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from Edward Hadas:

Three Ms for economics re-education

Many economics students are unhappy with what they are being taught. A network of 62 groups from around the world has drawn up a petition calling for more “pluralism” in instruction. The malcontents find the dominant neoclassical model too narrow and want to know why so few experts predicted the 2008 financial crisis. They also want less abstract theory and more study of actual economies. The reproaches are just, but the students’ reform agenda is insufficiently radical.

They underestimate the scale of the intellectual scandal. The profession’s ignoble tradition started in the 19th century, when most political economists, as they were then known, failed to notice that industry was leading to massive improvements in the standard of living. Today’s practitioners know much more, but they still struggle to explain the most basic phenomena – prices, wages, money, credit, unemployment and development.

Pluralism, the study of alternative schools of economic thought, would help, but not much. With the partial exception of the still underdeveloped study of institutional economics, the available alternatives to the neoclassical synthesis largely rely on the same erroneous assumptions that humans are rational and that market forces almost exclusively shape economies.

The demand to study intellectual history and other social sciences is more promising. Add in philosophy, and a new curriculum could lead the next generation of economists to undertake a profound re-evaluation of some basic concepts.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Eliot Spitzer and the American tolerance for second chances

Everyone has been taken by surprise by the speed with which Americans have embraced the notion of gay marriage. Even progressive leaders like President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were left playing catch-up. Now, it seems, sexual peccadilloes by politicians are no longer thought grave enough for them to be cast into the outer darkness forever. Are we becoming a super-liberal society? If so, what happened to the “moral majority” that dominated politics for so long?

The latest fallen pol to start over is Eliot Spitzer, the sometime governor of New York, who by day prosecuted whorehouse madams and by night enjoyed their services. “I’m hopeful there will be forgiveness,” he told the New York Times. “I am asking for it.” After resigning in disgrace in 2007, Spitzer served time as a talking head on CNN and Current TV, which many may think is penance enough.

from Edward Hadas:

Poverty and renunciation

“Go into the street, and give one man a lecture on morality, and another a shilling, and see which will respect you most.” Samuel Johnson said that in the 18th century, but the general preference for money over preaching is sufficiently strong and timeless that his wry quip remains pertinent. Most economists take Johnson’s sentiment too seriously. They assume that people always want more shillings and always resist wealth-denying morality. That is a serious error.

Consider, for example, the enthusiastic response from around the world to the material renunciations of Pope Francis. The crowds cheered when the new leader of the Catholic Church said he wanted a “poor Church for the poor”. His decision to stay in simple lodgings and wear simple clothes amounted to turning down shillings for the sake of giving a morality lecture, but few observers were bothered. On the contrary, it was welcomed as a pertinent comment on the excessively materialist values of modern society.

from India Masala:

Bollywood and sex education

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a Marathi film called "Balak Palak" (Children and Parents). A new crop of film-makers is portraying the burgeoning Indian middle class with its own set of problems and "Balak Palak" is no different.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Devaluing the priceless

By Martin Langfield
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Is the world better off, or worse, if a poor person sells a kidney to a rich person who needs it?

from Edward Hadas:

Prosperity need not kill religion

Thomas Carlyle’s fulminations against the spiritual damage wrought by factories are almost two centuries old, but the sentiment is current wherever industrialisation is rampant. “The huge demon of Mechanism,” he wrote, “smokes and thunders, panting at his great task, oversetting whole multitudes of workmen ... so that the wisest no longer knows his whereabout.”

In China, today, government leaders and dissidents alike worry that, as one commentator put it, “frenzied competition for a better life [has] lobotomized the people of inherent values like common decency, compassion and feelings of fellowship”.

from FaithWorld:

Gay marriage law in Argentina signals waning Catholic power in Latin America

gay buenosThe Catholic Church's failure to derail a gay marriage law in Argentina shows once powerful clergymen losing their influence in Latin America, where pressure is growing for more liberal social legislation. (Photo: Gay couple in Buenos Aires,  November 25, 2009/Marcos Brindicci)

The law, which lets gay couples marry and adopt children, was approved last week to the cheers of hundreds of gay couples gathered outside Congress despite opposition from churchmen, who called gay families "perverse."

from FaithWorld:

GUESTVIEW: No good deed goes unpunished

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. is founder and editor of Ignatius Press, which is the primary English-language publisher of the works of Pope Benedict XVI and which has published several books by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. He is also publisher of Catholic World Report magazine.

schoenborn 1

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in Vienna, November 13, 2009/Heinz-Peter Bader

By Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.

Did Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna "attack" Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and former Vatican secretary of state? If The Tablet weekly in London were your only source of information, you’d think so, because that’s what the headline screamed.

from The Great Debate (India):

A relook at moral policing: Khushboo’s case

(Pinky Anand is a Supreme Court lawyer who fought the case on behalf of Khushboo. The views expressed here are her own)

Pinky AnandThe recent Supreme Court judgement in Khushboo's case addresses interesting questions with far-reaching impact. In a short span, we have witnessed various episodes of moral policing ranging from violent physical attacks, to criminal complaints, to Public Interest Litigation (PILs) in courts.

from FaithWorld:

Ethics angle missing in financial crisis debate

traders

Worried Wall Street traders watch stocks fall on September 29, 2008/Brendan McDermid

In the ongoing financial crisis debate, many people think that unrestricted subprime loans, credit default swaps, astronomical bonuses, huge bank bailouts and other aspects of today's economy are somehow unfair or wrong. This issue is not only economic or political, it's also about ethics and morality, these people think. But that view doesn't get traction in our political discourse. Asking the big question about what is right/fair or wrong/unfair is not really debated. Sure, there are contrary views on this and any debate would be long and lively. But it doesn't really happen.

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