Rediscovering Progress: The Fading Philosophy of Economics

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© Cynthia Decker

“The economist, like everyone else, must concern himself with the ultimate aims of man.” (Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, 1890)

Reciprocity Between Philosophy and Economics

This is the potential of philosophy; to deliberate — first individually, then collectively — upon the purpose of our own lives, and the role of economics in facilitating each person’s own trip. The purpose of economics could be to enable philosophy. Forming a kind of reciprocal, hot-potato relationship that looks something like this (a rough sketch):

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Where to Live, Red or Blue?

Spending a life stunted in the context of economic pursuit (a red line) is an empty, unfortunate scenario. Living in the context of philosophy (blue line), at least, offers an invitation to partake in the confrontation with the unknown that marks the uniquely human experience. To take a stab at ends, rather than spend an entire life amidst means.

A Final Policy Recommendation

Taking stock of the actionable items from this survey, really, there’s just one. Notice that across the scale of life, divided in Figure 1 into four sections, only one segment has relatively universal markers. Philosophy for survival (2), economics of life (3), and philosophy of life (4) are all highly relative, idiosyncratic scales. For some, economics of life will stretch farther than others, etc. But the economics for survival (4) are nearly uniform across the board. There is no discrepancy as to the necessity of basic food, housing, health, and security. In those subsequent three realms, where preferences vary greatly, government cannot efficiently intervene, as they cannot account for this diversity of tastes and visions. But in the first segment of life’s context, the economics for survival, government can play a decisive role.

Some Sources and Further Reading

If you jived with any of that, find more on Oshan’s website:

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Interested in many things, like consciousness, meditation & economics. Sure of nothing, like how to exist well, or play the sax (yet). More:

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