Rethink / Reframing of Economics
Draft as yet, but substantially complete if you are forgiving.
- Have economics and the economy have lost their way? In Chapter 4, we discuss the meaning, mandate and mindset of economics. Example Key takeaway: Economics as 'serving' other spheres of life, all together aimed at Multi-aspectual Good, rather than expecting to be 'served'.
- Is economics too narrow in what it values? In Chapter 5, we argue that a wide range of values is important - especially the natural world, unpaid household work, and even subtle things like happiness, aesthetics and faith. Example Key Takeaway: Use Dooyeweerd's Aspects to understand diversity of value(s).
- Do economic predictions keep going wrong? Do we truly understand economic activity? Chapter 6 presents a multi-aspectual idea of functioning and repercussions, in which economic activity affects and is affected by other spheres of human life - include unpaid work. Example Key Takeaway: Take every aspect into account, especially hidden mindset and attitude.
- How much damage does the economy do to the world, to human health and happiness? Chapter 7 finds a way to properly distinguish harmful and useless economic activity from good, in multiple aspects. Example Key Takeaway: GDP should subtract Harmful economic activity from Good, rather than add it.
- Why is economics so fragmented, into micro and macroeconomics? What damage does our attitude to money do? Chapter 8 discusses a new ways to understanding subjects and objects in economics and our responsibility at all levels. Example Key Takeaway: Money is not a resource for satisfaction; money is an opportunity for responsibility.
That sums up our rethink or reframing of economics.
Chapter 9 discusses, as a challenging example of how all that can be applied, to understand and prevent environmental destruction. Before those chapters, Chapter 1 introduces the problems economics causes, not least environmental problems. Chapter 2 reviews recent and conventional thinking in economics - a plethora of proposals. Chapter 3 presents five perspectives from which we develop the rethink: everyday reality, embracing all views, a multi-aspectual philosophy of the world, a healthy wariness of economics theories, a Christian and other religious perspective, and an idea of Multi-aspectual Good. Embracing? Our rethink recognises valid insight and gross error in both capitalist and socialist economics, orthodox and heterodox, and treats them as part of the same picture.
This reframing or fundamental rethinking of economics covers both theory and practice. It was stimulated by Mark Carney's 2020 Reith Lectures on value(s), and then broadened to take account of a plethora of recent thinking in economics (many spheres of life like environment, health, psychology, etc.). It was composed by the Reith Lectures Discussion Group (RLDG).
This is a draft for your discussion.
Please help critique and refine it.
This page: a contents list with summaries of each chapter and section. Reading through the summaries should give you an overall idea of what the Rethink / Reframing is about.
Ten chapters (see below for more detailed contents and summaries)
Part 1: Introductory Chapters:
- Chapter 1. Introduction
Summary: This chapter sets out the whats, whys and hows of this Rethink / Reformation of economics, so that readers can understand it more fully.
- Chapter 2. A Brief Overview of Recent and Conventional Thinking in Economics
Summary: This chapter summarises a range of insights from recent thinkers, and perhaps also some conventional ideas from both left and right of economics. It ends with the need for an integrated picture and a way to detect other issues not yet widely discussed.
- Chapter 3. Perspectives We Employ in Our Rethink
Summary: Five perspectives make this rethink possible: 1. Everyday life, 2. Dooyeweerd's philosophical understanding of reality, 3. limitations of economics theory (left, right and recent), 4. Christian/religious perspectives, 5. Multi-aspectual Good.
Part II - The Five Main Chapters
Part III - Applying All That
Contents with Summaries
Use this both as contents and also as a summary of the content. Read through summaries at any level, and you will gain an overview.
-- PART I - Introductory Chapters --
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter Summary: This chapter sets out the whats, whys and hows of this Rethink / Reformation of economics, so that readers can understand it more fully.
Chapter 2. A Brief Overview of Recent and Conventional Thinking in Economics
Chapter Summary: This chapter summarises a range of insights from recent thinkers, and perhaps also some conventional ideas from both left and right of economics. It ends with the need for an integrated picture and a way to detect other issues not yet widely discussed.
2-1. Overview of Recent Ideas
Summary: Recent ideas on the economy and many and disparate, yet each contains important insights.
2-2. Insights from Conventional Economics
Summary: Conventional economics, both left- and right-wing, also offers value insights, though also many that are not valid. The valid insights contribute to understanding how the economic aspect of reality itself operates.
2-3. Ideas from History
2-4. A Way Forward
Summary: We seek a framework for understanding economics as such. Instead of just responding to the above insights, we consider five main issues drawn from philosophy.
Chapter 3. Perspectives We Employ in Our Rethink
Chapter Summary: Five perspectives make this rethink possible, which provides the integrating and completing picture needed above: 1. Everyday life, 2. Dooyeweerd's philosophical understanding of reality, 3. limitations of economics theory (left, right and recent), 4. Christian/religious perspectives, 5. Multi-aspectual Good.
3-1. Pre-theoretical and Theoretical Stance: The Real, the Ideal and the Theory
Summary: We aim to take into account both the real and the ideal, both theory and the 'everyday' experience.
3-2. Embracing All Ideas
Summary: In rethinking, reframing economics we try to welcome and embrace all insights, regardless of source.
3-3. Dooyeweerd's Philosophy as Philosophical Foundation
Summary: Here we outline what readers will need of Dooyeweerd's philosophy in order to understand the Rethink.
- 3-3.1 Dooyeweerd on the Nature of Reality Summary: We view reality in terms of its meaningfulness, and this via the lens of aspects rather than things.
- 3-3.2 Dooyeweerd's Suite of Fifteen Aspects Summary: Dooyeweerd offers a suite of 15 philosophically grounded aspects, which we will use as our conceptual tool.
- 3-3.3 Characteristics of Aspects Summary: To employ Dooyeweerd's aspects we need to recognise their irreducibility, coherence, and various other characteristics.
- 3-3.5 What Aspects Enable in Reality Summary: Philosophical concepts like things, properties, functioning, good and evil, etc. are grounded in, and usefully understood in terms of, aspects.
- 3-3.6 Attitude and its Two Aspects Summary: Two aspects, the ethical and pistic, will be found especially important in understanding the realities of economics.
- 3-3.7 How This Helps Us Understand and Think About Economics Summary: Here we itemise how all the above helps us think about economics.
- 3-3.8 Aspectual Analysis Summary: .
- 3-3.9 Conclusion About Dooyeweerd Summary:
3-4. Perspective on Economics Theory
Summary: How should we approach economics theory, to critique and refine it?
3-5. Christian and other Religious Perspectives
Summary: Christian and other religious perspective can offer insights that are usually overlooked in economics theory and practice, but which are important for a full understanding of economics, and especially to motivate and enable deep change rather than just discuss.
3-6 Multi-aspectual Good
Summary: The notion of Multi-aspectual Good brings together the fragments of what many recent thinkers have drawn attention to.
3-7. Engaging With Extant Ideas
Summary: In order to engage sensitively with ideas from different perspectices, we Listen, Affirm, Critique, Enrich (LACE).
-- PART II - Five Main Chapters --
Chapter 4. The Meaning, Mandate and Mindset of Economics
Chapter Summary: Economics does not reflect enough on its place among other spheres of life. We discuss the meaning and mandate of economics, its interwovenness with other spheres, and a mindset of isolation that should be embeddedness among them.
4-1. What is Economics All About?
Summary: What is economics rather than e.g. social science/practice, technology or policy? What Good can it bring? What is wrong and right in how we treat it? These are questions about the meaning, mandate and mindset of economics.
4-2. The Meaning of Economics
Summary: Economics: so what? The meaning of economics is given by the economic aspect of reality closely linked with all other aspects, omitting none. With the help of Dooyeweerd, but going further, e discuss what unique, kernel meaning the economic aspect offers.
4-3. The Mandate for Economics
Summary: What should economics aim to do in the world? Seldom is its mandate discussed. The mandate for economics is to help humanity carefully (frugally) manage what it deems resources, so that, as we employ those resources we contribute towards Multi-aspectual Good.
- 4-3.1 On Mandates Summary: Mandates point to the future, are normative, and apply to both theory and practice.
- 4-3.2 The Mandate Specific to Economics Summary: The mandate for economics is to help humanity frugally (carefully) manage what it deems resources that are employed to better contribute towards Multi-aspectual Good, without harm or waste.
- 4-3.3 Sub-mandates for Each Economics Entity Summary: What is the mandate of national economies, economics science, money, banks, etc.?
- 4-3.4 Economic Growth Summary: Economic growth is not bad in itself but has become an evil because of selfish attitude and idolatrous mindset. In place of discussing questions of whether economic growth is good o bad, or how much growth to allow, we suggest several principles by which we may understand it.
4-5. Mindset-Attitude in Economics
Summary: Sadly, economics is often isolated from other spheres of life, both in its theories and its practice, and by both many economists and also by those who use economics. This is society's mindset towards economics; it tends towards reductionism and idolatry, but needs to change to embeddedness.
- 4-5.1 The Elevation and Isolation of Economics Summary: Economics has been elevated above, isolated from, other spheres of life, especially by those who use it. This is unhealthy and needs to be rectified.
- 4-5.2 Reductionism Summary: Reductionism is when one aspect is presupposed as able to account for all else, and all other kinds of value are reduced to it.
- 4-5.3 Idolatry Summary: Idolatry treats the favoured thing, aspect or sphere of life as 'divine', with absolute authority over us. Economics is often an idol.
- 4-5.4 Toward Embedded, Humble, Embracive Economics Summary: Instead of being isolated from other spheres of life, arrogantly seeing itself as superior to them, and ignoring what is meaningful in other aspects, economics should see itself as embedded among them, humble, and embrace them.
4-6. Economics as a Discipline, Science and Practice
Summary: [Probably here we will look at how the science focuses on the economic aspect, as does its practice.]
Chapter 5. Value
Chapter Summary: Economics does not know how to take full account of value beyond its sphere, such as of environment. This may be done systematically using Dooyeweerd's aspects.
5-1 Values and Economic Value
Summary: There are multiple, irreducibly distinct kinds of value. Economic value is only one kind and needs to be able to express all others faithfully.
5-2 What is Value?
Summary: Value has been variously understood. We link value of something to the Good in contributes, or could contribute, to Multi-aspectual Good. Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us understand the diversity of kinds of value.
5-3 Economic Value And Aspectual Value
Summary: Economic value is the value of an object as resource that enables us to function with wisdom in contributing sustainably to Multi-aspectual Good.
5-4 Assessing Value
Summary: Assessing value is a useful tool, but is complex and inherently distorts our understanding of real value, which need to be properly understood.
- 5-4.1 Questioning Assessment of Value Summary: What, why and how of assessing value.
- 5-4.2 Fundamental Limits and Dangers of Assessment Summary: Assessing value is inherently flawed and distorting, because of two main kinds of fundamental limitations.
- 5-4.3 Using Aspects in Assessment Summary: Aspects may be used to separate out issues, uncover hidden issues and deepen our understanding of issues.
- 5-4.4 Qualitative Assessment of Value Summary: Dooyeweerd's aspects can help with qualitative assessments.
- 5-4.5 Quantitative Assessment of Value Summary: Quantitative assessments are even more limited, but Dooyeweerd's aspects can help.
- 5-4.5.1 Ways aspects can help Summary: Dooyeweerd's aspects can help quantitative assessment in at least three ways.
- 5-4.5.2 Indices Summary: Many quantitative indices: GDP, HDI, GPI, etc. All are limited and some work against others.
- 5-4.5.3 Price Summary: What exactly is wrong and right with price as a measure of value?
- 5-4.6 Value in the Specialised Economy: Labour and Use; Productivity and Capital Summary: Not sure yet what to say here, or even whether it is needed. Review our discussions to see.
- 5-4.6.1 Value of Capital Summary: Capital gains its value from its potential to enable people to contribute to Multi-aspectual Good.
- 5-4.6.2 Value of Labour Summary: The value of labour is of two types, both of which are important. The main one being indirect, in that labour produces goods and services that others use in functioning that contributes to Multi-aspectual Good. Labour also contributes directly from its own multi-aspectual functioning.
5-5. Applying The Above Ideas
Summary: Dealing with a few known issues can indicate how the above ideas can bring fresh insight.
- 5-5.1 Valuing Externalities Summary: Instead of labelling impact of economic activity on other spheres of life anonymously as "externalities", and considering their value only as they impact the economy, we value them directly.
- 5-5.2 The Value in Unpaid Activity Summary: Unpaid (household) activity has immense value, which should be brought into economics theory and practice. Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us understand its diverse value. To value only paid work brings many problems.
- 5-5.4 Productivity Summary: Productivity is variously (mis)understood, but may be understood via aspectual contribution to Multi-aspectual Good.
- 5-5.5 GDP Summary: Adherence to GDP has caused many problems but it is not GDP itself that is the problem, but how it has been used and the attitude we have to it.
- 5-5.2 The Relationship Between Labour and Capital; Brief Critique of Marx's Ideas Summary:
Chapter 6. Economic Activity as Multi-aspectual Functioning
Chapter Summary: Economics does not have a strong enough understanding of the functioning and repercussions of economic activity, especially not of hidden attitudes and mindset. Dooyeweerd's ideas offer a practical understanding of this.
6-1. Some Theory About Economic Activity
Summary: The range of theories about how we behave in economic activity is wide, though not wide enough, and rather fragmented. We suggest how Dooyeweerd offers a fuller and more integrated picture.
6-2. Economic Activity as Multi-aspectual Human Functioning
Summary: If we understand economic activity as multi-aspectual functioning led by the economic aspect, then we discover a systematic, integrative treatment that is able to embrace most extant theories, and also recognise unpaid activity.
6-3. The Functioning of Mindset and Attitude in Economics
Summary: Mindset-attitude constitute a hidden societal structure that determines how we behave in economic activity. Because hidden, their effect is seldom discussed or understood, yet more important than most recognise. They may be understood as a combination of pistic and ethical functioning that retrocipatively impacts functioning in earlier aspects.
6-4. Some Comments on Adam Smith
Summary: A multi-aspectual understanding can throw fresh light on Adam Smith, especially his famous ideas of self-love and invisible hand.
- 6-4.1 Critiques of Smithian Economics Summary: Smith's ideas have been criticised from both within and outwith economics, and worldview (mindset) lies at the root of both critiques.
- 6-4.2 On Self-love Summary: What Smith meant by "self-love" might differ radically from the excusing of selfishness that most take it to mean.
- 6-4.3 On Invisible Hand Summary: Might Smith's idea of invisible hand refer to the fundamental laws of the economic aspect itself?
- 6-4.4 Our Comments on Adam Smith Summary: Three fundamental errors in Smith's thinking are revealed by recognising the importance of belief and diversity of meaning. Turning away from them lets us hear more clearly what Smith was really getting at.
6-5. Understanding Some Issues in Economics via Aspectual Functioning
Summary: This section demonstrates how the above understanding can help us rethink concepts, practices, paradoxes and problems in economics.
- 6-5.1 A Richer Understanding of Poverty and Inequality Summary: We redefine poverty to recognise all its aspects, not just numerical amounts of money. Similarly inquality. This will both enrich theory and make policy more successful.
- 6-5.2 Labour, Capital and Use Summary: Production and consumption, labouring that produces goods and services that are then used, are both multi-aspectual functioning that which might contribute to Multi-aspectual Good. Much conventional and even recent thinking either confuses them or focuses on one at the expense of the other.
- 6-5.3 Unpaid Activity Summary: Unpaid household work is usually ignored in economic calculations, which puts so-called LDNs at a disadvantage. A central focus on human functioning that contributes to Multi-aspectual Good automatically brings unpaid activity into the purview of economics, both theory and practice.
- 6-5.4 Jevons' Paradox: Efficiency Does Not Decrease Scarce Resource Consumption Summary: Jevons' Paradox, that more efficiency sometimes leads to more, not less, total consumption, may be resolved by understanding the aspectual functioning that is going on.
- 6-5.5 The Tragedy of the Commons and the Free-Rider Problem Summary: The roots of both the Tragedy of the Commons and the Free-Rider Problem are exposed, leading to ways to address them.
- 6-5.6 Marshall's Economics Summary: Marshall was bringing in multiple aspects - though not all.
- 6-5.7 Understanding Some Economics Phenomena by Aspects Summary: We are offered fresh insights into standard economics phenomena like investment, innovation, trade and aid, and competition.
6-9. Conclusion on Functioning
Chapter 7. Good, Harmful and Useless Economic Activity
Chapter Summary: Economics does not adequately differentiate harmful and useless from good economic activity. We discuss how this may be accomplished by reference to Multi-aspectual Good and Dooyeweerd's aspects.
7-1. The Difference Between Good, Harmful and Useless Economic Activity
Summary: What are Good, Harmful and Useless economic activity? Why there is a problem here?
- 7-1.1 Expressions of Concern Summary: Much recent discussion exposes the difference between Good and Harmful and Useless economic activity, yet does not offer adequate understanding.
- 7-1.2 Conflation and Confusion Summary: In most economics and theory and practice, especially in finance, Harmful and Useless economic activity are treated as Good. There is no basis for distinguishing them.
- 7-1.3 Some Examples Summary: Conflating Harmful with Good economic activity leads to many harmful externalities, as varied as junk food, species destruction and laziness.
- 7-1.4 Our Overall Approach to Differentiation Summary: We provide a basis for differentiating Harmful and Useless economic activity from Good.
- 7-1.5 Two Distinct yet Related Issues Summary: Harm and Uselessness of economic activity are different problems yet are related.
7-2. Good Versus Harm
Summary: On what basis to differentiate Harmful from Good economic activity, in both economics theory and practice?
7-3 Good versus Useless Economic Activity
Summary: Useless economic activity is of two types, unproductiveness and production of non-essentials, and both should be discouraged and reduced.
7-4. Assessing Good, Harmful and Useless Economic Activity
Summary: Some guidance on how to assess Good, Harmful and Useless separately.
7-5. Action to Reduce Harm, Discourage Useless and Increase Good
Summary: What changes are needed to bring into economics the distinction between Good, Harmful and Useless economic activity?
7-6 Some Issues in Economics
Summary: We show how understanding the difference between Good, Harmful and Useless can be applied to various economics issues.
- 7-6.1 Monopoly and Innovation Summary: ===== to be written
- 7-6.2 Competition and Competitiveness Summary: Competitiveness is a Harm not a Good, and should not be put at the root of the Economy.
- 7-6.3 Trickle-Down Economics Summary: Trickle-Down Economics, that money made available to the wealthy ends up helping the poor, is argued for or against. Instead, we try to understand the deeper reasons why it does not currently work well, but might have some validity. This is a worked example of the above thinking.
Summary: ===== to be written
Chapter 8. Stakeholders, Levels and Money: Subjects and Objects in Economics - to be ordered and compiled
Chapter Summary: Economics puts too much emphasis on entities instead of the Good that we are called to do, resulting in fragmentation, envy and greed. Dooyeweerd helps us avoid this by making meaningfulness the foundation.
-- PART III - Going Forward --
Chapter 9. Exemplar: How This Might Apply to Environmental Economics
Chapter Summary: Environmental Economics can be affirmed, critiqued and enriched by following these principles.
9-1. Introduction: How We Approach Application
Summary: This section explains the background and how the chapter proceeds.
9-2. Discussions of Environmental Economics
Summary: The different discussions in the realm of environmental economics can all fit into a single picture, in which each is seen as focusing on specific aspects, and/or one or other of the pillars above.
9-3. The Meaning, Mandate and Mindset of Economics Applied to Environmental Issues
Summary: How should the field of economics (both practice and theory) see itself and be seen by others in relation to the environment?
9-4. The Multi-aspectual Value of Environment
Summary: The non-human environment has multiple values, all of which should be recognised in economics, and environmental economics focuses on those values, especially biotic and psychical. Values provides clear and compelling norms for economics.
9-5. Environmental Economic Functioning
Summary: Dooyeweerd's aspects and idea of inter-aspect dependency offers a clear framework for understanding the impact of economics on the environment, and vice versa, and of all other aspects on those, especially aspects of mindset and attitude.
9-6. Good, Harmful and Useless in Environmental Economics
Summary: Environmental economics presupposes but seldom explicitly discusses the difference between Good and Harmful and Useless economic functioning. Dooyeweerd's aspects and their innate normativity helps make this explicit, so that it can be studied and used to guide practice systematically.
Summary: The environment should be a key stakeholder in the economy, and responsibility for it occurs at all levels. Money and environmental capital should be seen as enabling good functioning, rather than as an owned commodity.
9-8. Strategy to Make Economics More Environmental
Summary: How do we make economics more environmental? This is how we can apply the above. Each aspect defines and guides a different kind of strategic action in each aspect. For both theory and practice must be affected.
Summary: The approach to economics developed in this Rethink can significantly contribute to making economics more environmentally responsible.
Chapter 10. Conclusion
Chapter Summary: So What and What Now?
Created: 5 June 2023.
Last updated: 6 June 2023 better links. 8 June 2023 r8 smy. 16 June 2023 new r4 smy, r4-mindset §. 27 June 2023 discussion box. 27 June 2023 Chapter 6. 30 June 2023 redid §4-2, Meaning of economics. 1 July 2023 new intro. 29 September 2023 Chapter 7. 26 October 2023 bold and key takeaways. 9 November 2023 added to box; rw smy 4-1; Chp Smy DIV. 10 November 2023 reformatted it all to have indents etc. 13 November 2023 kt money. 29 November 2023 5-4.4 redone. 30 November 2023 7-4.5 INW added. 15 December 2023 new section 3-2 embracing; renumbered rest. 16 December 2023 3-3.8 aspanal. 28 December 2023 r4. 25 January 2024 r6 msll. 27 January 2024 r3 rlg persp 1,2. 30 January 2024 saving.