Towards a Rethink of Economics
- a Multi-aspectual Economics
enlivened with a Christian Perspective

Fuller Version

(The ideas herein are in process of being developed.)

Abstract, Version 1:

This article does three things. 1. It suggests that economics needs to change in radical ways. 2. It proposes a framework to bring about that change. 3, It attempts to enliven that framework with a Christian perspective.

The seed of this article was Mark Carney's 2020 Reith Lectures, but it has grown to embrace other recent thinkers, so that the change it believes is needed is to widen economics in five main ways. Recent thinkers, include Carney, seems to focus on one or two of the widenings, and few tackle all five. The conceptual framework employed is Dooyeweerd's philosophy, and we discuss how this can enable each of the widenings to be accomplished systematically. The enlivening perspective is a Christian perspective, and so this article may also be seen as demonstrating one way in which a religious perspective can be applied in economics.

Abstract, Version 2:

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 five ways in which our understanding and practice of economic activity must change, in ways that are mentioned by recent thinkers, but going beyond them.

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.]

Intended Readership

This article is intended for anyone who is interested in economics and its impact of the rest of life - typically, those who have heard of Doughnut Economics, for example - but who might not know much about economics as a field, nor of finance, banking, etc. Experts in the field of economics, finance or banking might also find this article useful, because it might stimulate some interesting ideas. Readers should not be put off (nor on) by the mention of "Christian" because Christian ideas enter in an unusual way.

To gain an overview of recent ideas and their limitations, read Section 2.
To think about how 'the economy' might be widened, read Section 3.
For a possible new paradigm in economics, read Sections 4 and 5.
For how this might embrace and enrich conventional economics, read Section 6.
To think about how a Christian perspective might contribute, read Section 7.
- Enjoy!

The scope of what is called "economics" here includes not just that which is taught as economics, but also finance, banking, and even some aspects of business and markets.

The ideas set out in this document are still being worked on.



The economies of the world were hit by the credit crisis of 2008 and the covid crisis of 2020 and will be hit by the climate crisis. That is the message that Mark Carney gave in his 2020 Reith Lectures. Once Governor of the Bank of England, he has some authority in the field, and his lectures offer a useful launch pad for rethinking economics to fit the future. Especially, he urged us to rethink what we mean by economic value and its relationship to our values as people and society. A host of other recent thinkers have likewise argued that we need to rethink economics.

For example, whereas many of us value climate and environmental responsibility, and many more suffer because of biodiversity loss and climate change, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) values only the amount of money that flows and values things that do harm as much as as those that do good. So it offers no incentive for governments or others to reduce economic activities that harm climate, biodiversity, health, justice or attitude. Adherence to growing GDP needs to rethought, and so does much else in economic theory and practice.

During the 2020 Reith Lectures, a group of Christian thinkers, who call themselves the Reith Lectures Discussion Group (RLDG), began a series of discussions, which have continued well into 2021. We believe that our Christian perspective allowed us to step back a bit and see things that many economists might not ('elephants in the room', perhaps), and perhaps contribute to a rethinking of some elements of economics.

These discussions ranged widely, through both micro and macro economics, across climate change, poverty, health, society and markets, across a host of different kinds of value and whether to measure value or not, and through the ideas of 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, the discussions were open to the complexities of everyday, practical economic activity and how it relates to life as a whole. As one participant put it, "we've covered so much and we've talked about so many aspects from so many different angles."

In addition to the shared Christian perspective, most of participants were familiar with the suite of aspects delineated by the Dutch philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977), and would often make reference to them in order to clarify and separate out issues. It is Dooyeweerd's philosophy that has provided a basis for making the proposals here systematic and workable.

Our proposal to rethink economics results from the breadth and diversity of that discussion, along with some experience of trying to work out out perspectives in practical detail, such as contributing to the United Nations Statistics Department's redesigning of the System of National Accounts, SNA 2025.

This article has three main parts. First, in Sections 2 and 3, it is proposed that the field of economics, both theory and practice, needs to be widened in five specific ways. Section 2 briefly reviews a dozen recent thinkers and introduces the widenings, while Section 3 discusses the widenings in detail. Second, a proposal is made for how these widenings might be made systematic, so that they can be operationalized in theory and practice. This employs Dooyeweerd's philosophy, which is presented in Section 4, as a philosophical framework, hwich is applied to the five widenings in Section 4 to developp pa conceptual framework, which may be a new paradigm in economics. We do not reject conventional economics, however, but reconceive it, so Section 6 illustrates how this might be achieved. Finally, we discuss the relevance of a religious persppctive d(in our case, Christian), not to dominate the field but to enrich it.

Though it is still evolving, we hope it might make genuine contributions to mainstream economics, finance, policy, etc. Both this article, and the RLDG discussions that it embodies, eschewed the conventional left-right split in economics and politics. It sees those as two parts of a wider picture - though we do not discuss them here.

The style of this article is such that anyone might read it, so some concepts might be explained that economists might think are basic.


(If this were an academic paper, this and the next section might constitute the Literature Review. They define what the problem is and what we need to do to 'fix' it.)

This section presents a summary of the concerns that various recent thinkers have over the economy. Most are concerns that were raised during our discussions. It is these things that indicate why understanding of the economy and all economic activity needs widening in several ways.

2.1 Overview of Recent Thinkers

See systematic Overview of Approaches to Economics, on which the following draws.

Mark Carney wants economic value to more adequately reflect the values we hold as a society, and he calls upon three witnesses for this: the Credit Crisis of 2008, the Covid Crisis of 2020 and the coming Climate Crisis to argue what is wrong in economic theory and practice and why values-driven economics is necessary.

Partha Dasgupta wants to bring biodiversity into the equations used by the UK Treasury, so that national economic policy will begin to take biodivesity into account, and no longer treat it as a free unlimited resource that may be drained.

Kate Raworth (Doughnut Economics) is concerned about economic growth as defined as increasing GDP. She wants to curb growth below the level that does damage to the planet ("ecological ceiling") and yet wants to ensure a decent standard of living for all ("social floor"). She sees seven specific problems she sees resulting from growthist economics and proposes a different mindset to deal with each:

Bob Goudzwaard (Blossoming Economy) has a similar concern, which predated Raworth by about 20 years, and he adds a specific concern for justice, which goes deeper than Raworth's "Design to distribute". He used a more dynamic metaphor, that a tree should grow when small but then stops growing and devotes its energy to blossoming and bearing fruit. So should the economies of the affluent nations.

Tim Jackson (Prosperity without Growth is also concerned about economic growth, and argues that real prosperity is possible without it.

The Manchester Collective (Foundational Economics) is concerned that nearly half of all goods and services, and the labour paid to produce them, are ignored and their value is not appreciated. They need to be given more respect and attention. Foundational Economics tends to be reactive, however, pitting itself against the status quo, and thereby defining itself in relation thereto.

The United Nations SNA 2025 exercise tries to bring several things into national accounts that are important in our lives but are not currently accounted for. These include unpaid household activity, other elements of wellbeing, sustainability, globalization and digitalization.

Andrew Hartropp (God's Good Economy) is concerned with injustices that result from economic activity, especially poverty.

Oloi Laurent (New Environmental Economics) has a similar concern about injustice / poverty, but also about damage to the biosphere resulting from economic activity. He wants economics to work with justice and sustainability.

Systems thinkers like Kenneth Boulding and Rouald? Kneese (Circular Economy) are concerned that we cannot just plunder natural resources, but instead must recycle and reuse, so that our demand for non-renewable resources becomes minimal.

These are all insights about the way forward. But they might be more. For some, the main problem is adherence to economic growth, and their ideas are designed to counter that. For some, the main problem is damage to the natural environment. For some, the main problem is climate change. For some, the main problem is injustice for the poor. For some, the problem is that economics and finance fail to express what is truly of value. These are problems that have presented themselves so far. Are there yet other problems soon to emerge as equally important? Is there some underlying problem that lies at the roots of all these, such that these visible problems will not be solved without tackling the root problems?

This article tries to dig at those roots while cognizant of the insights offered by each of those thinkers. We recognise each of these problems and, like the recent thinkers, were motivated by them. But we do not seek the counter or rectify those problems as such, but rather treat them as visible symptoms of a deeper malaise. Do not each of these thinkers indicate something about the nature and operation of the economic aspect of temporal reality, which had not been given the attention that is due to them in conventional economic theories and practices? That is the way the RLDG treated them, taking them into account and yet going deeper.

In welcoming these approaches, we do not reject conventional approaches. The same approach, of recognising insights and yet going deeper, allowed the RLDG to recognise that conventional economics (both capitalist and socialist, perhaps) also contributes insights that should not be overlooked. Nor did the RLDG try to balance them against each other, as though there is a zero-sum game. Nor was compromise sought.

So we treat conventional thought and recent thought somewhat differently. Because conventional ideas have been worked out much more elaborately, they have more layers of problematic accretion from society's presuppositions, attitudes, aspirations and expectations, so there is more to cut away - to criticise - in conventional economics before the valuable insights can be reached. That is why, in this article, there might appear to be more criticism of conventional economics (of both left and right) and more acceptance of recent thinkers.

Recent thinkers are treated as drawing attention to things conventional economics has overlooked. Each of those thnkers suggests that economics needs to be widened in certain ways, to take account of things it currently does not - climate change, biodiversity, justice, human living, healtn, the mundane, values a and even religion and theology. However, we are by no means uncritical of recent thinkers. Many have arisen in reaction to specific problems with conventional economic theory and practice that have become visible over the past few decades. Doughnut Economics is a good example of this; most of Kate Raworth's seven "ways to think like a 21st century economist" are reactions against growthist economics. Instead, we seek something less driven by reaction.

To this end, we seek to widen rather than react. The approach here is to seek a wider way of understanding the economic aspect of temporal reality as such, and situate all the insights within that understanding.

2.2 Widening

RLDG discussions included the issues these thinkers discuss - climate and environmental responsibility was frequently mentioned, along with poverty, and the way the markets operate. Yet other issues were also mentioned, and we might expect further issues to arise in future. So, while specific issues are mentioned here, the approach we take is to generalise beyond them, in a way that can allow for issues whose importance is not yet recognised.

The RLDG discussions saw the following types of widening as needed, each indicating a particular kind of economics, and all to be brought together at the end.

Those are elaborated below. Other widenings might emerge as we proceed.

Those five set a direction for rethinking economics, 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 the embeddedness of economics, of harm and good, of all levels, of value measurement and of responsibility.

2.3 Systematizing

We need a systematic way to achieve these desiderata. Where can we find one?

The RLDG first looked at 'Christian Values' as a foundation for the widening, but found them insufficient on their own. For example, when considering debt, how does one balance the Christian value of grace with justice, or even the 'realities' of economic life? In fact, values alone do not offer an understanding of the specific nature, role and mandate of economics, as distinct from other aspects of life, nor of the concepts that are meaningful therein, like markets. Values provide norms to guide these, but offer little critical challenge to rethinking them.

Instead, Dooyeweerd's philosophy was continually referred to, especially his idea of aspects. This occurred whatever topic was being discussed, which suggests that it might apply across them all. As a result, and based on the discussions, we explore here the potential of Dooyeweerd's aspects to offer a philosophical foundation with which to achieve each of the widenings. By being able to use the same philosophical foundation for all, it may be this offers a basis for achieving them all together (our sixth desideratum).

2.4 Enriching

The main benefit of a Christian perspective was found to be to enrich the systematic understanding developed using Dooyeweerd, and make it more compelling. Systematic frameworks can be rather monotonous and, though they offer understanding, they do not compel adoption. Frequently, they are theoretical and have difficulty engaging with the practicalities of what goes on at all levels. In Section 7, we discuss three main contributions a Christian perspective might make to economics. 1. 'Christian values' like love, joy, peace, bring 'life' to the dullness of a theoretical framework, and compel us. 2. The Judeo-Christian notion of sin and repentance offers an extra 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.

With widening, systematic working-out and enriching, we can engage with both conventional economics and recent thinkers. We adopt the LACE approach, to listen to both, affirm and critique them, and enrich the entire field of economics. The next section discusses the five ways in which economics needs to be widened.


Here is a brief explanation of the five widenings above, with reference to recent thinkers and RLDG discussions. These suggestions will be drawn together at the end.

3.1 Towards an Embedded Economics: Widening Economics to See Itself Embedded Among All Aspects of Life

"You cannot serve God and Mammon" - Jesus Christ [Matthew 6:24]

This section is concerned with how the field of economics (theory and practice) sees itself, its attitude and the fundamental beliefs that guide it - what it presupposes is meaningful and important, and what it overlooks. The attitude and beliefs that have governed conventional economics are too narrow, in two ways: reductionism and hubris. We look at both of them and suggest how economics can take a wider view.

3.1.1 Reductionism in economics

Reductionism [Note: Reductionism] occurs when we focus on one kind of issue (or one aspect) so intensely that we ignore all other kinds. Only that aspect, that kind of issue, is deemed meaningful. What if primarily meaningful in conventional economics is only economic issues. Obviously, economics will focus on economic issues, but the important word here is "only". Other aspects, other kinds of issue are ignored, even though they are important. (Conversely, the economic aspect cannot be reduced to other aspects.)

For example, the primary concern of GDP (a nation's Gross Domestic Product) is money flow. What the money purchases or enables, and what results from it is of no concern to GDP, even though it be something as important as the health of the nation, climate change, biodiversity or crime. Similarly, a company's "the bottom line."

This ignoring of harms caused by economic activity - whether at national, company or any other level - is deeply problematic, in that it exerts pressure in the wrong direction, towards rather than away from harmful activities that, by rights, should be discouraged. One reason given for ignoring these harms that the market will take care of it, but that too is a reduction to mere economic concepts - and it is one of Carney's [pp.184 ff] "lies of finance".

Reductionism was a concern of early systems thinkers, who argued the need for a more holistic approach. Boulding [1966], for example, argued against a narrow focus on profit and production for the more holistic Circular Economy, in which waste is recycled back as useful products and non-renewable resources are less depleted. This was still couched largely in economics concepts, however, rather than in terms of for example justice or biodiversity.

Recent thinkers more explicitly recognise the importance of such issues. 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. She also argues that the "21st century economist" needs to think differently in seven ways. Five of them express what we are saying in this section about widening perspective: Change the Goal, from GDP to Doughnut, See the big picture not just a self-contained market, Get savvy with systems, rather than assume a market equilibrium, Create to regenerate rather than merely grow, Be agnostic about growth rather than addicted to it. 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. (In our discussions, we called this a "Healthy Living Environment.") Foundational Economics draws our attention to the products, services and jobs that are ignored as 'mundane'. Laurent's New Environmental Economics seems to call for justice for the poor and the environment to be brought into economics, but closer examination shows reductionism in defining "justice" in terms of quantitative-economic measures. 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."

While all these are very welcome, there are two challenges. The first is that even some of these thinkers try to couch their concenns, and especially their solutions, in purely economic concepts. For example, Raworth's primary idea is the quantitative-economic one of keeping between two figures, a minimum economy that supports a "social floor" and a maximum that represents the "ecological ceiling." Dasgupta and SNA 2025 both try to express their concerns in purely financial terms. Perhaps this is not suprising, since they are writing for government treasury departments. More generally, the wider concerns have to be expressed in ways that are meaningful to economics or the impact of economic activity on other aspects cannot be properly investigated or governed. So, we need a way to express such concerns from other aspects in concepts and language that are meaningful to economics. But how do we do this without reduction? To do this, we must widen our view of value and its measurement, in Section §3.2 below.

The second is that most recent thinkers focus on one or two issues, and though the view is widened beyond economics, it is still too narrow. Some early ones focused on justice and poverty while ignoring environment, while some focused on environment and ignored poverty. Then it became clear that environmental destruction and poverty reinforce each other and cannot be separated, so most of the recent thinkers try to combine the two. Hartropp explicitly combines ecology with justice, and the slogan "climate justice" might express a concern to combine them. Raworth's Doughnut Economics sets justice and environment as the two limits for economies. However, even this combination of two extra-economic issues is too narrow.

There are kinds of suffering that are neither, for example in the areas of health, mental health, dignity, and attitude. What will happen in the future if we rethink the economy in a way that takes only environment and poverty into account and ignores other aspects like these? A pandemic has just brought health issues into the picture. What other problems will be revealed in future as major, alongside these? Hints that other aspects are also important may be seen in the Foundational Economy's idea of the mundane.

We need as broad a view as possible. The combination of justice and environment arises by looking back to the past and reacting to the problems we see there; we need to look to the future to understand problems that might yet emerge as important. Instead of focusing on that combination, we aim for an overall good, wellbeing, flourishing, sustainability, for which English sadly has no word, but which in other languages is Shalom, Salaam or eudaimonia. In this document we will use the rather clumsy capitalized term "Overall Good".

It will include both the environmental and justice (poverty) aspects, and will give some emphasis to those because they are currently most pressing, but will recognise that there are others, the importance of which has yet to be revealed. To find such a view, we will turn away from merely looking at the problems we can currently see that result from conventional economics, and turn to philosophy. In doing so, we will see that there are hidden roots of both environmental and justice problems together, especially in attitudes and beliefs, and that even these two problems will not be solved without digging up those roots.

3.1.2 Hubris of the field of economics

The second narrowing, hubris, has received less attention. Hubris is an attitude of selfish pride. It engenders a hidden presupposition, among economists, finance people and governments, of the economy as all-important, deserving 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. This presupposition reveals itself, seemingly innocently, when those in the media, government or academic speak of "the economy" as a surrogate for human life. The Treasury is tacitly allowed to be the most important department in many governments. Yet this is not innocent. It also results in governments sacrificing these aspects in the interests of a growing national economy.

Note on terminology: In this article we try to avoid using "the economy" as a surrogate for life, and use that term only when we mean that, and use words like "cultures" "nations" or "peoples" to emphasise those aspects. Instead of "developed economies" we speak of "affluent cultures" because this occurs among many elites as an aspiration even in so-called less-developed nations.

Goudzwaard is one thinker who has given this some attention. In his 1984 book Idols of our Time, he calls Economic Growth an idol, showing how it, along with three other idols (Technology, National Security and Revolution) determines what we do and how we see life. We erect the idol in a special place, kneel before it, and sacrifice much to and for it. Ingleby [2007] calls it a "Domination System." In the quotation above, Jesus referred to "Mammon" as though an idol. It is a Greek word that refers to a system that makes money the most important thing in life, the factor that determines everything else.

This makes sense of the suggestion above that economics expects to be served by all other aspects of life, and all to be geared to fulfilling the needs of The Economy. Hubris and reductionism are thus siblings. They are more than siblings, however: they reinforce each other - a vicious circle. This is what might be called a Detached Economics.

Embedded Economics takes the opposite attitude, is that economic activity has a mandate to serve all other aspects of life. Its mandate is to carefully handle resources for all human activities seriously so that they contribute better to the Overall Good as defined above, involving all aspects. The idea of mandate and service of others implies that the economic aspect of life is embedded among all other aspects, in interaction with them, rather than "erected in a special place". In taking all other aspects (of Overall Good) into account, economics must take them into its very heart, not be content to add them as mere "externalities." This attitude must invade and pervade both theory and practice.

3.1.3 Aspects of life and their mutual interaction

One common argument for economics and especially business to take other spheres of life seriously is to see the business as the individual within organisation, which is within the economy, which is within society, which is within the natural environment - as an hierarchy of nested systems. Dasgupta argues from that view. However, it is not quite enough, because others argue that society is within economics, and maybe even the natural world within economics.

A better way is to think in terms of aspects, not nested, hierarchical systems. Aspects are different ways of seeing something, ways that cannot be deduced from each other, nor reduced to each other - as in architecture, where the east and south aspects of a building are two different views of the building. In philosophy, aspects are likewise views on reality, which cannot be deduced from, nor reduced to, each other. The physical aspect is one such aspect: to see the world in terms of material, energy, forces, etc. Another is the psychological aspect: human and animal behaviour. Yet another is the social aspect. The economic aspect is also one such view on reality, in which we see reality in terms of economics concepts like resources, products and markets. It cannot be reduced to other aspects, like physics, psychology, justice, ethics or biodiversity; nor can they be reduced to economics. If we try to reduce these to economics (thinking about them purely in economic terms and norms) instead of recognising the full meaningfulness of each in its own terms, then we miss, overlook and ignore important ways in which they operate in reality ("on the ground") in households, companies, nations and the entire world.

The Triple Bottom Line, of People, Planet, Profits, is an aspectual rather than hierarchical approach, in that each overlaps with others. However, having only three aspects, it can be rather limiting, except as a management memory aid.

Many of the recent thinkers may be seen as drawing our attention to some of the neglected aspects, especially those of environment and justice. In addition to these two, might other issues arise in maybe ten years' time that are as important as both of those? Taken together, they build up a picture of multiple 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. We need a way in which they can all be brought together within a single understanding, a conceptual framework by which economics can be widened.

Without it, we will not be able to achieve what the SNA calls Wellbeing and Sustainability, because we won't have a framework for understanding all the issues that could be meaningful. The SNA exercise seeks to establish a system for national accounts that will be relevant for decades to come (the last one was 2008). For this, we need an understanding that can deal not only with the various issues currently being emphasised, but also with future possibilities. Unfortunately, most of the current thinkers are reacting to problems that are presently becoming obvious - that looks back to the past occurrences rather than to future possibilities. Thus we need an understanding of the nature of reality itself, not just of what society happens to deem meaningful.

We are called, at the very least, to see the economic aspect as alongside other aspects. For example, [Hartropp 2010] writes of "embracing spiritual, physical and socio-economic well-being" as a route to justice. So both production and distribution should be just. That is the one kind of multi-aspectual consideration. It is normative and qualificatory, in that it provides norms for economic activity from other aspects.

However, that does not always help us to understand how to achieve what is sought. We need also to understand the interaction between the economic and all other aspects of our lives and activities. There are two directions. One is that economic activity impacts all other aspects of life.

Examples: On one hand, a healthy economy has reduced human hunger is probably necessary for widespread education and much scientific endeavour. On the other, a large reason for forest destruction is because of 'economic' pressure, while conversely floods disrupt a community's or nation's economy. Some have argued that economic growth is the way to reduce human suffering; but has not the commitment to economic growth been a major cause of suffering, not just hunger but the continual pressure that destroys mental health?

In reverse, all other aspects impact economic activity ("the economy").

Examples: On one hand, good education enhances the skills of workers. On the other, widespread health problems remove human effort from the economy for a time.

Understanding the nature and possibilities of inter-aspect impacts helps us see why it is so difficult sometimes to maintain the Overall Good we refer to above. We need a way to understand impacts between economic and other aspects, in both directions. This will be discussed in Section 3.3, Good, Harmful, Useless below).

Traditionally Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is bolted on to the side of the business, as a separate issue from the economics of the business, but many, e.g. Wainwright, argue it needs to be integrated. This can be achieved by change of attitude toward embeddedness, in which the economic functioning of the business automatically takes account of the impacts in other aspects, including that of responsibility. Example: Nudie Jeans. The idea of B-Corps is a much more embedded approach, in which management considers all aspects of the business and its impact.

3.1.4 On the hidden role of attitudes

"Affluence, arrogance and unconcern" [Ezekiel 16:49]

One important aspect that is not adequately recognised in economic theory and practice, is attitude that pervades society. "Affluence, arrogance and unconcern" are attitudes, and God explained via the prophet Ezekiel that it was this that led to the destruction of Sodom and would lead to the exile of Judah. God "looks on the heart" rather than on "outward appearance" because it the heart attitude that deeply influences what we do and decide.

As was discussed in the RLDG, attitude is easily overlooked because its influence is largely unseen. Attitude, for example, brings a reluctance to take responsibility - or, rarely these days, a keenness to do so . Attitude, whether self-giving or selfish, works gradually, so that its effects sometimes take a decade or more to become apparent, and most surveys fail to show any change in attitude. Not only is attitude taken by individuals, but it pervades society, because it spreads, especially an attitude of selfishness, self-protection and competitiveness. Some want to find self-interest as 'natural', as in the idea of Rational Economic Actor, but it is ultimately harmful, and only superficially seemingly useful.

Attitude affects the whole of life, at all levels from individuals, households, businesses and nations. The difference between self-interest or self-protection, and selflessness, generosity and openness, is crucial. The difference occurs unseen because it determines our decisions and the way we think.

Example: Sleaze among politicians, who use their position for self-interest. Example: The failure of COP26 in Glasgow has been fuelled by self-interest. The rich countries were reluctant to keep their promise of $100bn funding per annum to the poorer countries to help them re. climate change. The fossil-fuel countries refused to commit to phasing out fossil fuels and turn their economies to other things.

Another component of attitude is how we frame things, what we deem of ultimate important, which in negative attitudes can take the form of idolatry, the undue elevation of something to absolute status, unquestioningly agreed by all. It determines our assumptions, presuppositions, expectations and aspirations.

Examples: At COP26, another dysfunctional component of attitude was at work beside self-interest and self-protection: the idolatry of money. This arose especially in the argument over the rich nations having promised $100bn per year to poorer countries for helping with climate change. Tacitly agreed by both rich and poor nations alike, money was the all-important issue. Instead of the things that money could enable. So, coupled with self-interest, the talks floundered.

Attitude affects economic activity. A generous attitude, in which most people trust, not only enhances wellbeing but also strengthens the economy. Its opposite, suspicion, self-protection and self-interest, even possibly competitive attitude [Note: Competition], negatively affects of wellbeing or the health of society such as mental health, bodily health, social health, industriousness, the quality of information flowing in society (e.g. fake news!), respect or marginalization, cheating, justice or injustice, and responsibility for the Earth or refusal to take responsibility. It undermines the economy, both indirectly via these, and also more directly, for example by diversion of a large proportion of humanity's economic functioning from Good to selfish ends.

Activity in the economy affects attitude. At the individual level, seeing money as a commodity owned by "me" exacerbates selfish attitudes. At the level of business sectors, advertising [Note: Advertising] shapes attitudes and, presupposing "rational economic actor", it tends to bolster "affluence, arrogance and unconcern." This is one important reason that presupposition must be intensely scrutinized. At the national level, taxes express the attitude of politicians and opinion-formers. For decades, at the global level, attitudes of national and personal self-interest an unconcern have led to the climate crisis.

This casts serious doubt on the presupposition of Rational Economic Actor.

We need a way for economic theory and practice to take better account of attitude and its circular relationship with economic activity - a way that is intellectually valid and compelling. Especially, on what basis or authority must this happen? Without answering that, some will resist and say "That is not not economics! So I can ignore it in my economic theories and even practice."

3.1.5 Embedded thinking about economic activity

One major hindrance to the more holistic view we seek is that theory, by its very nature, tends to isolate aspects from others, insofar as it selects one aspect of reality as a core focus, and largely ignores others, in order to understand the way that aspect operates, 'uncontaminated' by the effects of other aspects. [See Clouser 2005 for a good exposition.] Physicists focus on the physical aspect, bilogists and ecologists focus on the biotic, sociologists focus on the social, and economists focus on the economic. In most economic theory, other aspects - the biological and ethical for example - are either completely ignored, as in GDP, treated as optional externalities, or are brought in in a reduced form, as in Dasgupta [2021]. (The isolation of single aspects has the unfortunate consequence that, as one of our participants put it [z12], "scientists can wrap themselves up in their own way of thinking, their own terminology, their own jargon, their own ways of measuring and reasoning".) To overcome aspectual isolation, we need to see the theoretical thinker as embedded in reality rather than as detached observer, and will find that Dooyeweerd offers an adequate version of this.

3.1.6 Conclusion of widened perspective

Instead of the usual Detached Economics, many recent thinkers are calling for a widening, to what we call an Embedded Economics. All aspects of life (indeed, of the entire Creation) must be considered together, equally, with none predominating. In particular the economic aspect must be treated as interacting and intertwining with all others, embedded in all other aspects, serving rather than expecting to be served. We call for a multi-aspectual approach to the economy, in both the theory and practice of economics. All the other widenings are rooted in this one. We discuss how Dooyeweerd's philosophy provides a suitable basis for this below.

3.2 Towards a Multi-value Economics: 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, for 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?

Section §3.1 argued that aspects beside the economic are important, and that the field of economics should explicitly recognise them in both its practice and its theory. This section argues that they have various kinds of value that should be expressed in economic value.

In the RLDG discussions, the value of unpaid activity came up several times. For example [from z12], asking a neighbour to watch our children while we run to the grocery store - even that kind of thing can have value in the economy as well as society, because it depends on and builds trust.

Foundational Economics draws our attention to the 'mundane' produces, services and jobs, and urges us to respect their value. Mark Carney argues that our idea of economic value should be based on our values as a society. The SNA 2025 exercise wants to bring unpaid household work, wellbeing and sustainability, into national accounts.

This section is about widening our idea of what is economic value and how it may be measured or otherwise taken into account in economic activity. It builds on the above widening of the vision and attitude of economics as a whole.

3.2.1 Kinds of value

The concepts of assets and capital in conventional economics indicate value, but value of all kinds lumped together, undifferentiated. We might, perhaps, add an adjective, as in social capital or environmental capital, but the unspoken implication is that they are secondary to economic value. The RLDG found themselves differentiating many kinds of value, all of which were important, and treated economic value as just one kind alongside the others - in the spirit of embeddedness discussed above. This section discusses kinds of value.

Most of the recent thinkers indicate various values that they believe are important but are not adequately taken into account, some called "values", others not, some explicitly listed, others mentioned in the text, some stated positively, such as biodiversity, others stated negatively as problems, such as climate change. Each value is something they believe is important but has been missing or underplayed in conventional economics.

Values are not just factors to be taken into account but something we should aim towards and which should influence the calculation of economic value. Values are not just descriptive but normative. They should guide life, including all economic activity. (Allusions to normativity have occurred in Section §3.1.)

Among the thinkers above, we find a wide range of such values, for example:

We need to make sense of these disparate values. These values may be seen as contributing to the Overall Good, which we want an understanding of economics to take into account. (That is why they are values, not just factors.) At least five questions arise, of which the first four will be addressed later and the fifth one, next:

Value need not be something tangible, like manufacturing or cultivating, but can be as intangible as beautifying, maintaining justice or even fostering good attitude and assumptions in society. In the vignette about temple gifts, in flaunting their wealth, the rich were expressing a societal attitude of the acceptability of showing off, and the superiority of those with more wealth. In giving all she had to live on, the poor widow was expressing an attitude of devotion, generosity and perhaps trust. Insofar as it is the latter rather than the former that are healthy for society and even the economy, Jesus was correct in saying that she gave more than all the rich.

The next section discusses the challenge of expressing various kinds as economic value, so that as economic activities occur, they will tend towards building those values rather than undermining them.

3.2.2 Measuring Value

"God saw all that he had made and it was very good" [Genesis 1:31]

Quantitative measurement of value has driven economics practice and theory for centuries: money, currency, etc. Measurement of value is usually taken for granted, but not all kinds of value can be measured, and some can only be measured in an artificial kind of way that reduces their meaningfulness. As Mark Carney points out, the whole of society itself has become "marketized", seeing everything in quantitative monetary terms and, as a result, much of value becomes ignored. Why? Not only that, the mathematical models used in conventional models make poor predictions; for example, very few if any predicted the massive reduction in cost of renewable electricity. Why?

To measure value, and use it in models, the concepts of more and less must make sense, and then that must be amenable to precise quantification. Physical size, weight and force are easily measured in this way. "More biodiversity" however is only partially meaningful, and hides many important relationships that are important in biodiversity that are its true value. "More or less beauty" is almost meaningless. So what do we do about each kind of value, if we do not want to ignore it? 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. Raworth's ideas of the economy keeping us "above" the social foundation and "below" the ecological ceiling, is a reduction of all values to quantitative measurement. (Though "above" and "below" seem to be spatial they are used with a strong quantitative meaning.) Should not thinking and practice in economics take into account the relationships between the various factors, not least how they impact each other? This will be discussed in Section §3.3.

We need to be able to take full account of each kind of value, in a way that is appropriate to its kind, whether or not it it quantifiable, and especially relationships and impacts among factors. From the quotation above, God had a way of evaluating the value of the Creation. This might give hope there is a way for us to do so too, even though limited by human reasoning, and so it is justified to search for it.

We need also to be critically and keenly aware of the limits of quantification. The RLDG felt that recourse to quantification was often too hasty and unquestioning. Quantification is not inherent in value, but is an artifact of the purposes we assign to it. So the RLDG posed the question of why and when it is good to measure value. Several were suggested, including: giving an overview, judging whether we are improving in any given venture or activity or not, presentation, benchmarking, prioritizing in decision-making. Such reasons for measuring needs to be taken into account in how each kind of value is treated.

Especially, there may be things of value, whose value is important, but cannot be quantified. Gunton et al. [2017] calls this "Valuing the invaluable" and discusses especially the various kinds of value that landscape can have, based on Dooyeweerd's aspects - ecological, aesthetic, economic, pistic, and so on.

Section §5 discusses how Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us understand different kinds of value and the relationships among them.

3.2.3 Rethinking money

Fundamentally, of course, money is a token of value used in exchange. As such, it does not properly represent value, because of the reasons given above. Many recent, and not-so-recent, thinkers have been saying that. However, there is a further distortion, which often brings actual harm. In reality, we treat money as more than that, and it is this "more than" which this section discusses. It arises not so much from RLDG discussions, as from reflections on recent thinking, which perhaps were freed up by the philosophical and Christian perspectives that prevailed in RLDG discussions.

At most levels, from individual to global, we tend to treat money as a commodity that is owned (as "mine", "ours" and nobody else's). This gives income, outgoings and profits their supreme importance in economic thinking. However, such a conception of money can blind us to make kinds of harm. The following examples, at various levels, must suffice.

At the individual level, treading money as owned commodity tries people's dignity and standing in society too tightly to the amount of money they think they own compared with others. ("Own" here might mean "control" more than legal ownership.) Mark Carney, p.232 mentions "expenditure cascades" in which people compete to outspend those around them. Similarly for businesses. Should not dignity instead reflect the good that a person or business brings into the world?

This conception also encourages corruption, as people and businesses devise clever schemes to get money from other people - whether telephone scams or speculative finance. Carney and especially Mazzucato highlight these.

At the household level, unpaid activity becomes undervalued. This is unfair to home-makers, many of whom are women, and especially to so-called Less Developed Nations, where unpaid household activity is a much higher proportion than in affluent cultures. It is also unfair to the many unemployed people who use their time productively e.g. in volunteering or caring. Seeing money primarily as a owned commodity distorts our idea of poverty and wealth, and the relationship between them, especially when unpaid household activities are not taken into account.

Discussions in the RLDG brought in the time factor - past and future as well as present. Slavery was unpaid labour. Perhaps reparations need to be paid for that, somehow [Note: Slavery]. As one of our participants put it, "How far back or how far forward should we offset the costs of the unpaid labor, or the damage that we've done to certain parts of the economy?"

At the organisational / business level, every department in an organisation protects its own budget at the expense of others, which reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation as a whole. Business decisions, e.g. about which project to invest in or which supplier to use, are often over-influenced by small differences in quantitative figures, hiding issues of ethics, justice, etc. A company will plunder non-renewable resources, destroy biodiversity and increase greenhouse gas emissions because it wants to maximize profits. Companies put a lot of effort into persuading customers to buy more of their products, whether they need them or not (non-essential) and whether they are harmful or not. Governments are fellow-conspirators in this, loving the boost to "the economy" that this generates. As we will see in Section 3.3, such "non-essentials" are not without harm.

At the national level, seeing currency as a commodity owned by nations exacerbates greed, by excusing it via the apparently objective measure of money. It reduces generosity. At the time of writing, the affluent nations had pledged $100bn to smaller nations to help them to move their economies (and societies) to more climate-friendly activities and to adapt in future, but the pledges have not been fulfilled. The affluent nations have given less than they promised, and seemingly with reluctance. Question: why do they not exceed their pledges? One main reason is presupposition of money as owned commodity. But is the money rightly 'theirs'?

These are also problems at the global level. The SNA 2025 exercise has a major section that is investigating how to bring globalisation into national accounts, as well as 'natural capital' that the Earth makes available.

We need to reconceive money in a way that more properly expresses value and does not do these kinds of harm. This leads us to question "What is money?" beyond being a token of value. Insofar as value (actual rather than potential value, that is) arises from human functioning, then money may be conceived as a token of agreed value that enables and encourages human functioning, which itself generates value to contribute to the Overall Good. The word "encourages" is included there because the society that agrees value also holds aspirations and expectations for which kinds of human functioning are worthwhile and which are not.

This view is commensurable with all the various forms that money has taken over the millennia, whether shells, metal discs with Caesar's image on them, bank notes, numbers held in a bank's database, or cryptocurrency.

3.2.4 Conclusions on value and its measurement

What we call Multi-value Economics counters what may be called Narrow Economics in which only one kind of value is recognised, and all others are reduced to it. We have discussed multiple kinds of value and the need find a way to express them in economic value, noting that some kinds cannot be quantified. The limitations of measuring have been outlined, and a proposal has been made that money may be seen, not as owned commodity, but in terms of human functioning that itself generates value of these various kinds. In the next section, we discuss the harm and non-essentials that reduce this value.

3.3 Towards a Moral Economics: Widening Economics to Acknowledge Harmful and Useless as well as Good

"Love for money is a root of all kinds of evil." I Timothy 6<:10

Many products that we love, and which governments love because they boost the economy, cause evil, or 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. Harmful activity undermines value (Good) being actualized, while useless activity delays and dilutes its actualization.

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."

At the root of RLDG discussions is the presupposition of the economy (all economic activity) as having a mandate to bring Overall Good into the world and to serve the world - as maybe reflected in the words "goods" and "services". [Note: Why Good] This Overall Good is what the United Nations SNA 2025 exercise calls "Well-being and Sustainability", and the RLDG referred to as "Healthy Living Environment". Harmful and useless (non-essential) economic activity undermines, detracts from and even prevents that.

In this section we discuss the Harmful and the Useless but leave it till Section §5.3 to offer a definition of them.

3.3.1 Failure of economic theory and practice to differentiate harm and useless from good

Most economics theory and practice fails to distinguish the Good, the Harmful and the Useless or do so in a way that will lead economic activity away from doing harm towards doing good.

In conventional economics, at the macroeconomic level, 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. Conventional microeconomics presupposes the rational economic actor, insofar as whatever choices are made accepted without question. Corporate Social Responsibility might be acknowledged by firms as a policy, but seldom do firms seriously look at the harm done by their products or services.

This might be called Harmful Economics, not that it sets out to be harmful but that, by giving no way to differentiate Harm from Good within economic theory and practice, it lets harm expand, and even supports it doing so. Our alternative, in which Harm is clearly distinguished from Good, we call Moral Economics.

Even some of the recent thinkers fail to differentiate harm from good. Marianna Mazzucato, for example, emphasises productivity, but without recognising that some productivity generates harm (example: tobacco). Towards the end [p.263-267] she mentions several "good" things she would like the economy to achieve, such as socialization, innovation, education and longer-term thinking, but only in abstract ways. She does however contribute much to our understanding of the useless in the economy (see below).

Most recent thinkers do recognise harm or the useless however; it is the harm they see being done that often motivates their thinking. However, most do so in limited ways, of two kinds.

Firstly, though many outwith the field of economics, such as environmentalists, often rail against various harms that economic activity does, and sometimes argue them in detail, most in the fields of economics or finance seem to avoid doing so. Instead, they discuss specific past occurrences of harma, such as Carney's [2021] discussion of the credit and covid crises, or they present normative goals we should aim for in the future, such as Carney's set of values, or the SNA 2025's ideas of wellbeing and sustainability. What most recent thinkers fail to do is seriously discuss how economic activity can cause the various kinds of harm now. Without this, exhortations to a better future will stumble over "But economics works like this."

A possible exception to this is Raworth's Doughnut Economics. She sets out seven principles of "how to think like a 21st century economist" so as to avoid the harms she lists in her "ecological ceiling" while avoiding various harms of dropping below the "social foundation". This is to be welcomed.

However, even in doing this, her work might exhibit a second flaw. She presupposes the (quantitative value of the) "ecological ceiling" is above the (quantitative value of the) "social floor". If we presuppose the social floor expected by the Global North, we find it already well above the ecological ceiling in terms of ecological footprint (USA: two-and-a-half to three earths [Note: Ecological Footprint]). To be fair, when she assigns cost figures to her social floor, she does refer to global averages; however, we must question whether what she chose as components of the social floor has been influenced by her presupposition of affluent cultures. [See examples of missing values above.] To what extent is her choice of components of the social foundation based on presupposition of the aspirations and expectations of liberal, affluent cultures?

We need a way to understand the Good, the Harmful and the Useless clearly and systematically, one that transcends the presuppositions of affluent cultures. We need not reject affluent expectations out of hand, but rather question them and also recognise and respect the expectations that pertain within other cultures. One RLDG participant was working in rural Uganda, and was told by a Ugandan,

"We don't need money. We grow our own food and build our own houses. All we need money for is school fees and hospital fees."

In seeking such a way, we need first to understand something about harm and non-essentials.

3.3.2 Understanding the harm from and to economic activity

As discussed in §3.1.3, economic activity impacts other areas of life and they impact the economy. This impact can be harmful as well as good, and we can understand both directions of harm.

First, some economic activity harms other aspects of life - these are sometimes called "externalities", and were much discussed in the RLDG. 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). We need to understand all such mechanisms of harm; we suggest how later.

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).

It was pointed out in the RLDG discussions that even some of the harmful activities might contribute some Good. One that was discussed in the RLDG was that the firms carrying out harmful activities, such as makes of junk food that causes obesity, provide jobs so that people can feed their families, yield tax income for governments, and generate money flow that "trickles down" to the poor. We can immediately see flaws in such arguments. Trickle down theory has long been largely discredited. Junk food makers might contribute taxes to support health systems, but those are 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. We need to set Harm alongside the Good that economic activity does, in a way that cannot be obfuscated by vested interests.

We need also to seek out the root causes of the harm that is done. "Love of money" is one that Paul saw operating around him. It is not money as such, but love of money. This "love" [Note: Love of Money] is an adherence to money. Adherence to money as the "measure of all things", or all value, is a root of many kinds of harm, because it leads us to ignore and downplay all the multiple kinds of value above. One example of this is banks and retirement funds continuing to finance fossil fuels, despite knowing of the harm they do.

One major challenge is the plethora of kinds of harm, as listed above. Some are obvious and often discussed while others are hidden or yet to enter economics discourse. We need a way to recognise all kinds of Harm, whether currently discussed or hidden. Later, Dooyeweerd's idea of aspects is employed to satisfy this and the above needs.

3.3.3 Understanding the useless, the non-essential

Now, what about the Useless? Let us use the less strident concept, non-essential versus essential. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed several of these.

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 demanded 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 previously been spending on non-essentials.

Of course, it is not as simple at that - but it does at least oblige us to find better figures and take action. How much of our lifestyles in affluent cultures involves non-essentials? 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.

There is very little discussion of non-essentials in the academic literature. Too little research has been done on non-essentials, neither to provide good quality data, nor to understand its mechanisms. So the following observations arise from the RLDG discussions.

1. Uselessness is not a third category alongside good and harmful, but cuts across both, as in Table 1. 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.

Table 1. Good and harmful essentials and non-essentials (examples)
(Click on table for full size)

Good and harmful essentials and non-essentials (examples)  1200,450

2. Is there 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 their banks).

3. Instead of a sharp boundary, can 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, and also in converting Supply and Use tables, as discussed in Section 6. However, closer examination revealed the meaninglessness of such ruses. (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.

4. Much non-essential or useless economic activity prevents Good that could have occurred by absorbing human effort uselessly (opportunity costs).

5. However, much, but its nature in a self-interested, affluent culture, non-essential economic activity does often considerable harm too. Unnecessary transport or driving generates climate change emissions, also road traffic injuries and accidents. The surfeit of meat eating and sugar consumption in affluent cultures causes obesity. Much non-essential consumption is because of greed.

We need a conceptual framework by which to differentiate essential from less-essential and be able to discuss surfeit and greed in a useful manner. We can begin by distinguishing at least three kinds of non-essentials or useless economic activity.

However we need a basis on which to judge these types of non-essential in a more nuanced way.

3.3.4 Implications

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?

Recognisin{g that even productive economic activity can do harm as well as good or can be useless, motivates responsibility, which we discuss in Section §3.5. It also needs to be understood at all levels, which we discuss next.

3.4 Towards a Multi-level Economics: Widen to Embrace Micro, Macro and Global Economics Together

The traditional division of economics into micro versus macro is breaking down. The SNA 2025 exercise also finds that global economics cannot be treated as macroeconomics of nations. Though it may be convenient to teach them separately in university courses, in real life micro, macro and global 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.

What we have is what might be called a Fragmented Economics; instead, we advocate a Multi-level Economics.

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.

Even if we embrace all levels, we must ensure we do not take a reductionist approach in doing so, for example seeing everything through the lens of the economic aspect alone. Reductionism to the economic is the current situation, especially in academia and theoretical thought. The individual is presupposed a rational economic actor. The household is seen solely in terms of its resources, spending, etc. The Resource-Based View still dominates business theory, even though it emerged in the 1980s. The 2008 System of National Accounts, which dominate national planning, reduces almost all factors to economic concepts of resources and their flows, mostly in quantitative terms. Even many who are concerned with the global environment reduce it to the economic idea of resource depletion (as for example the Circular Economy does and Dasgupta [2021] tries to do). There is an attempt to hang all these levels on the single thread of economics, and especially its quantitative version. That temptation must be resisted. Instead of reducing all levels to the economic, we advocate recognising what is most important and meaningful at each level (i.e. which aspects most operate at that level) and understand the relationships those aspects have with the economic aspect. We look at this later.

We need a philosophical framework in which all levels may be understood together, not as mutually exclusive foci but as all within one entire reality, along with the relationships among them. We find one in Dooyeweerd's aspectual approach.

3.5 Towards a Responsible Economics: Widen Beyond Rational Economic Actor to Recognise Responsibility

"Of those who whom much is given, much will be expected." [Luke 12:48]

Value implies responsibility at the heart of economics. In fact, all four widenings imply responsibility. Economics has a general responsibility to all other aspects of life, to serve them rather than expect them to serve it. Value implies a responsibility to seek it, and economic value has a responsibility to express all other kinds of value. Since economic activity can generates Harm as well a Good, it has a responsibility to actively orientate itself to the Good and away from the Harmful and even from the Useless. That all the levels of economic activity intertwine and affect each other implies that each has a responsibility to the others.

We are not saying that the mandate of business or the economy should be swamped by justice etc. but rather that, if economic activity is seen as embedded in, and impacting, other aspects, then multi-value responsibility is key. The detached idea of rational economic actor, serving their own interests alone, is the very opposite of responsibility because all links with other aspects are severed.

3.5.1 Treatments of responsibility

Conventional economics theory has little place for responsibility, except in very limited ways, so that economic practice is then left to bring responsibility in by stealth, if it wishes to - which is often does not. The responsibilities that conventional economic theory allows are very limited, confined largely to maximizing personal gain or providing incomes for workers. This might be called an Unconcerned Economics; we advocate a Responsible Economics.

A small step towards responsibility may be seen in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), but too often it is seen as merely a ploy to increase market attractiveness, and in any case it is too often merely some giving a tiny percentage of the profits that have been made from harmful activities. One example discussed in the RLDG was of junk food corporations that give money to hospitals while encouraging the health problem of obesity. CSR is seldom true responsibility.

A larger step might come from a Stakeholder rather than shareholder approach [Freeman 1984], in which the business is judged by reference to all stakeholders - not just shareholders, but customers, suppliers, communities, etc. Responsibility to all these is acknowledged - as long as their voice can be heard. But this is challenged when we consider non-human stakeholders, such as the atmosphere and climate at one end, or Great Crested Newts whose habitats are destroyed by a housing development at the other. Human stakeholders have a voice, while the 'voice' of newts and other animals or habitats is seldom heard and carries little weight. A fundamental problem with both stakeholder, as with shareholder, approaches is focus inwardly on the self (of which there might be several in a stakeholder approach), the 'needs' of the entity with a stake in the economic activity. On what basis may we judge needs?

The Responsible Economics approach looks outward, to the other, whatever the other is. The engine that drives it is not the 'voice' of stakeholders, but the responsibility we all have to all others.

Many recent thinkers urge us to take a wider view, but even they do so in limited ways. Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics, for example implies we have a responsibility to maintain the social floor but avoid hitting the ecological ceiling, and that we have a responsibility to redefine economics for the 21st century, but responsibility is only implied, and the word "responsibility" does not occur in the index of her book. In most, the driving motivation behind their proposals exhibits a feeling of responsibility, but again this is implicit rather than explicit.

Mark Carhey's book, Value(s) is a welcome exception. It does have an index entry "Responsibility", pointing to a number of pages, and his final chapter offers a section headed "Responsibility", among others headed "Change", "Uncertainty", "Renewal" and so on, but each section occupies only one or two pages and is aspirational rather than detailed. In other places where he mentions responsibility - for example, he points out that markets and trade distance the provider from the consumer, who then takes less responsibility for the damage done to the provider - responsibility is a general norm.

We need a rigorous and intensive exploration of responsibility in economics, including of its various kinds.

3.5.2 Understanding responsibility in economics

Responsibility to whom? Responsibility is to various stakeholders - to children, to future generations, to wildlife, to habitats, to biodiversity, to society, to the poor, and so on. These responsibilities are variously recognised by recent thinkers, and most fair-minded people worldwide. But they are all rather abstract, but we need something to compelling enough to change the way economics is theorized and practised. In Section 7, we suggest one basis for this, with yet another 'stakeholder'.

Responsibility for what? For what does economic theory and practice have responsibility? Not only for itself (efficient economic activity) but also, so SNA 2025 believes, to wellbeing and sustainability, and they define many aspects of wellbeing, especially in their Guidance Note on Unpaid Work. As we discuss elsewhere, even these are limited. We need a systematic way to identify the kinds of responsibility that economics must keep in mind and respond to, and a way to understand each kind deeply and its relationship with others. In Sections 4, 5, we suggest Dooyeweerd's aspects can meet these needs.

The time element is important. Responsibility is not only for now, but for past, present and future. Though we cannot predict or even control the future, surely it is wiser to consider possible repercussions. Though we today might not have done past damage, do we in the affluent cultures not enjoy the 'fruits' of evil done in the past, such as the slave trade? Reparations came up within the RLDG discussions.

Each level of economics has its own distinct responsibility. For example: Individuals have a responsibility, not just to make money (within the law) but also to help others (including the natural world). Households have a responsibility not only to provision themselves, to keep themselves healthy and prosperous, but to help other households, to be a good example, and to develop children (and perhaps other adults) in ways that are good for the future - to develop people. Businesses have a responsibility not only "to increase owner value", "to make and keep customers" or even "to provide jobs", but to contribute to the resourcing of humanity (the community or society) to contribute towards the Overall Good in the world. Humanity as a whole has a responsibility to care for the rest of Creation, as a shepherd does for sheep (see Section 7 for more on that). Yet each level links with the responsibility of others. Individuals, households and businesses can keep humanity's global responsibility in mind so that in provisioning themselves, other households or communities, they are not damaging and undermining sustainability with unnecessary climate change emissions and unsustainable demands on biodiversity.

We need a way to consider and respond to all levels of responsibility together.

Yet, even a global perspective might not be enough. Some suggest that ultimately is does not matter if humankind goes extinct, in that the Earth would get on quite well enough if we were wiped out, often making reference to the theory that an asteroid disaster wiped out the dinosaurs, but then mammals took over. Conversely, others naively put their faith in taking humanity to another planet; ultimately, it matters not if the Earth as we know it is destroyed. Both abrogate and undermine any sense of responsibility - and neither care about the immense suffering that would occur.

We need a way to bring the responsibilities meaningful at each level into every other level's theory or paradigm of economics. That requires some responsibility that transcends all the levels, a point beyond humanity, and even beyond the Earth itself, to which all levels ultimately refer, such as one that is suggested in Section 7.

This gives a wider picture into which all levels fit, and the relationships between them may be understood. If we do not have this, 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 one level of responsibility does not apply because of some other responsibility. e.g. "I am responsible primarily to my family" or "I am responsible to my nation to keep its laws".

3.5.3 Philosophical roots of our problem

Why is it so difficult to bring responsibility into the heart of economics? Why have even some recent thinkers taken responsibility for granted rather than explicitly discussing it? There is both a philosophical and a religious problem in this "heart". The religious problem is discussed in Section 7. The philosophical problem is the separation of Is from Ought.

Most conventional economic theory, whether Capitalist or Marxist, seeks to describe and explain what it sees as the Is of economics, its being and processes (which includes money, labour, markets, rational economic actor, etc.), while responsibility is in the province of Ought. Recent thinkers may be seen as rejecting the Is-Ought divorce, even if they do so implicitly by setting up values that they believe should guide economics. When Mark Carney rejects [p.190], the assumption that "markets are moral", he is pointing out that it means that whatever markets do there is nothing to worry about, and hence responsibility need not be considered. Conventional economics had tried to reduce the Ought to the Is.

This separation pervades most of our philosophical and economic theories, and often even practice, over the past 500 years or so. Dooyeweerd [1979] is one of the better expositors of this. The separation is not a 'truth' but arises from the operation of what he called a "ground-motive", a "spiritual driving force that acts as the absolutely central mainspring of human society", which is "spiritual" and "central" in that it "not only places an indelible stamp on the culture, science, and social structure of a given period but determines profoundly one's whole world view" [p9]. He discussed four main ground-motives in depth, which have driven Western thought over the past 2,500 years: the Greek ground-motive of Form versus Matter, the Biblical ground-motive of Creation, Fall and Redemption, the Scholastic ground-motive of Nature versus Grace, and the Humanist ground-motive of Nature versus Freedom.

The latter is the main one in force today in academic and professional circles, and is epitomized in most economic theory seeks to describe and explain what it sees as the Is of economics, its being and processes (which includes money, markets, rational economic actor, etc.), while responsibility is in the province of Ought. We can see this in the assumption, which Mark Carney rejects [p.190], that "markets are moral." Despite the word "moral", this is not bringing in Ought but rather saying that whatever markets do there is nothing to worry about, and responsibility need not be considered.

The Humanistic Nature-v-Freedom ground-motive is, however, not a Truth, but a constricting presupposition, which prevents thinkers to keep Is separate from Ought. Many philosophers, artists and even economists - including Carney and many others mentioned above - are seeking ways to break out of this straitjacket and take responsibility into account. In Carney and Hartropp this is explicit, while in Raworth, Dasgupta and the SNA 2025 exercise it is more implicit, often relying on our intuition that the things they try to bring into economics are desirable.

Dooyeweerd offers a way to understand Is and Ought together, which we explain in Section 4, so that in Section 5 the normativity inherent in economics is woven into its structure. Dooyeweerd allows us to do this explicitly rather than only implicitly, taking it for granted.

Ground-motives are, Dooyeweerd argued, religious in nature, and all theoretical thought, all human reasoning, religiously adheres to ground-motive presuppositions about the ultimate nature of reality. He argued that all thinkers should explicitly declare their religious presuppositions of this kind, in a way that enables others to see their influence on thought and practice. This is why we bring in a Christian Perspective in Section 7. This lets us not just react against the Nature-v-Freedom ground-motive but bring in something more positive.

3.6 Towards a Multi-aspectual Economics: All Widenings Together

We would like - we need - an approach to economics that is able to embrace all the ideas of recent thinkers - and even many of the insights of conventional economics too, both left and right. this might be possible if our understanding of economics can be widened in the five ways discussed above. We seek widening and enrichment, not rejection nor taking of sides. Our widening, however, must not lose its focus on the economic aspect of reality; that must remain its core.

The widenings discussed above include:

Recent thinkers in economics may be seen as focusing on one or two of the widenings. There seems to be none who focus on them all. Table 2 summarises what each focuses on. Items to the left in a column indicate the thinker explicitly seeks a widening, items to the right indicate implicit desire for a widening. Bold text indicates their main concern.

Table 2. What each recent thinker focuses on
(draft, incomplete, still being developed: given here to illustrate)

What each thinker focuses on

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

What is needed is a way of understanding the nature of economics in the world that effect all the widenings, doing justice to each in the light of all the others. That will enable us to situate the recent thinkers within the same space. We also want this space to be able to accommodate other issues as they arise in years (or decades) to come. We may call it Multi-aspectual Economics, for reasons that will soon become clear.

Multi-aspectual Economics might be a new paradigm for economics. Embedded Economics, Multi-value Economics, Moral Economics, Multi-level Economics, Responsible Economics - that is what recent thinkers have variously been calling for, some for one, some for another. They have done us a great service in doing so. However, it might be tempting for them, and others, to content themselves with one or two of those. But that temptation should be resisted because we need them all together.

This will be challenging. What grounds have we to hope we can achieve an integration of all those widenings? (a) Real life actually has all these in it - embeddedness of economics, many values, good and harm, all levels and responsibility - 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 RLDG participant put it. (c) We approach the entire arena from a fundamentally different direction, in terms of both philosophical meta-thought and religious presuppositions. (d) That thinkers are already addressing the desiderata suggests it is valid to seek them. (e) From the RLDG 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.

The approach we use comes from philosophy, because it is philosophy that crosses disciplinary boundaries and tackles issues of value, morality, levels and responsibility. We use the philosophy of Dooyeweerd. We do not claim that it reaches answers to all questions. It might, however, open the door a tiny bit more, so that others can enter and explore.


Let us examine the challenge in more detail. Throughout the above text, "we need" has been stated a number of times. Here is a list of them:

The variety of these needs seems frightening. It calls for a systematic approach, and calls for a good understanding of the very nature of the economic aspect of reality itself, which digs beneath the assumptions and presuppositions that prevail. This requires philosophy.

Not all philosophy can cope with such a range of things. However, we believe that Dooyeweerd's philosophy can do so, because its best-known part, Dooyeweerd's suite of aspects, has been shown [Basden 2020] to be able to cope with most of the above in other fields. In brief, his suite includes an economic aspect, and Dooyeweerd emphasised the coherence and inter-relationships between them. Each aspect is a kind of value or Good, and most also define kinds of Harm, and kinds of responsibility. The various levels each emphasise different aspects. So, it is a possible foundation for bringing these widenings together, and that is why we call it "Multi-aspectual Economics".

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. Human activity exhibits all the following 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):

We function in all these aspects together and simultaneously; they are aspects of our activity, ways in which our activity is meaningful.

Dooyeweerd warned, however, that no such suite of aspects is ever final or complete [Dooyeweerd, 1955, II, 556] but merely a best guess at the diversity of meaningfulness, always open to challenge and refinement. However, as Basden [2020, 209-212] argues, Dooyeweerd's suite it probably the best available, more comprehensive and better grounded than most, even Maslow's [1943] hierarchy of needs. Aspects can never be 100% precisely defined (Dooyeweerd offers philosophical reasons for this) so we always work with in interpretation of them. So we adopt Dooyeweerd's suite, and the interpretations given above, throughout this document. Readers are free to substitute their own interpretations, and even suites, if they wish.

4.2 Attitude and its Two Aspects

The two components of attitude discussed earlier align very closely with Dooyeweerd's two last aspects, the pistic and ethical aspects. They have their importance overlooked, because they work at a deeper level, especially in economic activity. They also constitute what we in some places, including the Bible, is called the 'heart', and they work at all levels, from individuals to nations.

Functioning in the ethical aspect of self-giving love, we adopt either a self-centred, selfish, self-protecting attitude, or a self-giving, generous attitude open to the risk of being taken advantage of. Genuine trust, which is so important for a healthy economy, depends on this. So is generosity. This casts doubt over the validity and efficacy of competitiveness [Note: Competition], and also the presupposition of the validity of the rational economic actor driven by self-interest.

The pistic aspect of attitude is what we most deeply believe, such that we are committed to it, that which is of ultimate meaningfulness to us. It is that by which we justify Harm we do - or alternatively that which most deeply motivates the kind of Good we do. It is our 'god', our 'idol', for which we sacrifice much that is good. Pistic is the deepest assumptions we make, taking things for granted, our presuppositions. Being the terminal aspect, how we function in the pistic aspect affects how we function in all others. What a nation believes about itself, and aspires to, affects whether it is self-giving or self-interested.

"Affluence, arrogance, unconcern" cited earlier embodies dysfunction in both these aspects. Together they corrupt entire societies, filling them with injustice, division, misery and wastefulness (as retrocipatory impacts on the juridical, aesthetic and economic aspects).

4.3 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.

Dooyeweerd differs from most philosophers, in turning our attention from entities or processes to Meaning, which, he argued, is their very foundation. Things do not just exist or function, but exist-as and function-as, where the "-as" refers to an aspect, which is a "modality of meaning", and hence also a "mode of being" and "mode of functioning" (terminology Dooyeweerd used).

For example, a pen exists-as and functions-as a writing instrument by virtue of its meaningfulness in the lingual aspect, -as a colouring instrument by virtue of the psychical aspect, and (sometimes) -as a status symbol by virtue of the social aspect.

Similarly, money exists-as and functions-as a token (lingual), of value (economic), of exchange (social), -as a measure (quantitative) and a flow (kinematic), -as owned (juridical), -as an idol (pistic), and so on.

Throughout the following sections, references will be made to aspects and readers should refer back here to properly understand what is being said.

Table 3. Good and harmful functioning and repercussions in each aspect (examples)
(Click on table for full size)
Examples of good and harmful functioning and repercussions for each aspect 1328,1800

In Section 5, we explore how Dooyeweerd's ideas might provide a philosophical foundation on which to undertake each of the widenings, and build a conceptual framework for an Aspectual Economics. This is merely an indication that needs further work.


In this section, we discuss how Dooyeweerd's ideas may be used to support or achieve each of the widenings discussed in Section 3. The result might be a different paradigm for the fields of economics, finance, business, etc. It interprets recent thinkers in terms of aspects they find meaningful, and enables them to be drawn together.

5.1 Embedded Economics: One Aspect in a Multi-aspectual Reality

5.1.1 Main principle:

Every aspect is important. The economic is only one aspect among them all. Its impact on other aspects, and their impact on it, may be understood via inter-aspect relationships. The economic aspect should serve others, not expect to be served by them.

5.1.2 In more detail:

Dooyeweerd's aspects, each 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 economics and all other spheres of life into a common understanding. Each sphere is understood as functioning in an aspect of life, and the repercussions of that functioning. That is as true of the economic aspect as of the biotic, social or ethical. This enables us to affirm, critique and enrich the ideas of recent thinkers as part of a wider picture in which every aspect plays a part.

The inherent inter-aspect coherence - that each aspect inherently relates to all the others - gives us an understanding of how economic activity impacts and is impacted by functioning in all other aspects. This means that the embeddedness is no mere human or social requirement, but is endemic in the nature of reality itself. So Detached Economics just does not work so well, not even for the economy itself. This is what makes Embedded Economics both possible and compelling.

5.1.3 Embracing Recent Thinkers

First, we can affirm the various issues that recent thinkers emphasise, by identifying which aspects most make them meaningful and important. For example, emphasis on biodiversity draws attention to the biotic aspect, emphasis on climate change, to the physical aspect as it supports life (biotic), emphasis on poverty and injustice, to the juridical aspect, and so on.

This gives a way to bring in multiple kinds of externalities, insofar as they can be defined as (meaningful by) extra-economic aspects. That all aspects are equally meaningful and must all be considered in principle, moves so-called externalities into the very centre of economic activity.

The idea of aspects allows finer-grain analysis too. For example, the components of Kate Raworth's "social foundation" may be understood as follows:

This can begin to answer the question of why each component was included. Notice how most elements are meaningful in more than one aspect, which is often the case [Note: Cipations]. In fact, for a full understanding, each one is meaningful in all aspects, for their operation but the ones mentioned are the main ones.

Second, aspects enable us to critique ideas, in at least two ways. By looking for missing aspects, we may submit issues meaningful in those aspects for consideration. This emerges from Dooyeweerd's belief that things function in all aspects and that every aspect is important. Where, for example, is the ethical aspect in the social foundation? It is what makes love and care meaningful, which presumably are an important component thereof. The SNA 2025 exercise certainly thinks so, because it includes two types of care among the elements of unpaid household activity that it wishes to bring into the national accounts (see list below).

We may also ask whether an aspect has been adequately covered, by reflecting on what we know of the aspect. For example, the social aspect is present above in equity, housing and networks; what about home or household? What about a sense of place (spatial-social)? Do most academics who draw up such lists have blind spots?

There are also deeper kinds of critiques, which are mentioned later, but these two ways of aspectual critique can lead quite naturally to the third contribution, enriching.

Thirdly, we can enrich. One way to do this is to offer, for consideration, missing aspects or missing types of thing in aspects that are present. Another way is to consider 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. A healthy economy, in which resources are wisely used, 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).

Conversely, dysfunction (negative functioning) in an aspect can have harmful impacts in either direction, for example economic activity like soya growing undermining biodiversity by destroying native forests, or pandemics undermining the economy. Harmful impacts are discussed in Section 5.3 below.

5.2 Multi-value Economics: As Aspectual Approach to Value and its Measurement

5.2.1 Main principle:

Every aspect contributes to Overall Good (including ecosystems, climate, health, wellbeing, attitudes, etc. as well as economies), potentially and actually. So each defines a distinct kind of value. Economic value is only one of these. The challenge and inherent distortions involved in translating value of any other aspect to economic value (via measurement and price-assignment) may be understood using aspects and Dooyeweerd's theory of theory; this can clarify the fallibilities and perhaps control them. Some aspectual value cannot be measured but still occurs in economic activity and should be taken into account in economic analysis and planning. Understanding inter-aspect relationships can help.

5.2.2 In more detail on value

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 responsible for making them valuable, i.e. contributing to Overall Good. (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 may suggest three other unpaid household activities that should be considered (these were discussed by the RLDG, and there are others):

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

The 'mundane' goods, services and jobs about which Foundational Economics is concerned may be given respect and dignity by reference to aspects. Each aspect, to Dooyeweerd, is equally important, in that each makes an essential contribution to the overall Shalom of Temporal Reality. The "mundane" goods, services and jobs are often qualified by earlier aspects, for example, crop and animal production (biotic aspect), utilities (physical aspect), health services (biotic, psychical), whereas "favoured" ones, which are not possible without them, tend to be ones currently associated with national pride, which is functioning in the pistic aspect1 (national hubris and arrogance is pistic dysfunction, bringing much harm indirectly).

This gives a sounder basis for such dignity, than mere reaction against the status quo. In practice, when we are tempted to overlook the 'mundane', Dooyeweerd (a) can help us highlight things that are overlooked, (b) offer clearer and deeper understanding of the inter-aspect dependency that makes the depended-on things important.

5.2.3 Understanding value and non-essentials using aspects

From those examples, we sketch out a generic aspectual understanding of value.

As illustrated above, each aspect makes possible, and defines, a different basic kind of value - whether biotic, psychical, social, economic or pistic. Actual value, which actually occurs, may be seen as the result of aspectual functioning, which contributes to the Overall Good (Shalom), or undermines it in the case of aspectual dysfunction (see OGA in equation above). Potential value may be seen as the possibility of Good that each aspect provides. Those may be deemed objective value, though Dooyeweerd would discourage use of that term, in the sense that aspectual value transcends both subject and object, and indeed makes them possible.

Subjective value (actual or potential), to a person, household, firm, nation, society, etc., is belief (pistic functioning of that entity) about how actual or potential value is relevant to them, including in which aspect(s). It usually takes the form of commitment to, and assumption about, the importance of certain aspects relative to others. This is what society's values are, which Mark Carney wants to determine economic value. The next section suggest how they may be translated into economic value using aspects.

5.2.3 In more detail on economic value and measurement

What is value from the perspective of the economic aspect? In most economic activity and theory, (economic) value is assumed to be quantified, and to have already been translated from value of other kinds, so that the nature and laws of that kind of value do not need to be taken into account. As mentioned earlier, the presupposition of quantification may be questioned.

To Dooyeweerd, the kernel meaningfulness of the economic aspect is not quantitative maximization, but frugality (carefulness) with resources. 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 quantitative terms, 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 also aspects of poverty above.

We take measurement and money so much for granted that we fail to understand how complex it is. Quantification is useful for certain purposes (mentioned earlier), so it needs to be understood properly, and neither acquiesced to nor reacted against. We may do so with Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of theoretical thought [Note: Transcendental Critique], because the first step in theorizing is the same as that of quantification: selection of an aspect of interest to us. By this, we may better understand measurement and quantification and their limitations. This is so, whether the value we measure comes from measuring something directly (e.g. weight, friendliness) or from counting things, events or opinions (e.g. by surveys).

Quantification of value, leading to a price, involves several things that guarantee that the result usually does not reflect the true value, not only because of well-known errors in measuring and counting, and in assigning a price, but also because quantification inherent requires us to select an aspect of interest and ignore the others that contribute to the value, and because some things might not amenable to quantification, because the quantitative qualifiers "more" and "less" are meaningless.

Example: Calculating the economic value of a forest (as for example, Dasgupta [2021] might wish to do for the UK Treasury, or the UNSD might wish to do to bring sustainability into the national accounts in 2025). First we select aspects of interest that we wish to quantify. Will this be the biotic aspect of ecological health, or the aesthetic beauty of it, its potential to absorb carbon (physical with biotic), as something important to indigenous cultures (social, pistic), indeed as a home to people (social), as something beloved (ethical), as a source of timber (economic), as a training ground (formative), as owned property (juridical), or what? Whichever aspect we choose, we will ignore most others in our calculations. Then we must find properties meaningful in our chosen aspect that are amenable to quantitative expression, i.e. "more, less" are meaningful. While "more timber" can be meaningful, "more ecological health" is almost meaningless except in some artificial way, and hence cannot be quantified. Then we need to find a way assign precise figures, either by counting or by measuring. But what do we count or measure? Even in "more timber" do we measure the girth, circumference, weight, with or without bark, grain, branches, etc.? Inaccuracies abound. Finally, assigning a price to than figure is not always straightforward: what is the appropriate price on closer or looser grained timber?

If we must quantify, and use quantitative methods (arithmetic, statistics etc.) in economics, aspectual analysis can help. But we must be careful to remember that the measured value operates in other aspects. It helps if we reconceive money.

5.2.5 Reconceiving Currency and Money

Dooyeweerd opens the way to seeing money differently, as multi-aspectual human functioning. He held that things do not exist 'in themselves' but exist only by virtue of aspects. There is no such thing as being-as-such; there is only being-as, where the "as" refers to an aspect [Note: Dooyeweerd's idea of Being]. A pen's being as a pencil is made possible only by virtue of the lingual aspect. Its being as a fluid dispenser is made possible only by virtue of the kinematic and physical aspects. So it is with money. Money, as token of value, is made possible by the lingual and economic aspects. Being its various forms or media is made possible by other aspects:

This serves to show how aspects can help us understand the provision of types of currency.

Other aspects are also important in the reality of money: the formative aspect of its manufacture. Money exists-as agreed value that enables exchange by virtue of the social aspect, exists-as an amount by virtue of the quantitative aspect, exists-as something to trust by virtue of the ethical and pistic aspects, exists-as 'mine' / 'ours' by virtue of the juridical aspect, which also implies responsibility, and so on.

In addition, we need to take into account the functioning that money enables, such as the purchase of timber to make good furniture. The conventional approach narrows the focus down to the exchange of money for timber (Figure 1(a)) whereas our approach sees that as merely one economic aspect of the entire process of furniture making (Figure 1(b)).

Contrasting conventional approach of buying timber and our aspectual approach 1952,900

Figure 1. Understanding buying timber for furniture making
(a) conventional approach; (b) aspectual approach
(Click of picture for full size)

The money enables not only the purchase of timber, but all the aspects of functioning in making the furniture, such as formative planning and making, aesthetic aspect of beauty, another economic aspect of not wasting the purchased timber, and the juridical aspect of doing justice to the timber's grain etc. There is also another juridical aspect in the fairness of the price paid.

That is an example with positive aspects. Usually there are some negative aspects too, such as climate change emissions.

All this is what it is to be money. Whether it is shells, gold, notes, bank transfer or even cryptocurrency.

Of course, that is only for the simple example of purchasing timber, demonstrating how we can gain a fuller and wider understanding of money. There is much more, but all of it might be worked out in similar ways. For example, might this help us understand debt and its conundrums, especially if, as an Embedded Economy, we find the meaning of juridical, ethical and other aspects within the economic aspect and not just bolted on outside? The Jewish and Christian Scriptures seem to hint at such a view of debt.

The effects of using money are not just to be understood, however; they are either good or harmful. So, in fact, is all economic activity. This implies responsibility.

5.3 Moral Economics: Aspects of Good and Harmful Economic Activity

5.3.1 Main principle:

Most aspects define a distinct kind of Evil or Harm, as well as Good. Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us separate out the harm from the good and the kinds of these from each other. The Useless or Non-essential may be analysed by reference to aspects and their undue elevation.

5.3.2 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.

From the biotic aspect onwards, "harm" or "evil" is meaningful. Harm comes in two ways in each aspect:

Uselessness is often the latter.

5.3.3 Harm as repercussion of dysfunction

Table 1 above shows examples of good and harmful functioning and repercussions in each aspect.

By reference to this, 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.

The importance of attitude was emphasised earlier. It may be understood as our functioning in the ethical and pistic aspects. Because they are post-social aspects, functioning in them tends to spread throughout a community or society. The ethical aspect, with its meaning-kernel of self-giving love, describes exactly that generous and trusting attitude that strengthens both society and economy, and its dysfunction, of self-centredness, is the root of much that undermines both. The pistic aspect includes morale, dignity, and what aspirations and expectations people hold. That these two aspects are distinct from the juridical, and come after it, partly explain why affluent cultures, such as those of the G20, though seeming to have relatively less corruption and better rule by law, are those that have contributed most to destroying the Earth, biodiversity, climate and indigenous cultures.

5.3.3 Harm and especially uselessness, from undue elevation of an aspect

(This section still requires more thinking out.)

Some useless (non-essential) economic activity - whether bullshit jobs, non-essential products or anything else - might not (seem to) do much harm. Conversely, some harmful activity might be deemed essential. And yet even harmless non-essential activity may be seen as harmful in robbing us of Good that could have been done. And there is always the harm of climate change emissions, pollution, or encouraging injustice in places far away, and perhaps harm to society's attitudes or morale.

On what grounds, however, may we judge something Useless or Non-essential (or Essential)? Do not Bullshit jobs, or production of baubles, for example, at least provide incomes?

Dooyeweerd's aspects offer both a grounding and a conceptual tool for analysis. The grounding is that aspects transcend culture, history, subjectivity and social construction and norms, and even subjectivity and objectivity as such. Essential and non-essential may be worked out on the basis of aspectual value, more-or-less independently of subjective values or value. Essential is always essential-for-what. There is always a "Why?" of essential, and the "Why?" may be answered by reference to aspects. Some things are biotically essential, some things, physically essential, some things lingually essential, economically essential, juridically essential, pistically essential, and so on. Pistic essentiality, for example, becomes visible when we compare Western with Islamic finance. "Non-essential" usually brings to attention the inappropriateness of one person's (or nation's) aesthetic pleasures being given priority over justice to others, especially the poor. Conveniences we take for granted in affluent cultures also comes into this category.

Take the example of a Bullshit job with which Graeber begins his book [pages 1-2], which may be summarised as follows.

In the German military a soldier needs to move to a different office 5 meters down the corridor, including the computer from their desk. Instead of allowing it to be carried, a sub-sub-contractor is called in, who lives 200 km away and must hire a car to drive down to the office, seal up the computer in a box, wait for it to be moved, then unseal and unpack it in the new office. "So, instead of the soldier carrying his computer for five meters, two people drive for a combined six to ten hours, fill in around fifteen pages of paperwork, and waste a good four hundred euros of taxpayers' money." The primary idiocy (dysfunction) is in the economic aspect. Graeber renarks [p.2] "Kurt's job might be considered a paradigmatic example of a bullshit job for one simple reason: if the position were eliminated, it would make no discernible difference in the world. Likely as not, things would improve since German military bases would presumably have to come up with a more reasonable way to move equipment."

Let us now employ aspectual analysis of that as a conceptual tool to bring out detail. The primary idiocy here is dysfunctions meaningful in the formative aspect (of achieving nothing) and economic aspect (waste). We can see the following kinds of waste: distance driven (kinematic), two people's time (multi-aspectual), paperwork (lingual). This operation incurs the following obvious kinds of harm: climate change emissions (physical-biotic), tiredness from driving (psychical). What is the reason for this idiocy and harm? The regulations in place (juridical aspect). They are in place for two reasons. One is the contracts between the parties involved (juridical, social aspect). The other is the general case, including longer moves where there is the possibility of computers that might contain military secrets being lost or stolen. This again is juridical aspect, but it is motivated by self-protective fear, a dysfunction in the ethical aspect.

When people (or nations) make an excuse that something is "essential" for them, they are usually indicating a belief, a commitment, to some aspect of their lives. Often this is a both selfish and idolatry - the undue elevation of an aspect. Goudzwaard [1984] discusses four idols, economic growth, technology, national security and revolution. An idol is something to which much else that is good is sacrificed, and which is allowed to determine all the way we live. In this case, the idol seems to be national security, and the sacrifice is waste, and "the way we live" is governed by military regulations, drawn up to appease the idol of military security, and hence has departed from "a more reasonable way".

The root of Uselessness is very often dysfunction in the pistic aspect. Something is idolised that should not be, and jobs are created to support it, which turn out to be meaningless, idiotic and wasteful. The potential Good that people could be doing instead is sacrificed for it. That the pistic aspect affects how we function in all other aspects, means that this idolatry contaminates them all.

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 - all unduly elevated to be our idols, for which much Good is sacrificed. Mariana Mazzucato has drawn attention to some of that. There seems to be some correlation between harm and non-essentiality.

That is why the Non-essential, the Useless, should not be tolerated, even when it does not seem overtly harmful.

5.4 Multilevel Economics: Aspects of Levels of Economic Analysis

5.4.1 Main principle:

At each level of economics, different aspects are of primary importance and govern the way economic activity operates at that level. That aspects form one coherent set, and we can understand inter-aspect dependencies, means we can bring levels together, and motivates us to do so.

5.4.2 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. As mentioned above, instead of hanging all levels on the single thread of the economic aspect, we want to understand the relationships between the aspects that are most important at each level and the economic: how they affect economic activity and how economic activity affects them [See §3.1 on two-way impact and §5.1 section on multi-aspectual economy above]. This requires understanding of inter-aspect dependencies especially - which indicates some research that needs doing.

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. See our discussion of micro-macro in SNA 2025.

5.5 Responsible Economics: Aspectual Responsibilities

5.5.1 Main principle:

Aspects can help us to separate out different kinds of responsibility and to understand the various stakeholders. Inter-aspect dependencies can help understand indirect responsibilities, and how economic activity can serve other aspects rather than demand to be served.

5.5.2 In more detail:

If we believe that we human beings have responsibility - whatever responsibility it is - then in economics that responsibility is to seek the Good, reduce and remedy the Harm, and probably to minimise the Useless. As discussed above, by reference to aspects we can separate out different kinds of Good and Harm, and hence the various different kinds of responsibility we have.

Insofar as Dooyeweerd's aspects transcend all cultures, humanity and even the Earth itself, this provides a basis for a responsibility that transcends these and thus possesses some authority that the other views lack. (Christians see that authority as rooted in God; that is for Section 7.)

Each aspect enables us to be responsible and defines what that responsibility is, as given by its central norm. In any field, the aspect at the core of the field will supply its central norm, and hence responsibility, but not its sole one.

5.5.3 The aspectual responsibility of economics

Let us begin with the economic aspect, since we are discussing economics. Dooyeweerd argued that its central norm is best expressed as frugality [Note: Frugality]. By this, Dooyeweerd meant the careful management of resources, and certainly did NOT intend meanness or austerity. That frugality is an important norm is obvious when they are scarce, but even when they plentiful, frugality is the important and desirable - and (probably) never harmful. Example: Russian (and other) gas pipelines leak but since they think they have lots of gas they do little to reduce leakage. But what is leaked is huge amounts of Methane, which is a very potent greenhouse gas. It would have been better if they had been more careful. Frugality is seen as a positive virtue, not just a reaction to scarcity. This may be seen in art, in which the aesthetic aspect retrocipates the economic: the best art emerges from limitation. More directly in the economic aspect itself, frugality makes sense because we do not know the future need for the resource, nor even, in the present, many of the externalised ramifications of using that resource. This might make sense of why early attempts to rethink economics, such as the Tragedy of the Commons and the idea of the Circular Economy, focused on resource depletion.

Since we take the view that the economic aspect should integrate with all other aspects, serving them rather than expecting to be served, then the norms, and hence responsibilities, that are meaningful in those aspects all become important. For example, the juridical aspect of justice, or the biotic norm of food production or health - which are two of Kate Raworth's implied norms from the social floor. The responsibility of economic functioning is, then, to carefully manage resources in a way that fulfils these norms - for example for health, mental health, good thinking, industriousness, communication, sociality, harmony, justice, self-giving attitude and faithfulness (some expressions of the biotic-pistic aspects).

Understanding inter-aspect dependencies can help us see how responsibilities interact, and some are indirect. For example, human responsibility to animals, plants and ecosystems is a biotic responsibility, but it calls upon ethical-aspect responsibility to think of, and live for, the other rather than oneself. This opens the door to economic activity serving other aspects rather than expecting to be served by them.

Both the theory and practice of economics should be radically changed to embody that.

Further, Dooyeweerd believed that the norms of the aspects cohere, and hence our responsibilities never conflict. If we believe we have a conflict (e.g. in the popular assumption that economic success requires being "not too ethical") then we have misunderstood, and are misapplying, the norms of various aspects. So there is no excuse. Both theory in economics, finance, banking, etc. and practice in those disciplines, should find ways in which economic activity will serve all the norms of all the aspects together. This applies whether the activity is individual agency or structural.

One way of making this compelling is discussed in Section 7.

5.6 Bringing It All Together: Aspectual Economics

Each of the widenings above resonates with, and may be supported philosophically by, Dooyeweerd's ideas, as discussed above. When brought together we have what might be called Aspectual Economics, since the aspects form a common ground in which all may be planted and thrive.

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."

More generally, the aspectual approach gives radical ideas in economics to be worked out instead of remaining as nebulous ideals. An understanding of aspects and inter-aspect relationships can help (a) work out what is meaningful in those ideas, (b) separate out ideas clearly, (c) draw attention to what has been overlooked or taken for granted, (d) and suggest how functioning in each aspect affects that in others.


Though we believe economics needs to be rethought, in ways indicated by recent thinkers and some more, we do not react against, or reject, conventional economics of left and right. Rather, we see conventional economics as a small part of a much broader picture, which is the economic aspect of the whole of Creation, of temporal reality, as it is embedded among all the others.

Though we see flaws in all views (including our own, and in those of recent thinkers), we do see more flaws in conventional economics, probably because flaws tend to have accumulated more in long-known views in conventional economics.

How we engage with conventional economics has to be worked out in detail, with the attitude of LACE, neither antagonistic to it nor acquiescing to it. Two illustrative examples follow, to demonstrate how this might be accomplished, two from macroeconomics, one from microeconomics.

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.

Supply and Use Tables break down a nation's economic activity by product types and sectors, calculating a monetary figure for each product supplied or used by each sector. This helps economic planners, especially at the national level. We suggest that each figure be split in two, one showing the proportion of Good that results, the other showing the proportion of Harm. Healthy food is likely to show high Good and only a little Harm, while for tobacco the proportions might be reversed. See Figure ===. This can help make planning decisions more transparent, especially as we enhance our response to the climate crisis.

At the microeconomics level, one example has been given above, §5.3.2, suggesting that poverty might be defined, not just as "the condition of living with an income level below a certain minimum amount determined by government as satisfying the needs for food and shelter" [Mabry & Ulbrich 1994, 228], but as a state in every aspect.

A second example might be externalities. Conventionally as effects on third parties, we suggest widening this to be effects on any parties that are meaningful in aspects other than the economic. This might include, for example, effect of an organisation's economic activity on the attitudes or mental states of those working in it - as well as on other parties. We would then use aspects that make the externalities meaningful as a conceptual tool to investigate them.

Example of Supply and Use Table showing Good and Harm 1664,825

Figure 2. Example of Supply and Use Table showing Good and Harm
(Click of picture for full size)

The challenge, of course, is how to put a single figure on many different kinds of harm (or value/ good). But is not that merely an extension of the whole challenge of putting a figure on any kind of goods? "By what the market is willing to pay" is one conventional answer. But is not the "willing to pay" of today and the recent past is, to a large measure, dictated by our willingness to trash three Earths [Note: Ecol. Footprint] for the sake of the selfish lifestyle of the affluent? "Willing to pay" is dictated by prevailing beliefs and pervading attitudes, which currently may be described as "affluence, arrogance, unconcern". Marx's alternative, based on the value of labour, equitably spread to all, is little better, because in practice the value of labour is likewise dictated by "[aspiratinos to] affluence, arrogance and unconcern" even if they take different shapes.

Such ideas are of course to be worked out; it would make a very good research project - but then we must act!


(This section is best understood by Christian readers, and maybe should be hived off into a separate article. We keep it here because: (a) Other readers may find something of interest. (b) We reject the sacred-secular divide.)

A truly Christian economics will see economics as Embedded, Value-oriented, Moral, Multi-level and Responsible - that is, Aspectual Economics if we employ Dooyeweerd's philosophy to achieve these together - but with an 'extra' that breathes life into it.

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 of the reasons we are in a mess, they do not compel us to act to get out of the mess. This is, perhaps, where a religious perspective might come in.

The RLDG is a group of Christian thinkers, and a sizeable proportion of the discussions was about how a Christian perspective can contribute. The discussions on this were perhaps partial, but here is a reflection on what was discussed and whether it can contribute anything of value.

7.1 A Christian Economics?

We do not define a "Christian economics". Nor do we use Bible verses to dictate principles for economic systems. What we do is to suggest some fundamental requirements for an economics to be "Christian", and use Bible verses allusively to stimulate ideas.

A Christian Economics will see itself as Embedded because nothing in God's Creation stands apart and above others to be treated as all-important; that would be idolatry and hence forbidden. A Christian Economics will be Multi-valued because there are many kinds of value, such as love, joy, peace ... self-control [Galatians 5:22-23]among them faithfulness, love, justice, wisdom, self-control, . A Christian Economics will be Moral because God intended good, not harm (Hebrew tsedeq). A Christian Economics will be Multi-level, because God is above all - whether individuals, households or nations and their kings, and has given the whole of humankind a mandate to look after the whole of the rest of Creation. A Christian Economics will be Responsible, because all are ultimately responsible to God and hence to all Creation, whether human or not, to rule (Hebrew radah)) in a way that expresses God's character, especially God's love.

7.1 God's Intention for the Way Creation Works

"Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates." [Exodus 20:8-10]

In current economic theory, Sabbath makes no sense. But once, when we were visiting Israel, someone told us the Sabbath was a sign against idolatry, a sign that even the economy is subservient to God. Sabbath motivates Embedded Economy.

This implies we achieve Overall Good by following God's laws, not by continual economic growth or even redistribution. In his book Garden City: Work, Rest and the Art of Being Human, 2015, John Mark Comer writes, "Sabbath is an expression of faith. Faith that there is a Creator and he's good."

So Sabbath, not continuous producton, works best, even for the economy. Dooyeweerd believed that the aspects he had investigated are (his best guess at) the shape of this Creation, and that is why he believed there is a harmony among them and none are in conflict with others.

This idea, that the Creator is Good and has a plan for Creation that includes economics, was the most widespread occurrence of a Christian perspective in RLDG discussions. "God's world", "God's plan" or "God's intention" was frequently referred to for how it was felt economics should operate as, for instance, in (emphasis added):

"In other words, in God's original plan, maybe we could have relied on people acting ethically and juridically, and in all these other ways, where people would be aware of these different aspects and not reducing them, or not looking at everything purely from a monetary standpoint."

It could also help us understand challenges we have to face, which come from the nature of the way Creation was designed to work, as in:

"We do have to move to NB's point, without the information for making a complete decision. That's just inevitable for trying to understand God's emerging world and our place within it."

Or we might refer to it to help us question what seems to be widely accepted in economics, as for example in this question about competition:

"The reason I asked is that I see the so-called competitor landscape - the whole idea of competitor is probably 90% evil, in terms of the way God intended Creation to work. There is a right kind of competition I think, but to have competition between nations and competition in business is not what God intended. The only good in competition is ..."

Notice how this "Christian" economy is motivated by the inherent Good in Creation rather than than by opposition to either socialism or capitalism, as some inappropriately-named "Christian" economies are. We allow insights from both socialist and capitalist ideas, alongside recent thinkers, within the wider picture we paint.

7.2 How Christian Values Can Help

Several of the RLDG discussions were devoted to the role of Christian values in economics, and whether they might make economics better. The set of "Christian values" suggested by Brian Edgar, in his Evangelical Alliance blog, was deemed a useful list with which to begin discussion:

The question discussed was: "How can each Christian value contribute to a healthy living environment?" and especially considering economic activity.

Though some suggested other Christian values, the list was adopted as it was in order to give us practice at working out how such 'nebulous' values might be important to the economy. It made more concrete our discussing of other aspects of economic activity (or healthy living environment) and how those aspects contribute to it. It drew attention to the importance of the final three of Dooyeweerd's aspects, juridical, ethical and pistic (faith); indeed Dooyeweerd held that later aspects influence (the flavour, direction of) the functioning in earlier aspects. It gave us practice at thinking seriously about values that have often been ignored, and discussing how extra-economic aspects might affect others. It gave us some initial ideas of how a Christian perspective might contribute to mainstream economic thinking. It forced us to confront difficult questions (e.g. when conventional conflicts arose).

The conclusion was that such Christian values are not sufficient, on their own, to understand or guide the whole of economics, in the way that Dooyeweerd's philosophical ideas might be (there was much reference to Dooyeweerd's aspects), but that they can lend a flavour to it. It was 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."

In particular, most of them seem to be indicators of attitude that would strengthen economics, in both theory and practice, which, as has been remarked on, is a much under-investigated issue in economics. So Christian values could perhaps make a significant contribution there.

7.3 The Role and Responsibility of Humankind

Reference has been made to the role of humankind, whether individual human beings or groups like nations or societies. The Judeo-Christian understanding is that humankind was made to "image" God to the rest of Creation, acting as God's representatives to the rest of Creation or, more poetically, as God's under-shepherds of the rest of Creation [Note: Shepherds]. It is a role and mandate with the dignity of responsibility, rather than privilege, to develop the potential that the various laws of Creation offer, in all its spheres. (Dooyeweerd's aspects may be seen as the kernels of such spheres.) This includes economics.

The conventional severing of objective from subjective value in economics theory (including among some recent thinkers) is healed in this Christian perspective. "Objective" may be reinterpreted to refer to the fundamental Good that each aspect makes possible and "subjective", as the human mandate to open up this potential and actualize Overall Good through time. A well-known Hebrew word for this Overall Good is shalom. Dooyeweerd offers an extensive understanding of the relationship between objective and subjective.

This idea of mandate is probably what motivated the interest within the RLDG in responsibility at the heart of economics. Above responsibility to the poor, to future generations, to the non-human Creation, including animals, habitats, biodiversity and the Earth were mentioned. Those responsibilities are within Creation, but it was suggested these were rather abstract and uncompelling.

From a Christian (or even religious) perspective, responsibility to God may be added, God as the Creator of these. This responsibility is more fundamental, the ground that makes those other responsibilities meaningful. It also makes them compelling if God is The Ultimate Judge. If we limit our responsibilities to within Creation, they emerge merely as a reaction to the mess we find ourselves in, but with responsibility to the Creator, we find ourselves all situated together in a wider picture with multiple responsibilities to each other that bring joy. So we can no longer excuse ourselves in elevating one of those level of Creation - neither individuals, businesses, nations nor the planet - above others. Responsibility to God is a multi-level responsibility. We take them all seriously.

Responsibility to God is characteristic of most religions, and in most (including some Christianities and Judaisms) it is seen as responsibility to a distant Deity who will judge all. In some CHristianities and Judamisms, however, responsibility is seen as being invited to partner with God, and God partners with us, in the temporal process of actualizing Overall Good. Responsibility is understood as our dignity more than our duty. Those who partner with God, who represent God, are those whose hearts (their tendency in acting, thinking, living) are like God's heart. It is in this vein that the RLDG discussed economics.

7.4 Sin and Repentance

However, the Bible tells us that humans turned away from this partnership, wanting instead to use Creation to serve our own interests as deemed them to be. This is the root of human sin, and the resultant mess that the whole Creation is in.

Whereas Dooyeweerd can help us understand the kinds of sin and their harmful repercussions, a Christian perspective offers an extra way to deal with it and overcome it, namely repentance, which is a change of heart.

Without repentance, we have three main ways to prevent harm: (a) punishment or litigation to deter people, (b) communication of norms via media and education, (c) psychological conditioning. The first relies on acqiescence to the system of laws or social norms that are currently in play, or the use of force. The second relies on universal acceptance of the norms conveyed, and ignores the influence of worldviews, which are always partial, (e.g. for many decades, even the best norms have largely ignored our responsibility to the Earth and to other creatures). The third is open to appalling manipulation.

None of these methods change the heart. Without change of heart, the sin and its results will continue, often unnoticed. There may be attempts at amelioration, but without change of heart, these will be reluctant and usually insufficient. There may be calls for reparation, but without change of heart, they will be resisted.

Repentance is admitting honestly and deeply, "I was and am wrong", "We were wrong and need to change." It sees the problem in 'me' whether or not there might also be problems in others or structural problems too. Repentance means we no longer try to defend ourselves, no longer try to manipulate circumstances to protect ourselves. It opens the way to seeking the kind of help that is beyond our own capabilities. Genuine repentance can also disarm the other, the one harmed, and open the door to healing. Repentance is more than just saying "Sorry" - though that is usually a necessary first step if genuinely meant. Repentance is openness to making full reparations, even at sacrificial cost to ourselves. Whether and which reparations are actually made depends on circumstances and should be decided by the one harmed, not the one who did the harming. (c.f. Dooyeweerd's ethical and pistic aspects.) The idea of repentance is freeing and dignifying - not enslaving nor demeaning as much of Western culture supposes. It has been found to work countless times in countless situations.

Current economic theory finds it hard to understand this, probably because of its presuppositions either of self-interest (dysfunction in the ethical aspect) or of redistribution (juridical aspect) as the ultimate goal, and its narrow reductionism to the economic aspect. So it deprives itself of that which is most powerful in all Creation, the power of the contrite attitude.

Repentance can be by individuals, organisations, nations or even whole cultures. It may be said that the whole field of economics needs to repent not just rethink or re-understand. Economics needs to admit it has led us astray and must allow itself to be reformed. Only then can the problems that concern recent thinkers be truly and sustainably tackled. True repentance means being open to having anything and everything changed in the direction we are headed. And that means all who theorize and practise within it - which includes most of us! That is why we are audaciously exploring a complete rethink of economics, and have identified the main areas in which it needs to repent.

If we - economists and invididual people, households, businesses, organisations and nations - do not repent, God can take us out of the way so that the Creation will no longer experience the harm we do. Mark Carney drew our attention to three crises: Credit, Covid and Climate. A Christian perspective might see the hand of God in these, not as causing them, but allowing them as warnings that we are going the wrong way. Did not God warn the peoples of Israel and Judah many times before using the power of Assyria and Babylon to take them away [Note: Warnings]?

That comes from a Christian (and perhaps Jewish) perspective. It is not, however, the end of the story. God values "the contrite heart" [Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15] and responds. When genuine repentance occurs, God steps in to act with Salvation;. This is part of God's partnering with us.

7.5 Salvation

The Judeo-Christian idea of sin and repentance always presupposes the idea of God as procactive redeemer. God is no mere absorber of worship or aloof judge, but is the Loving One Who acts to put things right after we have repented. We, humanity and the Earth, are not left on our own to struggle without hope, but God is waiting to step in.

Christians believe that God stepped in, in the most fundamental way, by coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, who took on himself the sin of the whole world, opening the way for genuine and full forgiveness and cleansing [c.f. I John1:9] and for the Spirit of God to be able to dwell in human beings to change our heart attitude to love, joy, peace and so on [Galatians 5:22-23]. It is this that Creation awaits [Romans 8:19-23] so that it may be freed. This view is elaborated in Three Dimensions of Salvation.

"Creation" includes the whole field of Economics. In the past, revivals, in which God has worked like this, have had a marked effect on various areas of society. Can it happen again?

The RLDG believes that is possible. This is the reason the RLDG has been "audacious" enough to believe it might contribute to the field and perhaps to its rethinking.

God's salvation brings hope.

7.6 Hope

The RLDG discussions were characterized by hope. Two main streams of hope pervaded them.

Hope is based on the idea that Creation is fundamentally Good and harmonious. That the continual competition among nations to grow GDP has led to pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty and injustice, suggests that Creation is disharmonious, but the Judeo-Christian(-Islamic) belief is that Creation is harmonious. It motivates us to find out why this has gone wrong, and gives hope that something can be done, if we change direction. As we have seen above, there are many ways in which such an assumption can be rethought.

Hope is based on God. God, not only as Creator, but as One Who loves, the One Who not only can proactively put things right but wants to do so. God has the power to do so. God does not just cleanse us and show us the new way, but God can take direct action. The Bible contains promises of this. For example, when God sent rain after the people of Israel returned.

If we repent, and if Economics repents, God will step in. Often, God's power is revealed in surprising ways, which even our best thinkers and scientists do not expect. There are many hidden possibilities in Creation that still remain hidden to us, and which God can use when the time is right. However they are conditional on repentance. It is repentance that switches us onto God's right time.


Economics, both theory and practice, has done damage - pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change, obesity, increased mental stress, crime and much else besides. Yet economics is not wholly evil. It needs to be rethought, if it is to become what it should be. Stimulated by Mark Carney's Reith Lectures, and by various other recent thinkers, and taking into account even wider issues that might become important in future, we have suggested a new approach to economics, which we have named "Multi-aspectual Economics".

Digging down to the roots, by asking what economics is and what is its mandate within the Creation (or within temporal reality as a whole), in Section 3, we identified five ways in which economics is too narrow and needs to be widened.

Most recent thinkers focus on one of those. The world needs economics to widen in all five ways. That is challenging, but using Dooyeweerd's philosophy we have been able to suggest an approach, Multi-aspectual Economics, which embraces them all, and meets the needs set out in Section 3. It does this by employing that which Dooyeweerd is best known for, his suite of irreducibly distinct aspects, or "modalities of meaning" that also define value, Good and Harm, and which are all intertwined in a harmony that is intended to generate Overall Good. Dooyeweerd's philosophy offers a sound philosophical foundation for each of the five widenings individually and all together. That is, Embedded Economics, Multi-value Economics, Moral Economics, Multi-level Economics and Responsible Economics are components of Multi-aspectual Economics, and they will not do much good on their own.

The article could stop there, but it goes further. We have a climate crisis, we have just had a covid crisis, before that, a credit crisis, all a result of the failure and heinous selfishness, narrowness, and unconcern of conventional economics. Much suffering has resulted, especially from environmental destruction. The widenings above are not just an academic exercise; they are urgently needed. A new paradigm is an interesting thing, but does in itself not compelling. The 'further' is to discuss the role of a Christian perspective. We find it sparks the entire idea into life. Its emphasis on later-aspect values gives colour to its Multi-value logic. Its acknowledgement of human sin, the need for repentance and the possibility of salvation, compels and gives hope.

This might be a new paradigm in economics - and its associated fields of finance, banking and business. If so, the work has only just begun. It needs a host of thinkers - researchers, teachers, reflective practitioners - to take it up and explore it, operationalize it, makes mistakes, critique and refine it. Thank you, if you become one of that host.



Thanks to all members of the Reith Lectures Discussion Group, especially statistician Andrew Hartley, who gave detailed comments on this article, which prompted many improvements.

Thanks to Gill Morgan for the John Mark Comer quotation.


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. At the time of compiling this page, over ten such discussions have taken place, and annotated notes of each one are available. Participants include some with training, expertise and knowledge in economics and related practice, and some with expertise in the Dooyeweerdian conceptual framework. The record of our discussions may be found in the directory reith2020/, which also contains direct links to Mark Carney's four Reith Lectures.

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.

Note on Frugality. The reasons Dooyeweerd chose frugality are complex, but alternatives like prosperity and need-fulfilment do not 'smell' right as aspectual norms. They direct attention back into the economic aspect, whereas frugality directs the attention outwards, as it the economic aspect were saying "I am being careful to minimise my demands on you, so that you are not hindered from flourising." Some RLDG participants felt the core should be efficiency rather than frugality.

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].

The RLDG discussions took the attitude of LACE. This article also may be seen as a brief summary of applying LACE, to both recent thinkers and conventional economics. It tries to listen to what is meaningful in each, and especially in the real-life practice of economic activity - though the above is merely a brief summary, to be developed in full. It tries to affirm recent thought, and also some of conventional economics, by reference to the multi-aspectual nature of things and multi-aspectual functioning. It has been able to critique some of them, both theory and practice, by seeing how it fails to take other aspects into account, and by exposing some presuppositions that deserve to be questioned. Most of the critique, especially as set out above, has been towards conventional economics, because it had long been accepted without question, but some is directed towards recent thought. The RLDG tries also to enrich both 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. Section 6 contains examples of how conventional ideas may be enriched.

Note on Reductionism. Strictly, reductionism is of several kinds, as set out in Clouser [2005], who examines kinds of reduction, and shows why and how they are harmful. Here we mean, not reduction of a problem to components, but reduction of breadth of view and perspective.

Note on Cipations. McGibbon [2018] calls such combinations of pairs of triples of aspects, "cipations." Aspects may be considered in pairs and triples to help us understand the meaningfulness and functioning of many complex things systematically.

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 Slavery. There were two things about slavery. 1. It was unpaid - and so maybe we should pay our debts for unpaid labour? 2. It was forced and cruel - and so maybe we should pay damages as well as debts? Though both are injustices (juridical aspect) these are two distinct aspects of the injustice, economic and ethical-juridical. As such, shoule we keep them distinct in our minds and understand the different norms of each. They are of course linked, but they need not be conflated.

Note: Competition. Though competition is almost universally accepted as a desideratum in much conventional economics and business, as stimulating excellence and innovation, there are many downsides and it is doubtful whether it is necessary for these. See the opinion piece, Competition, Rivalry and Status: Some Biblical and Practical Reflections.

Note on Advertising. Advertising is not, of course, usually included in university courses in economics, but those in business. However, modern capitalist economies depend on it for economic growth.

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, it could be argued, 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 Overall Good into the world and to serve the world, is because of our Christian belief.

Note on Ecological Footprint. Ecological footprint is a measure of how many Earth-similar planets it would take to resource the lifestyle if adopted by the entire population of the world. Various algorithms are available, but most include non-renewable resource depletion, climate change emissions, biodiversity loss, etc. For the USA lifestyle the ecological footprint is between 2.5 and 3 Earths. Carbon footprint is similar but takes account only of climate change emissions. Earth Overshoot Day is similar, measured in terms of by what proportion of the year our lifestyle would have used up all the earth's resources. Anything earlier than December 31st means we are over-plundering Earth's capacity to cope; for the USA Overshoot day is sometime in April. Dasgupta [2021] tries to measure these more precisely, taking into account the Earth's rate of recovery when renewable resources are depleted (e.g. trees).

Note: Love of Money. In I Timothy 6:10 Paul remarks that "Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." This "love" is not the same as self-giving love that we discuss elsewhere; it is the Greek root-word phil rather than agape. Phil indicates a kind of adherence to the loved thing.

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 TC on Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought Applied to Measurement Dooyeweerd posed three "transcendental problems", which are universally necessary in all theoretical thinking. Measuring involves the first, namely that, faced with the entire panoply of diverse aspects of meaningfulness, we abstract away from it by selecting one aspect (or a few) that are meaningful to us. That selection can never by justified by logic alone (analytical functioning), but is extra-logical, a commitment (pistic functioning) to one or a few aspects and ignoring others. In the process we also largely ignore the relationships are chosen aspect has with others, at best reducing them to analogical echoes thereof. This limitation is different for measuring a property and counting things, and both are affected by which aspect is being measured. Measuring a property depends on what we deem "more" and "less" mean in our aspect (because those are what are transduced to the quantitative aspect). Counting things depends on our how we identify the things to count (analytical functioning targeting the aspect of interest), which varies according to aspect. We use detectors for counting quantum particles, but perhaps social surveys to count perceptions of beauty in art. Therefore, to understand when it is appropriate to measure, the problems of doing so, and how to do it, a good knowledge of the aspects can help. See page explaining Dooyeweerd's view of theoretical thought.

Note: Dooyeweerd's Idea of Being. To Dooyeweerd, things exist by virtue of their meaningfulness and functioning in various aspects, and types of thing are possible because of profiles of aspects, which he called "structures of individuality". The aspects in this structure / profile govern how things of that kind tend to function, defines the multiple "being-as" of the thing, and defines a 'good' instance of them. (Philosophically, this is radically different from both the Cartesian and Heideggerian views.)

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 Meaningfulness. "Meaning is the being of all that is created, and the nature of our selfhood" wrote Dooyeweerd [1955,I, 4] in the introduction of his magnum opus. Unfortunately, Dooyeweerd himself seemed not to discuss what meaning is. Instead, see Basden [2019] for a discussion of Dooyeweerd's understanding of meaning, or the web page on Meaning.

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.

Note on Shepherds. See Dominion of Humankind in Rest of Creation: Consumers? Stewards? Shepherds!. Shepherds love and care for sheep. Does not the Good Shepherd lay down his life for the sheep?

Note on Warnings. There is a whole theology on God's warnings, and many nuanced views. For example, see Making Sense of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.

Note on Three-Dimensional Salvation. See "".


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.

Basden A. 2020. Foundations and Practice of Research : Adventures with Dooyeweerd's Philosophy. Routledge.

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.

Dooyeweerd H. 1979. Roots of Western culture; Pagan, Secular and Christian options. Wedge Publishing Company, Toronto, Canada.

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. 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.

Hartropp A. 2010. Do we know what economic justice is? Nuancing our understanding by engaging Biblical perspectives. Transformation, 27(2), 75-82.

Holland, T. 2019. Dominion. Penguin.

Laurent O. . The New Environmental Economics.

Mabry , Ulbrich. 1994. Economics (2nd edition). Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, USA.

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

McMullen S. 2021. What Difference Does Christianity Make in Economics? Christian Scholars, 19th August 2021.

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.

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

Freeman RE. 1984. Stakeholder Theory.

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

This page, "", is part of Christian Thinking in Economics, which is part of Christian Thinking Space.

It was compiled by Andrew Basden onwards, from Findings of Reith Lectures Discussion. Written in the style of classic HTML, using Protext and Pagestream on an Amiga 1200.

Created: 25 June 2021 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 2021 links 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. 6 October 2021 new intro. 8 October 2021 redoing widening, to have responsibility, and likened §2,§3 to lit rvw. 10 October 2021 helps radical ideas. 19-29 Oct: many changes, and upload at last!. 30 October 2021 edits to §2. 1 November 2021 §3.1 redone. 2 November 2021 §3.2 Values redone. 3 November 2021 Redoing some of the redone; responsibility to God; redid money. 4 November 2021 attitudes to §3.1, Rest of §3; §4 levels. 8 November 2021 Aspectual Value moved to 5.2, and all renumbered; edits of §4, §5, §7. 9 November 2021 naming kinds of economics; §2 rw; rw §5.1; 5.5. 10 November 2021 new concl. Lots of other bits rw, incl. §4, §3.6, etc. most ===== dealt with. 11 November 2021 better on aspects; 3ds; for readers. 12 November 2021 attitude; dealt with =====. 16 November 2021 rewrote Section 7, Christian part. 18 November 2021 n-foot, attd. 18 November 2021 diagrams. 22 November 2021 Marx's labour value. 23 November 2021 stakeholder theory, CSR, BCorps. 24 November 2021 embedded compelling; new §5.1.3; aspects r.t. hierarchical, PPP. 25 November 2021 debt. 27 November 2021 new title, was "Rethinking the Economy, Towards a Multi-aspectual Economics enlivened with a Christian Perspective" and had earlier been "Rethinking the Economy, with the help of Philosophical and Christian Perspectives".