Economics or Anthropology?

About a week ago, a retired academician of economics from Switzerland wrote me following lines in his email:

I recommend you not to spend your time in criticizing mainstream economics, as those critics are widely known within the profession, but to concentrate on more recent ways of thinking  (bio-economics, circular, share economics etc) and to show how these theories are useful for policy making. I suggest to change the title of your thesis: How economic theory deals with ecology.

The unofficial short title that I often use for my PhD is why does mainstream economics ignore ecology? which seems to be too offensive for some economists.

The official and scientific(!) long title is: What is the place of ecology (i.e. ecological literacy) in mainstream undergraduate economics education?

I wrote him back that my PhD investigates why mainstream economics ignored (or downplayed the importance of) ecology in undergraduate education, and it was a fact (based on sufficient evidence as I presented in my 4. progress report) that mainstream education of economics ignored ecology. Nevertheless, I would think about his suggestions.

Then I really reflected on his suggestions, and posted following paragraphs to my LinkedIn timeline:

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Most Popular Myths of Mainstream Economics

Creating social and ecological rifts in the name of economic development & growth

These are in my opinion the most popular myths of mainstream (neoclassical, neoliberal) economics. Comments, critiques and suggestions are welcome.

Note that most of these myths are also the myths of modern Western industrial education that generally fosters a sufficient level of ignorance in disciplines like philosophy, ecology, anthropology, history, music and other fine arts. In most cases, these broad-viewed disciplines help us see the complete picture related with big economic questions.

(1) If a company is earning money in legal ways, it must be producing something useful for the society, and creating new jobs.

Ignores many legal ways of earning money with huge hidden (social and ecological) costs to the society, like dirty mining/industry/energy projects, or industrial agriculture based on mechanistic monocultures.

A myth, much inspired by the “invisible hand” argument of Adam Smith, ignores invisible costs (negative externalities) to today’s societies and future generations.

This is probably the most central, most popular, and for the global finance/corporation/oil/weapon oligarchy most useful myth, which boils down to: “Every medium is right for earning money and power, provided that it has a legal and ideological cloak.”

Because politicians and governments can be controlled with money in our modern times (a global tendency since 1990s) along with mass media and mainstream (industrial) education, this in turn boils down to: “Money justifies everything!”

(2) Every country in the world can become developed to reach better living standards by following the same historical path of a developed country like Germany (education, industrialization, organization, technology, urbanization, modern institutions…)

Ignores military and industrial imperialism, global oligarchies and monopolies, physical and ecological limits of the world.

Erroneously assumes, there is, or there must be, a single direction of development and progress for every society in the world (racist Western ideology of progress, misinterpretation of cultural evolution, industrial & neoclassical worldview).

Living standards is also a very much disputed term. Societies cannot be compared or measured by living standards because there are different cultures and lifestyles. How can you compare the living standards of a lion and a leopard? For example, the concept of education (i.e. what is a good education?) can be different for every society and lifestyle.

Believing in this myth is like believing, everyone in a society can become rich by stealing from others. The money mogul of the village didn’t become rich because he worked more, smarter or more efficiently than the others, but because he controlled and monopolized strategic resources much earlier than the others.

(3) Let’s make the cake bigger (GDP growth) so that everyone can get a larger slice (popular growing cake analogy for economic growth).

By ignoring the non-monetary production of nature and society (through narrow focus on money and market only) erroneously assumes that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is a good measure of economic production and welfare (mechanistic and monetary reductionism).

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Meine Standartfragen an Personalvermittler

Mein Email an einen Personalvermittler, der mich für ein Projekt kontaktiert hat:

Sehr geehrter Herr …

Ich danke Ihnen für die Anfrage. I hätte einige Fragen über dieses Projekt:

1) Was für eine Branche ist das? Worum geht es bei diesen …? Was ist das Endziel?
2) Ist das eine sozial und ökologisch gesehen sinnvolle Arbeit?
3) Brauchen Sie eine Person mit einem ganzheitlichen Denkvermögen über viele Bereiche (wie ich), oder eher einen Spezialisten, der in einem engen Bereich mit beispielhafter Geduld, Ausdauer und Gehorsemkeit arbeiten kann, ohne unangenehme Fragen zu stellen?

Mit freundlichen Grüssen
Tunç Ali Kütükçüoğlu

Bitte beachten Sie, dass ich mich ganz höflich für die Anfrage bedankt habe.

Das sind eigentlich meine Standartfragen, die ich für jede Anfrage stellen will.

Meine Empfehlung: Stellen Sie keine solchen Fragen, wenn Sie (wie die meistem Ökonomisten) den Erfolg mit Geld messen, und viel Geld verdienen wollen.

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Why I don’t want to work for the finance industry

My email response to a recruiter who was looking for an experienced software engineer (like myself) for a bank in Zürich…
(10. of December, 2019)
Dear Tunc
I hope you are well.
This project would be at a Bank and I would like to know if you are still interested?
The rate would be CHF 560.- all-inclusive daily.
Thank you for your reply in advance.
Best regards

(on 10. of December, 2019)
Dear …

As I wrote in my CV and in my software profile: “I don’t work for socially and environmentally irresponsible sectors like defense, finance and chemistry (see below, why I left the Swiss CFA society).”

Did you think, I don’t mean it seriously?

I responded to your contact request because you wrote “globally operating Zurich based company in the IT sector.” (i.e. it wasn’t clear that you were looking for someone for a bank).

So, I wouldn’t work for a bank, unless it has an absolute ethical and green investment policy.

You may find below more information about this issue of work ethics.

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Why does mainstream economics ignore ecology? (PhD progress report 3, August 2019)


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