Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Australians thinking and writing about Markets and Society

Damien Cahill  is an Australian academic who has written extensively about the influence of neoliberalism and the use of market solutions to an increasing number of social issues. Some of his writings can read here and here.

Damien is also the co-convenor of the Markets and Society Research Network at the University of Sydney, which  brings together social scientists concerned about markets and society to discuss the social foundations of markets; the regulation of markets; the social effects of markets; and the shifting boundaries between the state, private sector, and civil society.

Like this blog, the Market and Society Research Network aims to challenge orthodox conceptions of markets at a time of increasing ‘marketisation’. This  includes critical examination of the role and nature of markets, the legitimate scope of markets as well as investigations of markets as sites of contestation.

The Network recently ran a 2 day conference to critically analyze the increasing reliance on market-based solutions in Australia  in areas such as  climate change, provision of human services, childcare services, health, education, superannuation and housing. The program and the papers can be read here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The crisis in the Murray Darling and the failure of market mechanisms

Bruce Haigh on the madness of using market mechanisms to manage water in the Murray Darling Basin and the need for a radically different approach to the management of Australia's water resources:
"The management of water should not be left to markets where the pursuit of profit has water abused, devalued and often powerless with respect to sustainability. Water needs a voice and a value beyond the market. At the moment it comes a very poor second in calculations relating its use - agriculture and industry have the upper hand and water is required to comply".

"The National and Liberal Parties presided over the slow decline of rural Australia. They had the opportunity to reverse this during almost 12 years of government. They declined to do so and as a result many jobs were lost and economic opportunities that may have come through the provision of better services and infrastructure were not created, but were lost. This neglect saw the rise of rural Independents who now hold the balance of power". 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The ideological straitjacket of economics

"We need to develop a new way of conceiving the economic process. In calling for an end to economics, I am not suggesting that we should dismiss everything that economists have learned about the economy. Some economic insights are useful. Our goal should be to build up an understanding of the economy in a context that transcends the narrow context of economic theory that characterizes modern economic theory. In doing so, we may lay the groundwork for an economy that transcends our outmoded capitalist way of life." 
Michael Perelman Railroading Economics
Stephen Marglin calls it the "dismal science". Michael Perelman writes about the ideological straitjacket of modern economics. James Galbraith describes contemporary economics in terms of a god that failed, a governing creed whose fallacies have been exposed by events of recent years.  In his book Economia Australian Geoff Davies writes that we have all become so accustomed to the current economic regime that we fail to see how absurd it is. He is right.

I am currently reading the books pictured and all present a radical and sustained critique of contemporary economics. They challenge the idea that market and market forces are a solution to our social, environmental and economic problems.  

These books don't just expose discredited contemporary economic orthodoxies, they also document the destructive effects of those orthodoxies in the real world (rather than the theories of economists and business leaders). These authors more importantly set an  alternative and radical economic agenda for the future.

The books pictured include:
Stephen Margeli (2008) The Dismal Science
Michael Perelman (2006) Railroading Economics
James Gustav Speth (2008) The Bridge at the End of the World