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  arrow pointing to the right   Home arrow My Thoughts arrow Politics arrow Politics arrow Humanist Economics


Humanist Economics PDF Print E-mail

Humanist Economics

Economic policy should not be judged solely on whether the system creates wealth, but rather, on whether it creates human wellbeing.

Business are run by humans for humans. Humans matter

Economics is the study of how resources are used, shared, traded and consumed.  Resources can be human labor, minerals, produced or manufactured goods etc.  

When we consider human economies, we are studying how humans interact with one another and collaborate to survive. In modern economies, we use a barter system based on money where we barter our time for money and then barter the money for the necessities of survival.

What economics isn’t is a study about how money or capital is made in isolation. Economics isn’t about wealth, it’s about distribution of resources and how our societies create, source and distribute things that people need, again, to survive.

Economics is about how we as a society go about not just surviving, but thriving. This is why humanist economics is so darned important. This is why we should be judging economic proposals, not solely on whether they build wealth, but whether they help the individuals in a society survive and thrive.

To hear “experts” discuss economics and homo-economicus you would think we are all rational actors attempting to maximize our wealth, though to what end, we are never told. Wealth is seen to be good in and of itself. But homo-economicus is an illusion. We aren’t rational actors. We are a mess of competing impulses, instincts, and choices doing our best to fulfill our biologic and sociological needs.

A more humanist approach to economics recognizes that what we are doing when we access resources, barter, etc  is we are trying to fulfill our needs as individuals, families, communities and societies. Wealth is a means to an end, not the end itself. Why do we want wealth? So we can survive and thrive. That’s what is important.

It’s time we start looking at our businesses as means to help ourselves and others fulfill biological and/or sociological needs. (See Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs – FYI - Maslow was a Humanist).

When we consider public economic policy we should be judging these policies not by how much wealth is created, but by how well that wealth is distributed.  Wealth that is created but not distributed isn’t really wealth. It doesn’t help people survive and thrive. It doesn’t contribute towards societal wellbeing.

Self-interest in economics isn’t a bad thing. It is what motivates us to do and to be better and to struggle to provide for ourselves and our families and our communities. Selfishness and greed, on the other hand, is bad. An economic system based on greed is about hoarding resources so that only a few can survive and thrive. Distribution isn’t the goal. Wellbeing isn’t the goal. Hoarding is the goal. Hoarding is a form of mental illness (see: http://www.psychiatry.org/hoarding-disorder). We should not be basing our economic system around a mental illness that causes so much suffering.   

Humanist economics is the recognition that we thrive as individuals when our society thrives. We aren’t separate, we are connected. Our societies do better when we collaborate. We don’t have to live our lives selfishly or accept an economics of greed where every person is out for themselves. We can choose to collaborate and work together to improve all our lives and to distribute the products of our labor in a more just and ethical way.  And you know what? We have the ability to do that while still encouraging and safeguarding individualism and free enterprise.

The time of greatest prosperity in America was as time when taxation was highest and that the government used taxation to redistribute wealth away from the top (where it has a tendency to be hoarded) towards public and social projects that benefited everyone. We all rose together. There were still plenty of obscenely rich people. We all still strove to improve our situation in live and free enterprise was still the norm.

The idea that we either give free reign to greed or we inhibit individual freedom is a false dichotomy.  We restrict the behavior of individuals all the time when their actions hurt other people. And yet, we are still free.  We can restrict greed and the hoarding of wealth and promote individual freedom at the same time. We can do both and we should be striving to do both when it comes to economic policy.


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