‘An artist is not a special type of person, rather every person is a special type of artist.’ – Ananda Coomaraswamy
Like many people, I have never considered myself an artist. I don’t draw very well, my piano lessons never reached concert potential, and as a dancer I’d rather move between than stand out in the spotlight. I don’t make paintings, songs, or poems, my work doesn’t sell in galleries. I am an economist, my diploma says Masters of Science.
Despite my profession, I have always questioned the scientific-ness of my field. The economics that have dominated the last century – and certainly dominated the courses of my degree – are founded on worryingly simplistic assumptions, allowing economists to describe society’s value system numerically and in 2- dimensional diagrams. Rather than approaching the economy as an evolving social structure – made up by people with a diversity of cultures, beliefs and personalities – economic theory seemed obsessed with creating equilibrium outcomes by universalising people into 1-size-fits-all, values-free decision makers. In the attempt to make the study resemble a ‘hard science’, the dynamics of these models were then called the ‘laws’ of economics. Continue reading
‘Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your Soul.’ – Walt Whitman
The quote on a little square carton dangled at the end of my tea bag, one cloudy morning in Amsterdam. Three years after finishing that cup of tea, I still carry the piece of paper in my wallet, as the most valuable amongst valuables. The quote touched me. Not because its meaning was so radically new to me, – I once read that books that inspire us are not the ones that teach us something new, but those that give words to what we feel but cannot phrase. I loved the message because it resonated so strongly with my inner truth.
I long believed that rejecting things I saw around me was a sign of weakness. That I suffered from a need to identify myself by what I did not agree with. I judged the world by its many troubles and imperfections, focusing on what was not right. I heard myself being sharp, critical and a nay-sayer. Nay to the boredom of high school – which made me leave for Latin America at the age of 16; Nay to the Economics degree I had earned, – what use are these simplistic mathematical models for the real world?; Nay to my promising job in a respected financial institution. Nay, nay, nay.
A first post seems to ask for some sort of introduction, a getting-to-know-each-other, a testing the water rather than diving in at the deep end. But the inquiry called Beautiful Economy has no clear beginning. Or rather, it has many.
So why don’t I start with a memory. A very vivid memory of a moment in which reality shifted. A tiny yet radical turning point between ‘life before’ and ‘life after’ the penny dropped. This particular penny had been in free-fall for a while, and it was Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher with his article Self-realization: An ecological approach to being in the world, who secured its landing.
An economist by trade, I had been searching for models of moral philosophy in line with the realities of the earth and human nature. Alternative economic theories that respect the dynamics of the ecosystems we depend on, that view people as relational beings, and theories that take a qualitative approach to well-being. Continue reading