Paula Clancy: Welcome to progressive-economy@tasc.
Economics has been described as the 'dismal science'. Economists are often stereotyped as conservative, wallowing in bad news, unfeeling and sometimes allied to powerful financial, economic circles and interests. Academic economics has acquired the reputation of being almost a branch of applied mathematics, with a series of assumptions and models that bear little or no relationship to the real world. Yet, formal theorising and selective empirical analysis has not stopped many economists from offering comprehensive advice and prescriptions to Governments or the commercial organisations that employ them. In the late 19th Century, 'Political Economy' was replaced by 'economics'. From then on, 'economics' began to assume a subordinating role in offering 'values-free' advice based on models of the world that reflected the inherent assumptions and interests of those who practiced and sponsored it. In short, economics has long been seen as the preserve of people with unique access to theory, information and policy wisdom - if only politicians and senior policy makers listened and employed more of them!
However, homo economicus has not saved the world.
TASC believes that it is time to reclaim 'economics' by rediscovering the political, social and cultural in 'economics'. We assert that economics is not, and cannot be, neutral. The very questions we seek to ask, the assumptions we chose to make and the options we decide to recommend are based on a set of values. More to the point, we propose a vision of a different society and polity - one in which people, meaningful relationships and human well-being are ends and not means to serving some other elusive goal. To compete we must also be ready to cooperate. A society that is best placed to be competitive and sustainable on global and domestic markets, we claim, is one that is founded on principles of social justice, equality and democracy where markets work to serve the common good and human rights are respected. A new Political Economy is one that opens up the insights of various disciplines to each other so that 'economics' takes its place in a dialogue involving many different academic disciplines as well as civil society, the world of politics and public discourse.
A new Political Economy must address the fundamental choices, values and alternative possible ways forward that the traditional practice of 'economics' shies away from. For this reason, TASC has created progressive-economy@tasc to provide a public forum for economic debate.
Peadar Kirby notes in his post, “we need to debate how the state and the market should relate to one another: in other words, what is the role of the state in configuring the market for social development and how should the state play that role?”.
I hope that progressive-economy@tasc can play a role in shaping and driving forward this and other debates.
Paula Clancy is Director of TASC