Economists need to become activists

[This is a post I made to a listserv dedicated to ecological economics, sometimes referred to as steady state economics. I sidestep the ideological discussions that the question below could devolve into, and point that if ecological economists are sincere about the change they say they seek, they must get involved political process…otherwise their contributions are merely “academic”, i.e. without effect in the so-called ‘real world.’]

On Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 10:43 PM, cruxcatalyst (sharon) wrote:

Here’s a curly question for the economists among us with more

expertise than myself: how can a capitalist world model exist

(theoretically and practically) without an ever expanding world




To answer, such questions, I agree that it is wise to avoid ideology. My following comments are based solely on the practical recent lessons of why we are experiencing the current recession, and the direction we surely need to head in our economic policies, where I believe ecological economics has much to contribute. I have become convinced that if ecological economists want to be heard, the field will need to become more politically active; this is not an ideological question, but one of practical reality.

I see no conflict between the principles of ecological economics and capitalism, as far as I have come to know them, but that to achieve them from our current economic structure, it will be crucial to re-regulate the financial industry. As abundant research has shown (my main reference is 13 Bankers by Simon Johnson and James Kwak, but there are many others), every recession since the 1980s has been induced by Wall Street speculation, which was brought on by the financial deregulation that it so earnestly sought ever since the New Deal, which established financial stability for nearly five decades. But beginning the Reagan “revolution” (which, in reality, was a devolution, or going backwards), there were periodic recessions about every 10 years. The final straw was the 2008 global financial meltdown, which is a profound lesson in why Wall Street needs to be re-regulated, and the biggest banks broken up.

But as Johnson makes abundantly clear in his excellent research, this will be politically difficult given the stranglehold that Wall Street and the banking industry have on Washington politics. Until there is broad political uprising from the American citizenry, this does present a political stalemate, as the recent near-disaster over the debt ceiling has shown.

This is why I have become personally active in the Move To Amend campaign in Boulder, which is achieving some success. This campaign is about stripping corporations of their constitutional rights through a Constitutional amendment. Such rights, which we can refer to as “corporate personhood,” have been gained strictly by court precedent, primarily SCOTUS court precedent. When one looks deeply into the matter, it become obvious that corporations were never granted these rights by the people, which is where such rights ultimately reside. This struggle deserves to become the biggest struggle for civil rights in history — larger by far than the civil rights struggle of the Sixties. It is ultimately also related to the violent struggle for democracy that is currently being played out throughout the Mideast, where the plutocracy are autocratic families, instead of autocratic corporations.

I urge anyone concerned over these issues to consider this question of corporate personhood and becoming involved in Move To Amend, as I consider it a sine qua non when any serious political solution to our severe economic and environmental problems is considered.

— Rick


Rick Casey :: case…

online Instructor, Environmental Economics, Front Range Community College, Ft Collins, CO

online Instructor, Database Systems, Champlain College, Burlington, VT

Professional Research Assistant, Institute of Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

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