Mar 5, 2024

Economics’ original sin: the exclusion of power

Jayati Ghosh deconstructs the multiple failings of mainstream economics – again, remarkably, in the IMF’s Finance & Development:

Much of what is presented as received economic wisdom about how economies work and the implications of policies is at best misleading and at worst simply wrong. For decades now, a significant and powerful lobby within the discipline has peddled half-truths and even falsehoods on many critical issues—for example, how financial markets work and whether they can be “efficient” without regulation; the macroeconomic and distributive implications of fiscal policies; the impact of labor market and wage deregulation on employment and unemployment; how patterns of international trade and investment affect livelihoods and the possibility of economic diversification; how private investment responds to policy incentives such as tax breaks and subsidies and to fiscal deficits; how multinational investment and global value chains affect producers and consumers; the ecological damage wrought by patterns of production and consumption; whether tighter intellectual property rights are really necessary to promote invention and innovation; and so on.

Why does this happen? The original sin could be the exclusion of the concept of power from the discourse, which effectively reinforces existing power structures and imbalances. Underlying conditions are swept aside or covered up, such as the greater power of capital compared with workers; unsustainable exploitation of nature; differential treatment of workers through social labor market segmentation; the private abuse of market power and rent-seeking behavior; the use of political power to push private economic interests within and between nations; and the distributive impacts of fiscal and monetary policies. The deep and continuing concerns with GDP as a measure of progress are ignored; despite its many conceptual and methodological flaws, it remains the basic indicator, just because it’s there.

Read her piece here.