Towards a Moral Economy - Wim Smit

In memoriam Wim Smit

Of particular interest are the recent studies of Joseph E. Stiglitz (2012), Robert and Edward Skidelsky (2012) and Robert J. Shiller (2012). The studies emphasize that governments should control the market economy in a better way in order to replace the language of profit making and efficiency into the language of justice, honesty and redistribution, because whole societies are at stake. For every society the dominance must be based on a political vision. And with Keynes the Skidelsky’s quote that societies can only be changed if we permit ourselves to disobey the judgement of the bookkeepers!

Joseph Stiglitz discusses at length in his book The Price of Inequality what could be done to leave the present misery and proposes a lot of sensible measures to arrive again to a healthy society in which the social misery in the lower income classes can be ended. A number of his proposals include forbidding banks to take big risks, not to allow government institutes to invest in derivatives, more regulation of credit card companies, and to tax the wealthy persons up to 70%.

Interesting is that all the mentioned authors start with the idea that world images are life styles, and that involves that the quality of life hardly can be defined in a national way! All are in favour that politicians take the quality of life or the subjective well-being as the starting point of their policies, and not the growth of the economy, because in an ageing and shrinking population and the awareness of a finite earth it does not make sense anymore.

In the paper first a number of basic and historical ideas on moral economy are discussed and some relevant literature is mentioned. Further, the main conclusions from the three mentioned studies will be given and commented, and finally in a discussion some preliminary conclusions are drawn.

Wim Smit, januari 2013