Conventional economics has come to regard itself as a positive science. It tells us that it does not deal in values so just aims just to describe how the economy is, rather than presenting a vision of how it should be.
But economics is an ethical subject. This is the view adopted by the course ‘Economics with Justice’. It deals with the relations between people and families living and working together in communities as we go about the business of making a living.
People naturally live together in communities and societies and so our nature reflects this. But… We also have a tendency to put our own interests first.
In a healthy economy this tendency needs to be restrained so that our gain is not at someone else’s expense. There are timeless natural laws of conduct which we all need to conform to if our economy is to be successful in providing prosperity for all. These are: to be honest, to act in a way that does not harm others, to treat others as you would yourself be treated, not to take the property that rightly belongs to others. All these are aspects of justice and need to be taken account of within economics.
Justice is the fabric on which communities are woven. If justice is not upheld, they begin to fall apart and disintegrate. This is why it is so important that consideration of justice has a place in economics.
For Economics with Justice, the criterion for judging the suitability of any particular policy is the extent to which it provides greater justice for all those affected.
In the absence of such a vision, the goal that has emerged is simply growth. This is usually measured by gross domestic product (GDP), assumed to be good in itself, regardless of the unintended consequences, inequities and harm caused.
There is a better way of running the economy. Let’s explore it together.