesting that it might apply across them all. As a result, we explore the potential of Dooyeweerd's aspects to offer a conceptual framework with which to achieve each of the widenings. By being able to use the same framework for all, we believe this offers a basis for achieving them all together (our sixth desideratum).

2.3 Enriching

The Christian perspective, we found, could enrich the systematic understanding and take it further, especially in the practicalities of what we do at all levels. We see three ways in which this might occur. 1. 'Christian values' like love, joy, peace, bring 'life' to the dullness of a theoretical framework. 2. The Judeo-Christian notion of sin and repentance offers a way to understand what is going wrong and how to rectify that. 3. The Christian idea of salvation or redemption offers hope that rectification is possible - especially for problems like climate change.

3. WIDENING OUR UNDERSTANDING AND PRACTICE OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

Here is a brief explanation of the four widenings above, with indication of some thinkers that are already working in them, and this rethink relates to them.

3.1 Widening Economics to Consider All Aspects of Life

It is well known that GDP (a nation's Gross Domestic Product) focuses on the quantitative-economic aspect of life and, in doing so, hides most other aspects, such as justice, sustainability and wellbeing. Likewise "the bottom line" in business implies a deliberate exclusion of all aspects other than the economic.

Frequently we find an attitude, a presupposition, among economists, finance people and governments, that the economy is all-important and rightly deserves to be served by all other aspects of life - whether these be land, natural resources, technology, health or even the best waking hours of people's lives. Some call this "reductionism" [Note on Reductionism] and call for a more holistic view.

As a consequence of ignoring other aspects, the driving force of economics (and the politics in which the economy is paramount) has been economic growth, in nations, businesses, households and for individuals, at the expense of climate and environmental responsibility ("environmental capital"), of voluntary activity, and much social capital (e.g. trust, attitude, mental health). Much of the responsibility for the climate crisis is laid at the door of (reductionist) economics.

It is widely recognised among recent economics thinkers that this is a harmful state of affairs. For example, Dasgupta [2020] calls for biodiversity to be taken into account in UK Treasury calculations. Mark Carney discussed not only the Credit Crisis, but also the Covid Crisis and the Climate Crisis, and discusses how economics can take a wider set of values into account [Carney 2021]. Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics] calls for taking social and ecological aspects into account. The United Nations' Consultation on the Structure of National Accounts, SNA 2025, aims to bring various aspects of "Well-being and Sustainainability" into national accounts, especially unpaid household activity. These, and others, all featured in our discussions. Others could be mentioned, and have been for several decades, since Shumacher's Small is Beautiful, and since Senator Nelson put it as far back as the 1960s, "The economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way round."

These are factors with a meaningfulness that cannot be reduced to economics, and which operate in ways that economics cannot adequately explain. So economic theory and practice needs to know how to take them properly into account.

That is because economic activity impacts all other aspects of life. Conversely, all other aspects of life impact economic activity ("the economy").

For example, Carney [pp.184 ff] reveals "three lies of finance": "This time is different", "Markets always clear [i.e. end up balancing supply with demand]", and "Markets are moral", showing how those three falsehoods contributed to the 2008 financial crash. The primary reason they are false is because of other aspects, such as selfishness, idolatry, hidden agendas, fashionability, etc. contributing to demand not matching supply.

Most such thinkers concentrate on one of the neglected aspects - such as Dasgupta, on biodiversity. Taken together, they build up a picture of many aspects that impact, and are impacted by, the economic aspect - climate change, habitats, health, mental health, science, technology, communications, relationships, enjoyment of life, justice, attitude, beliefs and sense of meaningfulness. What is needed is a way in which they can all be brought together within a single understanding. Only then can we achieve what the SNA calls Wellbeing and Sustainability, what some have called Shalom, Salaam or eudaemonia, and what we in our discussions called "Healthy Living Environment".

We believe that all aspects of life (indeed, of the entire Creation) must be considered together, equally, with non predominating. In particular the economic aspect must be treated as interacting and intertwining with all others, embedded in all other aspects. In short, we call for a multi-aspectual approach to the economy, in both the theory and practice of economics. To achieve this, we will need:

We find that Dooyeweerd's philosophy provides a suitable basis for this; see below.

For example, we emphasise responsibility as well as efficiency. This is implicit in Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics, where economic activity is responsible to the social and biotic aspects (keeping above the "social floor" yet below the "ecological ceiling"), and in Dasgupta's [2021] The Economics of Biodiversity, but they couch them in economic terms. Responsibility in other aspects does have implications for economic activity, for example that 'natural' and 'social' capital might run out, but, as we shall argue, the laws that govern such responsibility are not those of the economy. For example, if from an economic perspective we run out of a non-renewable resource, so what! Can we not use technology (yet another aspect) to replace it? That is an argument that is sometimes put, especially by some businesses who which to evade environmental responsibility. We need to see what is going on here: we are in danger of transgressing the norms of various other aspects, to the eventual detriment of all.

3.2 Widening Economics to Acknowledge Harmful and Useless as well as Good

Many products that boost the economy cause harm rather than good. Many are useless or at least "non-essential" rather than good. Yet most economic theory and practice lumps the harmful and useless along with the good. This is a fundamental that needs addressing, yet it remains hidden.

Examples of harm: Our discussions included junk food, which causes obesity [Note on junk food], cheap clothing, which encourages and depends on injustice and is used to justify it, aviation, which generates greenhouse gas emissions and spreads pandemic viruses, meat production, which not only involves animal cruelty but generates greenhouse emissions and destroys biodiversity (e,g. Amazon rainforest cut down to grow soya to feed to cattle), and gambling, which generates addictions and broken families.

Notice the wide range of kinds of harm, and there are others - which resonates with the multi-aspectual theme above. Some are direct, some are indirect. Various authors have drawn attention to each.

Examples of useless: 1. A truck carries biscuits made in Glasgow to London, and a truck carries biscuits made in London to Glasgow. 600 miles of fuel consumption and climate change emissions, and two whole driver shifts? Is that really necessary? 2. Yet another business meeting or conference just because someone expects it. Is that really necessary? [Note Spree] 3. Much of our defence spending is wasteful [Note: Jim Radford] 4. And, perhaps to cap it all, is David Graeber's introduces the idea of "Bullshit Job", in which "if the position were eliminated, it would make no discernible difference in the world. Likely as not, things would improve" [p.2]. As Graeber remarks [p.6], "Contemporary capitalism seems riddled with such jobs."

We believe the economy (all economic activity) is supposed to bring positive Good into the world and to serve the world. That is its mandate, maybe reflected in the words "goods" and "services". [Note: Why Good] This Good is what, in our discussions, we called "Healthy Living Environment" and the United Nations SNA 2025 exercise calls "Well-being and Sustainability". Harmful and useless (non-essential) economic activity undermines, detracts from and even prevents that. That is why we need a radical rethink here.

To achieve this, we need first to understand something about harm and non-essentials.

3.2.1 Understanding the harm that economic activity does

There are two directions of harm.

First, some economic activity harms other aspects of life - these are sometimes called "externalities", and were in our discussions. Of this kind of harm, some is direct (e.g. industrial injuries), some is indirect (e.g. fertilizer production generating greenhouse gas, leading to climate change), some is short term, some is long term (e.g. climate change, attitudes in society), some is known about (e.g. c;imate change), some is hidden or unknown (e.g. society becoming more selfish or intolerant) or at least unexpected, some of the harm is caused by production supply and marketing (e.g. chemical spills), some, by changes in behaviour (e.g. smoking, leading to lung cancer), some, by subtle shifts in society's attitudes, mindset, aspirations and expectations (e.g. increased selfishness from use of social media).

How some of that occurs, we discuss below.

Second, in reverse, some harmful functioning harms the economy, reducing prosperity, making the economy less healthy. This seems to happen in at least three ways (economic theory will supply more).

3.2.2 Understanding the useless

Now, what about the useless? Instead of Let us use the less strident concept, non-essential versus essential. There are several things to understand.

First, how much of our lifestyles in affluent cultures involves non-essentials? It is difficult to find any figures for how much of our transport or goods are really necessary and which are non-essential. However, the Covid-19 pandemic forced a couple of things out into the open.

On 8 April 2020, the UK Road Haulage Association reported that 46% of the UK truck fleet was parked up because nobody was purchasing "non-essentials" (the word they used). So nearly half the goods transported are "non-essential" (the word they used, especially when interviewed in the BBC Today Programme)! If so, could the transport sector halve its carbon footprint if we no longer demanged non-essentials?

A year later it was found that the clothing sector has reduced by 50% and fuel by 25% (in round figures). These could give some indication of the proportion of the economy that is non-essential. Further, while the savings of the more wealthy (in the UK?) increased during the pandemic, those of the poorest 20% have reduced. What this suggests is that the wealthiest had been spending on non-essentials.

Of course, it is not as simple at that - but it does oblige us to find better figures and take action. See the JRI blog "The Economics of Biodiversity: An Opportunity for Christian Thinking" and the submissions to the Heywood Foundation that call for research to be carried out.

Second, in our discussions, the question was raised on whether there is a sharp boundary between essential and non-essential, such that something is either one or the other. There is not. We must not deem things simply and absolutely essential or non-essential. For example, is food essential? Yes - but what kind of food and when? Is having a fifth yacht essential? Probably not. Is having a boat essential? Almost certainly if you are surveying waterways (though much could be done from the banks).

We discussed whether we assign some quantitative scale to essentiality (or uselessness)? To say "more essential" and "less essential" seems meaningful at least in approximate terms, and this implies we might quantify essentiality on some linear scale from essential to non-essential. That might be useful for portrayal during presentations. However, when we looked more closely, this became meaningless. (Non-)Essentiality seems to be a qualitative rather than quantitative matter. Something is essential because of some kind good it brings. Later, we suggest a way to think about this systematically.

Another issue we discussed was that uselessness is not a third category alongside good and harmful, but cuts across both. Economic activity that produces Good can be essential and non-essential. Some harmful economic activity can be seen as essential. However, it so happens that much of the really harmful economic activity comes from things that are largely non-essential.

Much non-essential or useless economic activity prevents Good that could have occurred by absorbing human effort uselessly (opportunity costs). However, much, but its nature in a self-interested, affluent culture, does considerable harm too. The unnecessary transport or driving generates climate change emissions, and road traffic injuries and accidents. The surfeit of meat eating and sugar consumption causes obesity. Much non-essential consumption is because of greed.

This brings us to the issue of value. Those things that are truly essential will have true value. See the section on Value.

3.2.3 Failure of economic theory and practice regarding harm

Most economics theory and practice fails to distinguish the Good, the Harmufl and the Useless. GDP measures a nation's sum total money flow whether good, harmful or useless. Most governments seem to maintain absolute commitments to economic growth, defined as increasing GDP, and GDP can be increased by encouraging rather than suppressing harmful activities that increase GDP, and by increasing bullshit jobs! A company can increase its income by selling harmful and non-essential products - and increase its profits by assuming others will make amends for the harm. All these express irresponsibility.

Over the past decades, many have drawn attention to some of this problem with harmful or useless economic activity. For example, Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics recognises some kinds of harm, by suggesting a curb on economic growth, "the ecological ceiling". Her "social floor" also implicitly recognises some kinds of harm, though they are usually avoided in affluent economies. Marianna Mazzucato recognises the problem of uselessness, in emphasising the need to focus on productive economic activity (the "makers") rather than unproductive (the "takers"). Even 50 years ago E.F. Shumachers Small is Beautiful gave the example we used above, of the unnecessary carrying of biscuits.

Such ideas are welcome, but most do not address the issues of Harm and Uselessness in their many types and causes. Most are partial, covering only some of the kinds of harm or uselessness. For example, Mazzucato seems to welcome "productive" work whether or not it is harmful. Raworth's Doughnut Economics recognises only certain kinds of harm (mainly ecological).

In our discussions, however, we did not just focus on harm (or uselessness) as such, but recognised that we need to set them alongside the Good that economic activity does. Even some of the harmful and useless activities might bring some Good, even though outweighed by Harm and Uselessness. One of those most cited is that the firms carrying out these activities provide jobs so that people can feed their families, yield tax income for governments, and generate money flow that "trickles down" to the poor (and some have Corporate Social Responsibility policies!). For example, do not junk food makers contribute taxes that support the health systems?

We can immediately see flaws in such arguments. Trickle down theory has long been discredited [===]. Junk food makers are contributing taxes to support health systems needed to deal with the obesity they cause! As one of our participants put it, we're just going "round and round and round". In a low-tax regime we find similar stupid circularities, even when governments are not in the circle.

All this Harm and Uselessness undermines the mandate of the economic aspect of reality, to bring value, to bring Good into Creation, and the net result is probably negative.

3.2.4 Our proposal for good, harmful and useless

To achieve the radical rethink about bringing Harm and Uselessness into economic considerations alongside Good, we need:

There is of course a need to define harm and non-essential, but we deal with that below, when we suggest a conceptual framework that is able to provide these.

GDP is be defined approximately as "total value of all good plus total value of all harm." Why not (re)define GDP as "total value of all good minus total value of all harm"? Supply and Use Tables, likewise, merely measure the total amount of various product types supplied or used by various sectors, not whether they are harmful or good. Why not split each cell of these tables into good and harmful? We have made such suggestions in our submission to SNA 2025, the United Nations exercise on redesigning national accounts.

There are several challenges in differentiating harm from good. It has implications for economic planning, especially in conjunction with taking all aspects into account. In our discussions, we recognised that differentiating harm from good implies that some sectors of the economy should shrink, or at least no longer be encouraged to grow. That possibility seems to be an elephant in the room of politics and political economy. Are our (wealthy) economies unhealthily bloated? If so, would it be healthy for our whole economies to shrink - economic degrowth rather than economic growth?

However, recognisin{g that even productive economic activity can do harm as well as good - something that even many contemporary thinkers fail to do - offers a basis for critical reappraisal of economic activity that is systematic.

3.3 Widen to Embrace Micro, Macro and Global Economics Together

The traditional division of economics into micro versus macro is breaking down. Though it may be convenient to teach them separately in university courses, in real life micro and macro interact and interweave and cannot be separated. Many now recognise that the sharp division between the economics of households and nations, discussed by Keynes, Fisher and others, is becoming untenable. For example, the ECB has an expert group looking at how to link macro to micro [see their final report]. In their redesign of national accounts, the United Nations Statistics Department (SNA 2025) also recognises the need to integrate household economics with macroeconomics (e.g. "The importance of recognizing inter-household flows and stocks: These may be consolidated in the accounts as they may be less relevant from a macro-economic perspective, but they are of crucial importance in compiling distributional results" [WS2 SNA Guidance Note]).

Moreover, global economics cannot be adequately understood as the macroeconomics of nations. SNA 2025, which works primarily at the macro level, has a major Task Group dedicated to Globalization, because it recognises the challenge. For example, how do multi-national enterprises (MNEs) fit into national (macroeconomic) accounts and how may the importance of global natural resources be properly realized? Mark Carney struggles with this in his Value(s) book.

The nation state as we know it is not much more than a century old, yet the economic aspect of reality, which enables us to function economically, has long been with us, more than 2000 years and possibly forever. This suggests that the very foundation of the split between micro, macro and global economics is false.

So we believe that it should be possible to find a way to understand them all together, in a way that does justice to individuals, households, organisations, nations and the whole Earth.

To do so requires a conceptual framework that allows economic theory and practice to engage with fully with what is meaningful at each level, equally, without reduction, and with due respect for each. We have not found such a framework in conventional economics and, though recent thinkers recognise the need for integration, we cannot find an adequate framework among them. Carney, for example, offers the high-level idea of ESG (environmental, social, governance) values, and the SNA exercise narrows its remit to detailed quantitative constructs. We believe that something more comprehensive is required, and suggest one below.

Take the issue of responsibility for natural resources, for example. Each level implies a level of primary responsibility (to households, to the owners of a company or trustees of a charity, to the voters or citizens of a nation, or, at the global level, to some amorphous idea of future generations, indigenous cultures or biodiversity. We need to be able to:

If we do not have those, then always the seemingly primary responsibility at a level will trump the others, to the detriment of all. It is all too common for people to argue that the responsibility on us does not apply because of some other responsibility. e.g. "I am responsible to my nation to keep its laws." We need a responsibility beyond the nation within which the national laws are valid and are themselves responsibile to. We need a responsibility larger even the Earth or the future.

We seek:

3.4 Widen Value, Beyond Just Money and even Beyond Measurment

"Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 'I tell you the truth,' he said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'" [Luke 21:1-4]

In conventional economic terms, the rich donated much more value to the temple treasury, but their donations were probably done with an eye on their reputation and their own self-satisfaction, both of which are hermful in their pervasion of society. The poor widow's action takes society in the opposite direction, towards the good of a society in which selfish reputation is less important than sacrifice. What is the value here?

In Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics the "social floor" is of value, in the sense that she believes it is imperative to maintain the economy above that value. This is despite her dozen components of the social floor being things like networking or food, which are not primarily economic in their nature. However, there is a flaw in her thinking, in that she presupposes the (quantitative value of the) "ecological ceiling" is above the (quantitative value of the) "social floor". But, in affluent cultures, which already have an ecological footprint of 2.5 to 3 Earths, what we expect of the social floor might already be higher than the ecological ceiling. There is also the question of whether it is meaningful to try to calculate the total quantitative value of the social floor by summing up those of the components.

We need some way of understanding value that can recognise such factors as her components of the social floor and yet, at least, (a) is relatively free from cultural assumptions, (b) does not depend on meaningless quantifications.

Mark Carney, in his book Value(s), argues that the role of values in determining (economic) value has been insufficiently recognised. Along with others, he tries to find ways to bring this into economic thinking.

Likewise, SNA 2025 recognises value in unpaid household activity, such as child care, adult care, volunteering, transporting oneself rather than paying a fare or for fuel, and so on. They want to bring such things into the economic equations.

We want to widen even those ideas of value, to be able to recognise specific kinds of value, including some not covered in such discussions. For example, the plants in the Amazonian rainforest generates oxygen for the world, and also functions as a generator and maintainer of biodiversity. For example, religious faith might have some value to the economy in making people harder working and more dedicated and also more critical of injustice so that injustices that might harm the economy are dealt with. Attitude (generosity versus selfishness, trust versus suspicion and self-protection) also have some value for the economy.

Recognising harm from good (e.g. rainforest destruction, or suspicion versus trust) means finding a way to recognise negative as well as positive value. The conventional idea of costs is probably too thin and limited to adequately achieve this.

Quantitative measurement of value has driven economics practice and theory at its core for centuries: money, currency, etc. Yet much value in life cannot be so measured. In earlier and in non-Western cultures non-monetary value was maintained via other aspects and spheres of human activity but, as Mark Carney points out, the whole of society itself has become "marketized", seeing everything in quantitative monetary terms. Dasgupta tries to bring some of the non-measurables into the mechanisms of measurement, by defining e.g. natural capital, as the Ecosystem Services approach also tends to, but Gunton et al. argue that some things have value even without serving humans.

In our discussions that touched on the issue of money, there was some tension between money as a commodity and what money enables people to do and what happens as a result of money. Cryptocurrency is one topic where this tension arises. This tension needs to be resolved, with an understanding of money that might require a rethink of its very nature.

We seek:

We found Dooyeweerd's aspects provides the first two, as discussed below. We find a basis for the third in the Biblical "God saw all that he had made and it was very good" [Genesis 1:31]: all things in Creation have value.

(This enables us to deal with all resources or kinds of capital, and with value that cannot be measured, and even to treat things as valuable without reference to human needs. This accords with many contemporary thinkers, like Mazzucato, Carney, Raworth, Dasgupta, etc., but goes beyond them. It enables us, if we wish to, to bring "Christian values" into the economy, e.g. how they contribute to healthy economy and living environment, but without imposing them in inappropriate ways. "Beyond measurement": distinguish the "pseudo-quantitative" of better / worse from the quantitative of precise numbers.)

3.5 Consider All Widenings Together

We may see the recent thinkers in economics as focusing on one or two of the widenings, but there seems to be none who focus on them all. The following table summarises what each of the thinkers whose work we discussed focuses on.

What each thinker focuses on

(Click on table image to see it full size.)

To achieve an in integration of all those widenings seems like a tall order, especially as we want to do justice to each of the recent ideas. Even if we achieve some of these, it will be a contribution.

Yet, we have five wee reasons that give us hope of achieving something across all the desiderata above. (a) Real life actually has all these components in it, and so in principle it should be possible to gain some kind of understanding that amounts to 'wisdom'. (b) We recognise that theoretical approaches (such as economic theory, social theory) are fundamentally limited even though of some utility, so we do not begin with theory, but welcome "everything and anything", as one participant put it. (c) We approach the entire arena from a fundamentally different direction, in terms of both philosophical meta-system and religious presuppositions. (d) That thinkers are already addressing the desiderata suggests it is valid to seek them. (e) From our discussions, and from work in other fields, there is reason to believe that the fundamentally different approach we explore contains the natural ability to fulfil several of the desiderata together, rather than one after the other.

These percolated our discussions, and the following sections introduce some of that approach. We do not claim that it reaches answers to all questions. It might, however, open the door a tiny bit, so that others can go through and explore. In our Tenth Discussion the possibility of widening measurement was mooted.

4. THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND OUR SYSTEMATIC FRAMEWORK

We need a systematic way to seek these desiderata. Where can we find a systematic understanding of economic activity that might help us? Over the centuries, many economic paradigms and theories have been proposed, and many more are emerging today in response to the failure of the earlier ones. Yet even some of these are insufficient, in that many just react to one perceived problem in past ideas. If we want to widen in the various ways mentioned above (and maybe others yet unknown), we need a systematic understanding of the very nature of the economic aspect of reality itself.

In our discussions, we explored found two things that might help in thinking this through: Christian values, and Dooyeweerd's aspects.

4.1 Dooyeweerd's Aspects

So, our proposal is that this widening can be systematically explored and facilitated by using Dooyeweerd's philosophy, especially his ideas of aspects and multi-aspectual human functioning. (Those Christian values may be seen as functioning in various aspects.)

His fifteen aspects are ways in which things can be meaningful and good, and they are irreducibly distinct (cannot be reduced to each other):

4.2 How Aspects Might Help Us

How might such aspects help us in rethinking economics? Here is an overview of what aspects are - which you can either read or skip until you need it.

Here are some suggestions of how Dooyeweerd's ideas might provide a conceptual model on which to undertake each of the widenings. This is merely an indication that needs further work. Relevant portions of Dooyeweerd's ideas are put in [square brackets] Where it is supported, or it supports, extant ideas, these are shown.

5. USING DOOYEWEERD'S PHILOSOPHY TO WIDEN ECONOMICS

In this section, we discuss how Dooyeweerd's ideas may be used to support or achieve each of the widenings discussed in Section 3.

5.1 A Multi-aspectual Approach to Economic Activity

5.1.1 Main principle:

Each of Dooyeweerd's aspects, of which the economic is one, is a different kind/mode of functioning, and each kind depends on others but cannot be reduced to them. The economic aspect should serve others, not be served by them.

5.1.2 In more detail:

Each of Dooyeweerd's aspects, being a sphere of meaningfulness and law at the foundation of reality, can furnish us with a conceptual tool for understanding the economic aspect and how it is embedded in reality along with all the others.

That the aspects are irreducibly distinct, gives a way to bring in multiple kinds of externalities, insofar as they can be defined as (meaningful by) extra-economic aspects. Example: injustice is given meaning and importance by the juridical aspect, not the economic. That all aspects are equally meaningful and must all be considered in principle, moves so-called externalities into the very centre of economic activity. That the aspects inherently relate to each other gives structure and understanding to moving them to the centre.

Insofar as Dooyeweerd's suite is comprehensive [Note: Dooyeweerd's Aspects], we can expect that all the concerns raised by recent thinkers may be understood as expressions of one or more aspects.

Let us look at Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics in a little more detail. It aims to foster a global economy that "creates a thriving balance thanks to its regenerative and distributive design." In this we can see several aspect: balance is of the aesthetic aspect, regenerative is of the formative, and distributive is juridical. Her "ecological ceiling," includes several things whose processes are governed by the physical aspect but are problematic primarily in the biotic aspect: air pollution, ozone layer depletion, climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, nitrogen and phosphorus loading and freshwater withdrawals. The other two, biodiversity loss and land conversion are largely biotic in their meaningfulness, though land conversion is of course spatial and it involves some formative aspect. If we want to tackle these issues we need to recognise the laws by which they operate, which are given by the various aspects. Her "social floor" involves yet other aspects, as follows:

We can see most aspects represented there - which is not surprising since she tried to cover most of life. We also see that most elements are meaningful in more than one aspect, which is often the case. McGibbon [2018] suggests that such "cipations" may be considered in pairs and triples of main aspects to help us understand the meaningfulness and functioning of many things systematically.

In fact, for a full understanding, each one is meaningful in all aspects, for their operation (for example the social and economic aspects are required for ensuring that each is provided, and the pistic aspect to motivate us to do so insofar as we believe each is important). The economic aspect impacts all of these, and they impact the economic.

In such a way we can see that Dooyeweerd's aspects can help to fulfil the first need, to understand how the economic aspect is merely one among others. We need also to understand how economic functioning impacts that of other aspects, and conversely how that of other aspects impacts the economy. These may be understood via the inter-aspect relationships, especially inter-aspect dependency. For example, our economic activity depends on people's health (biotic) and morale (pistic), on attitude (ethical) and communication (lingual), and so on. Moreover, a healthy economy, seen as wise use of resources, fosters a more friendly society (social), more trust (ethical) and allows more arts and enjoyment (aesthetic). It also allows more technological innovation (formative), scientific research (analytical) and education (lingual).

We continue working this widening out. In particular, the exact nature of the dependency relationship between each pair of aspects requires careful thought, and especially between the economic and other aspects.

5.2 Aspects of Good and Harmful Economic Activity

5.2.1 Main principle:

Each aspect offers a distinct kind of good and most, a distinct kind of evil or harm. Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us separate out both the harm from the good and the kinds of these from each other.

5.2.2 In more detail about good and harm:

First, let us consider the good that economic activity might bring in several aspects. Economic activity ensures resources are available, and employs them wisely. As indicated above, this can include food and healthcare (biotic aspect), scientific research and practical analysis (analytic), materials for creating, constructing, crafting or manufacturing (formative), education, writing and media (lingual) and so on.

As an example of aspectual harm, let us consider poverty. Poverty can mean different things in different aspects:

Notice how some of the later ones exacerbate some of the earlier ones. That accords with Dooyeweerd's idea of inter-aspect dependency. If we wish to study any of this in detail, we study the laws of each relevant aspect, drawing on the bodies of knowledge of the sciences for which that aspect is their core.

5.2.3 In more detail about useless - essential and non-essential

Essentiality is not to do with good versus harm. Some activity that does harm might be deemed essential. An example that arose in our RLDG discussions was of rescue helicopters - which contribute climate change emissions but rescue people in danger. So, we have essential and non-essential Good and essential and non-essential Harm.

Essentiality seems to be closely connected with value, as discussed below.

However, much of the harm done by Western economies comes from less-essential economic activity, some being pure greed, but much of it being surfeit of e.g. comfort and convenience and pleasure0seeking in wealthy nations. Mariana Mazzucato has drawn attention to some of that. There seems to be some correlation between harm and non-essentiality.

This which possibly may be explained by our dysfunction in the later aspects, of greed - ethical aspect - arrogance - pistic aspect - and unconcern - juridical aspect. It might be no coincidence (from a Judeo-Christian perspective) that God revealed to the prophet Ezekiel [16:49] that what led to the destruction of Sodom and the exile of Judah was the attitude of "affluence, arrogance and unconcern". When we, the affluent use their money for partying and pleasures, comforts and conveniences, while ignoring the plight of the poor and the planet, might we not validly question whether those economic activities are both harmful and non-essential? See Note on Affluence.

We continue working out this idea of Good, Harmful and Useless.

5.3 Levels of Economic Analysis

5.3.1 Main principle:

At each level of economics, different aspects are of primary importance and govern the way economic activity operates at that level.

5.3.2 In more detail:

If we consider what happens in economic activity at each level, we find different sets of aspects important:

Notice some surprising links between levels, some of which might have been hidden in previous economic theory. One is between the individual and global, in juridical, ethical and pistic attitude and responsibility for the entire Earth. Another is the spatial aspect of household land and national territory. Another, which has been recognised, is the juridical link between organisations and nations in policy.

We do not claim those are the final sets of aspects at each level; others might modify those lists. However, what it shows is two things. 1. Each level finds different aspects meaningful. 2. They are the same set of aspects, so all levels may be understood together in relation to those aspects. This gives hope of a conceptual framework within which we may embrace all levels.

In recognising that, we can go further, operationalizing the idea in economic theory and practice. At each level, different aspectual laws operate and also provide the norms for operating at that level. It is no use expecting that laws that apply to one level are appropriate norms for other levels. Nor should we try to understand the operation of one level through the lens of aspects that are important in other levels. Some analogies might exist, such as households as nations, or nations as households, but those are mere analogies and should never be relied on in economic planning or process.

These are levels of economic activity. So, for the aspects mentioned, we must understand the links they have with the economic, especially those of inter-aspect dependency. This has been covered in the above section on multi-aspectual economy.

That Dooyeweerd's suite of aspects covers both individual, social and societal meaning and functioning, also alongside mathematical and naturel-scientific functioning, and all these in the context of inter-aspect relationships, makes it likely to offer the integrative foundation to bring micro, macro and global economics together.

We continue working this widening out.

5.4 Kinds of Value

5.4.1 Main principle:

Each kind of value is made possible by an aspect. Each aspect implies a distinct kind of value. Economic value is only one of at least a dozen kinds of value. The measurement of value is a fallible process, so price should not determine all. Some value cannot be measured but must still occurs in economic activity and should be taken into account in economic analysis and planning.

5.4.2 In more detail on values:

As an example, take the list of unpaid household activity drawn up for the United Nations discussions on redesigning the System of National Accounts, in their Guidance Note on Household Activity. In each, different aspects are primarily responsibility for making them valuable. (Refer to the list of Dooyeweerd's aspects above.)

For the final one, by asking ourselves "Which aspects are missing as primary aspects? What kinds of unpaid activity might be characterized by them?" we suggested three other unpaid household activities that should be considered - which are only illustrations and not a complete list:

In fact, each of the unpaid activities above is more complex, and we carried out a fuller aspectual analysis of them, in our response to SNA 2025. Here, as an example, is our fuller comment on Childcare.

"Unpaid childcare captures the time provided by care givers in the direct care of children." Care has the ethical aspect as its primary, but in the case of children there is usually a strong social aspect of relationship and a biotic aspect too when the children are the offspring of the carers. "This can range from helping with homework [lingual, formative] to feeding [biotic, aesthetic], washing [physical, biotic] or dressing children [aesthetic]."

We might also add: play [aesthetic], maintain justice [juridical], love [ethical], and affirm their worth [pistic]. These four aspects, especially, help to form the character of the child from an early age and, indirectly, their future potential in economy and society.

It might also be no coincidence that all four are post-economic aspects, so that they impinge on and impact, and should guide and regulate, the economic activity and decisions. Using purely economic rationality and laws on their own (as in SNA 2008) misses the importance of these aspects.

Readers can see from that how aspects can be used to draw out issues that are often hidden or remain tangled together.

5.4.3 On more detail on essential and non-essential

To say something is essential in the economy suggests that it brings some Good, some real value. To say a thing is non-essential, or useless, suggests that it brings no real value. Graeber's Bullshit Jobs are defined in terms of lack of value. However, a binary divide between essential and non-essential is misleading. Even a spectrum of more and less essential is misleading. We need to understand the ways in which things are essential, what value they bring.

Dooyeweerd's aspects, listed above, can help us with this. The earlier aspects, such as the biotic make meaningful what we might consider the basic essentials, such as food and health. But to Dooyeweerd, all aspects are equally valuable in bringing the overall Good of Shalom or Salaam, which, Jews, Christians and Muslims believe, is what God intended for Creation and Greek philosophers hoped to attain in eudaimonia.

So, (non-)essentiality should be considered by reference to the kinds of Good and Harm that an economic activity brings in each aspect, and whether the Good in one aspect can be justified in light of the Harm in several others. The aesthetic aspectual Good of pleasure, comfort and convenience might (as mentioned above) not stand up against the juridical aspectual Harm of gross injustice to the poor and the planet, and the ethical aspectual Harm of selfish attitude that it encourages in global society by way of example. [See Note on Affluence.]

5.4.4 In more detail on the measuring of value

In most economics, value is quantified. In our discussions we recognised the usefulness of quantifying value for certain purposes, such as to see whether we are improving in some way, but we were also critically and keenly aware of the limits of quantification. Quantification is not inherent in their meaningfulness, but rather an artifact of our temporary purposes. We felt that recourse to quantification was often too hasty and unquestioning.

To Dooyeweerd, the kernel meaningfulness of the economic aspect is not quantity but frugality (carefulness) with resource. Quantification is merely a convenience in achieving this, but, ultimately, is not essential to it. Modern economics have, however, tended to exclude or downplay the non-quantified.

Even the idea of poverty and justice are too often cast in terms of money, reducing poverty to a number of dollars per day, and justice to numeric equality. As a result, unpaid household activity is devalued, environmental damage is ignored, and other kinds of injustice are hidden. See aspects of poverty above.

Dooyeweerd made a transcendental critique of theoretical thought that can help us understand measurement and quantification, and their limitations, more clearly and avoid such fallacies. The key idea, which applies to measurement, is that in doing so, we single out one aspect to measure, away from all others. It is this singling-out that is the start of our problems.

Why do we single out one aspect to measure? Because trying to combine several aspects in one quantified measure yields category errors. For example, we might measure speed, friendship or justice (quantification of kinematic, social, juridical aspects). We might even measure the speed of (obtaining) justice or the justice of (road) speed, or the appropriateness (justice) of kinds of friendship. But it makes no sense to try to measure speed and justice together in one measurement. This is because each aspect has its own distinct rationality and mixing aspectual rationalities leads to category errors [Note on Rationalities].

We take measurement so much for granted that we fail to understand how complex it is, and what can go wrong at each stage. We can see four stages in measuring:

One problem with taking those stages is that, having obtained a price, we tend to assume that all we need do is apply the laws of arithmetic. This often does not apply; for example double-counting is frequent. It is not usually the quantitative aspect that causes double-counting, but another aspect in which a thing functions.

Examples: A fairly basis error is to forget the law of the economic aspect that income of one organisation is expenditure of another. For similar reason, assets might be double-counted. Double-counting can occur when it is difficult to assign something to existing categories, which is an problem in the analytic aspect. These are well-known examples. Are there less-well-known ones involving other aspects?

So, while using arithmetic, statistics etc. in economics, we need to be careful to remember that the measured value operates in other aspects.

However, even when we do so, we must remember the problems that each stage inserts into the process:

Though that might seem complex when first met, after some practice, using aspects can help us separate out the various issues and kinds of error, so that they can be faced squarely and dealt with in appropriate ways.

Now we might see why purely quantitative comparisons of household income is problematic - even though convenient for lazy politicians and sloganeers. In our discussions, it was clear that we want measures of value to express the good and evil that occurs when people use money.

It helps to reconceive money, which the next section tries to do.

5.5 Bringing It All Together

Each of the widenings above resonate with, and may be supported philosophically by, Dooyeweerd's ideas, as discussed above. That implies that Dooyeweerd's philosophy, and especially his aspects, might offer a basis for hope that all the necessary widenings required in economic theory and practice may be based on, and facilated by, Dooyeweerd's philosophy.

As one of our participants remarked, "I think a Dooyeweerdian approach enables us to be systematic in recognising the radical implications of the Christian approach. [For example] if the Christian approach calls us to be self-sacrificing, Dooyeweerd's aspects give us a way to think about that carefully, without overlooking things and just making it [nebulous]. To be self-sacrificing is difficult and requires some careful thinking."

6. ENRICHING WITH A 'CHRISTIAN' PERSPECTIVE

The above discussion, using Dooyeweerd's philosophy, offers a systematic approach to rethinking economics. But systematic approaches can be boring and can lack motivation. Also, while offering understanding and guidance, they do not on their own offer much answer to the question "We are in a mess; how can we get out of it?" This is, perhaps, where a Christian perspective might come in.

A Christian perspective can bring several things to the table of discussion. It can bring a set of values, an attitude, a motivation, as well as the ideas of creation, sin, redemption and hope for the future.

6.1 Christian Values

In our RLDG discussions, it was suggested early on that we use a published set of "Christian values" to provide a systematic basis. It is that of Brian Edgar, in his Evangelical Alliance blog, in which he lists the following:

Though some of us wondered if other things should be included in the list (e.g. the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23), we decided to take the list as it was and discuss: "How can each Christian value contribute to a healthy living environment?" and especially considering economic activity. This gave us practice at working out how such 'nebulous' values might be important to the economy.

However, we found ourselves going outwith this list, such as discussing kindness. The list omits some things from the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Things like biodiversity and the shepherding of the rest of Creation are missing. The list is not sacrosanct. (As mentioned below, its value to us was for reasons other than being a list.)

In our discussions, we found ourselves referring to Dooyeweerd's aspects, which is a list of ways in which the whole of Creation is meaningful and Good, which was very systematically drawn up from a Christian perspective. So we treat Christian values not as the fundamental way of systematizing the widening, but as perhaps motivating it in the first place and then, later on, enriching it.

Even though we did not use Christian Values as the basis for our systematic rethink, we found the following benefits from our discussion thereof:

We found that Dooyeweerd's aspects did not replace Christian values, but. as one of our participants put it, "a Dooyeweerdian approach enables us to be systematic in recognising the radical implications of the Christian approach."

6.2 Attitude and Motivation

Most of those 'Christian Values' are expressions of an attitude, and it is from attitude that actions emerge. After a time, we as much in our discussions. Likewise, the fruit of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness/humility and self-control - are attitude that is 'grown' in the hearts of people who follow Jesus Christ. [Note on Fruit of Holy Spirit]

Not only is attitude taken by individuals, but it pervades society. Attitude spreads, especially an attitude of selfishness, self-protection and competitiveness. Such an attitude harms both the economy (e.g. cheating, lack of trust) but all of reality. The attitude emphasised by the Gospel of Christ, and grown by the Holy Spirit, is very different - as historian Tom Holland discusses at length.

Moreover, thinkers adopt an attitude when we engage with other thought or try to make a contribution. Either we adopt an arrogant, competitive attitude that seeks to downplay or undermine other views, or we adopt the Holy Spirit's attitude. In the UK Christian Academic Network, we have tried to develop this, in LACE: to Listen carefully to what others are trying to say, to Affirm what we agree with, to Critique by exposing presuppositions, and to Enrich, often by drawing attention to aspects that have been overlooked. This helps towards building up humanity's bodies of knowledge and understanding of fields, including economics.

We have tried to adopt LACE here. With this attitude, we have been able to affirm recent thought by reference to the multi-aspectual nature of things and multi-aspectual functioning. We have been able to critique much economics theory and practice by seeing how it fails to take all other aspects into account, and by exposing some presuppositions that deserve to be questioned. We have been able to enrich it by suggesting other aspects to consider. For example, we sought to suggest yet other kinds of unpaid household activity based on missing aspects See Values above.

The motivation behind our rethinking is not to make a name for ourselves, but rather to contribute to the Shalom of humanity's understanding of Creation's economic aspect.

6.3 Creation, Sin, Redemption and Hope

A Christian perspective takes seriously the reality of human sin and the possibility of redemption that is made possible by God in Christ and not just human effort, and consequent hope for the future.

The Judeo-Christian understanding of the reality of human sin and repentance is freeing and dignifying - not enslaving nor demeaning as much of anti-Christian Western culture supposes. To be able to admit "I was and am wrong", "We were wrong and need to change" means we no longer try to defend ourselves, no longer try to manipulate circumstances to protect us, no longer have to worry about our reputation, and so on. And it opens the way to seeking the kind of help that is beyond our own capabilities. Genuine repentance can also disarm the other, and open the door to healing. This is the case whether for individuals, organisations, nations or even whole cultures. It sees the problem in 'me' even though there might also be a problem in others or even a structural problem too.

Without it, when we are struggling with things being wrong - such as the climate emergency, the sexualised culture of rape, the denigration of black lives, or the Covid-19 pandemic - all we have left to us is psychological manipulation, social persuasion, media messaging, government imposition of rules, financial and marketing inducements, legal incentives, or romanticized communitarianism, and the like, all of which have failed and are failing on their own.

The "beyond us" in the case of individuals can be other people, but indirectly and ultimately, is the Creator of all, whom Christians call God. God is revealed as procactive redeemer in the Bible, rather than a mere absorber or worship or aloof judge. Though Christianity has too long focused on individual redemption, the Bible clearly shows national and even global redemption is what God plans and works towards. It also shows God works towards the fulfilment of this not despite human activity, but with it. God affirms the dignity of all Creation, including humans - but not solely humans - and seeks our partnership in this work of redemption. God is the only one who can truly forgive wrongs, especially at the global level, and is the only one who can ultimately solve the problems.

Thirdly, the Christian idea of redemption, which is made possible by God in Christ and not just human effort, gives the antidote to human sin (forgiveness and cleansing: c.f. I John 1:9) and the harm it does (restoration: Romans 8:19-23). So, if there is acknowledgement of human sin, then God can act to rectify in a way that humans cannot - for example biodiversity loss or climate change. (It does not guarantee that he will do so, but there is the possibility.) This is the basis for hope (but not for complacency).

There is much more to say about this - 2000 plus years' of theology - but that must do for now. [Note on Theology]

7. CONCLUSION

The contribution of our discussions, therefore, seems to be (a) to argue we need to widen beyond conventional economic discourse in four ways, (b) to suggest a conceptual philosophical framework that can facilitate this, and (c) open up the possibility of an avowedly Christian perspective in economics ...

... and to do so without 'taking sides' in the supposed battle between socialism and capitalism.

This, however, is unfinished work, and we call upon others to join us in exploring this way to rethink economics. We ourselves will continue the work, and also are developing a more general Rethinking of Economic Activity, with the help of Philosophical and Christian Perspectices.


Notes

RLDG, Reith Lectures Discussion Group. A group of Christian thinkers came together in November 2020 between the third and fourth Reith Lectures, to discuss Mark Carney's ideas. Discussions continued into 2021, reaching 11 discussions before the summer, when the original of this article was written, and they continue. Participants include those with and without training in economics.

Findings of RLDG discussions. The findings of the first eight discussions are collected in Findings of the First Eight Reith Lectures Discussions. They cover: Ideas and concepts of economic activity, Mechanisms of economic activity, Problems in current economic theory and practice, Christian ideas, Using Dooyeweerd's ideas, and Engaging with mainstream thinking. Subsequent discussions have contributed to other findings that inform this work.

Note on Herman Dooyeweerd. Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) was a Dutch Christian thinker who trained in jurisprudence and was perplexed by how the various schools or thought in that field did not speak to one another. He traced that to the fact that each emerged from a different philosophical position (Greek, Scholastic, Kantian, etc.) each of which was the expression of (emerged out of) a different ground-motive. A ground-motive is a fundamental spiritual driving force in society, a presupposition about the basic nature of reality. He examined four of these, the Greek ground-motive of form-matter, the Scholastic ground-motive of nature-supernature (secular-sacred), the humanist ground-motive of nature-freedom and the Biblical ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption. The dualistic nature of the first three led, he argued, to their fundamental antinomies and long-term fruitlessness. In his magnum opus, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, he tried to work out the implications of the Creation, Fall, Redemption ground-motive for philosophy and many scientific fields. In effect, he tried to answer the question, "What does it imply if all is Created by a loving God Who saves and redeems?" Arguably, he died before finishing the project, but what he left us is of immense value, not just for Christian thinking but for all thinking. For example, in the 1930s-1950s he prefigured much subsequent thought about the non-neutrality and non-absoluteness of theoretical thought, discussed by such thinkers as Polanyi, Habermas, Foucault, and many others, and the diversity and coherence of reality, subsequently discussed by a whole range of systems thinkers. Because he came at these from a different direction (i.e. grounded in a different ground-motive), his contribution to both these issues is unique but also relatively unknown. In this article, we apply his thought to economics.

LACE: Listen, Affirm, Critique, Enrich. LACE is being developed by the UK Christian Academic Network, as a way of engaging with extant ideas, in order to contribute to the building up of humanity's bodies of knowledge. This contrasts with so-called Christian attitudes or either antagonism to (some of) the world's ideas or acquiescence (to some others). See An Approach to Engaging with Mainstream Thought. For a philosophical-theological motivation for this approach, see Basden [2008].

Note on Reductionism. Many early system thinkers railed against reductionism. Clouser [2005] examines kinds of reduction, and shows why and how they are harmful.

Our submission to SNA 2025. See Broader Comments by RLDG on Bringing Wellbeing and Sustainability into National Accounts, which is our submission about household activity and depletion of natural resources, in both HTML and pdf versions.

Note on Non-necessary Business Trip. Each year, Microsoft Corporation hosts a spree in the USA at which maybe 25,000 people attend. In 2020, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it went online, and only 800 people attended. The other 24,200 people thought it was non-essential.

Note on junk food. In the UK dealing with obesity costs the NHS £6bn per year. It is probably much more in the USA. Note: Jim Radford, author and singer of the famous song, The Shores of Normandy and the youngest person to take part in the Normandy Landings in 1944, tells how he was serving on a ship with sophisticated, new guns that could shoot accurately beyond the horizon, and wondered whether it would not have been better to have spent a fraction of the huge funds spent on them had been spent on preventing the need for them, e.g. with better negotiation.

Note: Why Good? Our most fundamental reason for believing that the economy (all economic activity) is supposed to bring positive Good into the world and to serve the world, is because of our Christian belief.

Note on Dooyeweerd's Aspects. Dooyeweerd [1955,II, 556] warns that no suite of aspects, including his own, should be treated as some final truth, but that its users should always maintain some critical caution, and be open to other aspects and interpretations of their meaningfulness. However, Basden [2019] argues that Dooyeweerd's suite is the best we have so far, being more comprehensive than the others (e.g. Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Hartmann's levels, Habermas' action types, etc. and also more soundly grounded in philosophy than most are.

Reith Lectures. Mark Carney's 4th Reith Lecture. Also Chapter 11 of Carney 2021.

Note: Idolatry. Idolatry is when one thing or one aspect is given absolute meaningfulness and priority over other things. As Bob Goudzwaard [1984, 21] put it,

"Suppose we consider the worship of a wood, stone or porcelain image, a practice still common in the world today. This worship has several steps. First, people sever something from their immediate environment, refashion it and erect it on its own feet in a special place. Second, they ritually consecrate it and kneel before it, seeing it as a thing which has life in itself. Third, they bring sacrifices and look to the idol for advice and direction. In short, they worship it. Worship brings with it a decrease in their own power; now the god reveals how they should live and act. And fourth, they expect the god to repay their reverence, obedience and sacrifices with health, security, prosperity and happiness. They give the idol permission to demand and receive whatever it desires, even if it includes animal or human life, because they see the idol as their savior, as the one who can make life whole and bring blessing."

Not only a physical thing, we can idolise any type of thing, idea, cause, or even an aspect. Much economic theory tends, unwittingly perhaps, to idolise the economic aspect. Dooyeweerd at least felt that idolatry is universally and inherently harmful. This is partly why we widen beyond the economic aspect to all others.

Note on Rationalities. Rationality is a making-sense or nonsense, and each aspect makes sense of reality in a different way. This was highlighted by Peter Winch and Jürgen Habermas, who pointed out that the rationality of the social sciences and of theology differ from that of physics. See page on Aspectual Rationality.

Note on Affluence. See the prophetic talk Hope in this Climate Emergency: Leviticus 26 - promises of national blessing or its opposite on Youtube and a fuller written version.

Note on Fruit of the Holy Spirit. But have not Christians done a lot of evil in this world over the past 2000 years? Indeed they have. But not all who are called 'Christians' truly allow the Holy Spirit to grow these attitudes, especially those in affluent cultures. So, in this article we are not supporting Christianity and Christians as such, but rather those who are truly surrendered to Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Note on Theology. Much theology over the past 1500 years has been influenced by what Dooyeweerd called the nature-grace ground-motive, which led theology to elevate the sacred over the secular. By reaction, some theologies react into near secularism. Some merely try to cobble them together e.g. by trying to "re-enchant" the secular, or turn the focus of religion away from God to moral things like injustice. But, today, theologies are emerging that bridge the sacred-secular divide. For one, see A New view in Theology and Practice.

References

Basden A. 2008. Engaging with and enriching humanist thought: the case of information systems. Philosophia Reformata, 73(2), 132-53.

Basden A. 2019. Dooyeweerd's understanding of meaning (1) Some main themes. Philosophia Reformata, 84(1), 102-29.

Mark Carney's 4th Reith Lecture. Also Chapter 11 of Carney 2021.

Carney M. 2021. Value(s). William Colins. This book expresses what was in his Reith Lectures. See also our summary of and discussions on Carney's Reith Lectures.

Clouser R. 2005. The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Beliefs in Science. University of Notre Dame Press.

Dasgupta Prof. Sir P. 2021. The Economics of Biodiversity; The Dasgupta Review. UK Treasury. See summary and critique.

Dooyeweerd H. 1955/1984. A New Critique of Theoretical Thought.

ECB (2020), "Understanding household wealth: linking macro and micro data to produce distributional financial accounts", Report by the Expert Group on Linking Macro and Micro data for the Household Sector, ECB Statistics Paper Series, No 37. https://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/scpsps/ecb.sps37~433920127f.en.pdf?3a224bdf5368fcbca627 453f071f2b72

Edgar B. 2021. Available as pdf at: Eight Core Christian Values (pdf); for list and brief critique, see Christian Values and the Economy.

Graeber, D. 2018. Bullsh*t Jobs - The Rise of Pointless Work and What We Can Do About It. Penguin Books.

Goudzwaard B. 1984. Idols of our time. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

Gunton RM, vanAsperen E, Basden A, Bookless D, Araya Y, Hanson DR, Goddard MA, Otieno G, Jones GO. 2017. Beyond ecosystem services: valuing the invaluable. Trends in Ecology and Evolution April 2017, 32 (4), 249-257.

Holland, T. 2019. Dominion. Penguin.

Mazzucato M. The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy. See comments on Mazzucato.

McGibbon S. 2018. Towards an Aspectual Conception of Trust. PhD Thesis, University of Salford, UK.

Raworth K. 2018. Doughnut Economics. See comments.

United Nations, 2021. Rethinking the Structure of National Accounts for 2025. See also our discussion of SNA 2025.

van de Ven, P., Zwijnenburg, J. & Queljoe, M. D. (2018), Including unpaid household activities: An estimate of its impact on macro-economic indicators in the G7 economies and the way forward. No. 2018/4. OECD Publishing, 2018. --- not yet used


Developed by Andrew Basden June 2021 onwards, from Original Version, which was developed from Findings of Reith Lectures Discussion, as part of Christian Thinking in Economics

Last updated: 1 July 2021 from ideas that emerged during the 9th Reith Discussion. 2 July 2021 added Dooyeweerd's aspects, and also the link between xn values and aspects; renamed 'xn.rethink' from 'reith.findings'. 4 July 2021 added re micro-macro, and also added a point to how Dooyeweerd's philosophy offers this. 5 July 2021 bit more on poverty. 7 July 2021 xn and y. 9 July 2021 systematizing intro. 12 July 2021 cipations. 14 July 2021 widening rearranged, with micro-macro rewritten and put later, and money and measuring rewwritten; abstract. 16 July 2021 slight changes. 21 July 2021 described the widenings, and changed a bit else; refs. 24 July 2021 links. 27 July 2021 name-labels. 2 August 2021 shrink econ. 28 August 2021links to SNA in z11, added labels. 21 September 2021 added money; Econ subsid of Env quote. 22 September 2021 new intro. 22-30 September 2021 complete revamp. 1 October 2021 non-xn readers, money as functioning harmonises, better intro wording; different verses; table comparing thinkers. 10 October 2021 Moved to reith2020/; altered abstract; got rid of the Money sections, because we did not really discuss those; added reference to ../xn.rethink in Conclusion; left, right.