Economics of Good and Evil The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2011-07-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Tomas Sedlacek has shaken the study of economics as few ever have. Named one of the "Young Guns" and one of the "five hot minds in economics" by the Yale Economic Review , he serves on the National Economic Council in Prague, where his provocative writing has achieved bestseller status. How has he done it? By arguing a simple, almost heretical proposition: economics is ultimately about good and evil. In The Economics of Good and Evil %, Sedlacek radically rethinks his field, challenging our assumptions about the world. Economics is touted as a science, a value-free mathematical inquiry, he writes, but it's actually a cultural phenomenon, a product of our civilization. It began within philosophy--Adam Smith himself not only wrote The Wealth of Nations , but also The Theory of Moral Sentiments --and economics, as Sedlacek shows, is woven out of history, myth, religion, and ethics. "Even the most sophisticated mathematical model," Sedlacek writes, "is, de facto, a story, a parable, our effort to (rationally) grasp the world around us." Economics not only describes the world, but establishes normative standards, identifying ideal conditions. Science, he claims, is a system of beliefs to which we are committed. To grasp the beliefs underlying economics, he breaks out of the field's confines with a tour de force exploration of economic thinking, broadly defined, over the millennia. He ranges from the epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament to the emergence of Christianity, from Descartes and Adam Smith to the consumerism in Fight Club . Throughout, he asks searching meta-economic questions: What is the meaning and the point of economics? Can we do ethically all that we can do technically? Does it pay to be good? Placing the wisdom of philosophers and poets over strict mathematical models of human behavior, Sedlacek's groundbreaking work promises to change the way we calculate economic value.

Author Biography

Tomas Sedlacek lectures at Charles University and is a member of the National Economic Council in Prague, where the original version of this book was a national bestseller and was also adapted as a popular theater-piece. He worked as an advisor of Vaclav Havel, the first Czech president after the fall of communism, and is a regular columnist and popular radio and TV commentator.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: The Story of Economics: From Poetry to Sciencep. 3
Ancient Economics and Beyondp. 17
The Epic of Gilgamesh: On Effectiveness, Immortality, and the Economics of Friendshipp. 19
The Old Testament: Earthliness and Goodnessp. 45
Ancient Greecep. 93
Christianity: Spirituality in the Material Worldp. 131
Descartes the Mechanicp. 171
Bernard Mandeville's Beehive of Vicep. 183
Adam Smith, Blacksmith of Economicsp. 193
Blasphemous Thoughtsp. 213
Need for Greed: The History of Wantp. 215
Progress, New Adam, and Sabbath Economicsp. 231
The Axis of Good and Evil and the Bibles of Economicsp. 251
The History of the Invisible Hand of the Market and Homo Economicusp. 259
The History of Animal Spirits: The Dream Never Sleepsp. 275
Metamathematicsp. 285
Masters of Truth: Science, Myths, and Faithp. 299
Conclusion: Where the Wild Things Arep. 319
Bibliographyp. 325
Indexp. 341
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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