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Econ4: Economists Encouraging Economic Empathy

Econ4 is an association of economists who have joined to advance this mission:

The economic crisis we face today is not only a crisis of the economy. It is also a crisis of economics. The free-market fundamentalism that attained ideological dominance in the final decades of the 20th century has been discredited by financial collapse, global imbalances, mass unemployment, and environmental degradation. To confront these challenges, we need an economics for the 21st century.

We need an economics for open minds that breaks free of the closed-minded economic dogmas of the past. We need an economics that aims to secure long-run human well-being, not an economics preoccupied with maximizing short-run output and profits. We need an economics that recognizes that we need to safeguard the Earth for our children and generations to come. We need an economics for people, the planet, and the future.

This video introduction to Econ4: 4 the people, 4 the planet, 4 the future is teeth-grindingly cheesy but the story is great and well worth listening to:

The Econ4 video feels like a commercial but not one targeted to the sophisticated Political Irony demographic (you know – smart, well read, politically active, self-referentially ironic 🙂 ). Considering the lack of economic and civics education in secondary schools today, this might be what is needed to advance the public discussion. Still, I fear Econ4’s message may be way over the heads of Blue Dog Democrats, much less the Tea Party Republicans.
– Iron Filing



  1. Truth be known that pop-economics is roughly equal to the fictions and flim flam of academic and captured “positive” economics. Economic literacy is a very big deal, and most of the nominal advocates for reform and equality are just posturing, and \have little connection to the democratic or oligarchic outcomes fiscal policies and theoretical fictions. This goes way beyond a bit of irony, to dumbfounding delusion. Tadit

    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    I have no idea what Tadit is saying.

    In relation to the post, there was an article in today’s Boston Globe about the Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT which takes a behavioral economics approach to understanding the economic reality and behavior of the poor. There’s been quite a lot of interesting work that has come out of J-PAL. That would likely contribute to the stated goals (from the video) of this Econ4 group.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  3. Don wrote:

    Both my father (BS UCLA) and father-in-law (PhD USC) were academically trained economists. Both would readily admit that economics, despite what those who practice the black art will cop to, is not a true science. Tough for the layman to understand because economists want to keep it that way – kind of like Tadit’s comments above. So. Since we’re talking economics, I thought I’d introduce a bit of physics as it applies to economic occurrences.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  4. Iron Filing wrote:

    Tadit – If you’re saying Econ4 is pop-economics then I disagree. As I believe I made clear in my introduction to the video, the presentation style is pop or even kawaii but the message is not. If you look into the website there is some real economic gravitas behind this effort.

    Yes, “economic literacy is a very big deal.” That’s the whole point of Econ4. But you don’t have to be a PhD economist to understand the problems Econ4 chose to elucidate. And thank goodness for that because in a democracy, everyday people have to make important political decisions partly based on their understanding of economics.

    I think part of what Econ4 recognizes is that economics, for the past 30 years, has been the tail wagging the political dog. Economics should help us figure out how to achieve our goals. Politics is how we decide our goals.

    The website mission statement, , includes a statement of desired conditions for an economy. These are essentially non-partisan political statements about what a healthy economy should do or look like:
    1) provide a level playing field
    2) be resilient i.e. withstand unanticipated shocks
    3) implement true-cost pricing. Non-market values, such as public health, should not be valued at zero
    4) real democracy with transparency and accountability.

    These are political goals for an economy and you don’t have to be an economist to evaluate these goals. These goals would be a great starting point for searching for consensus between parties.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  5. GWN wrote:

    Careful with the messaging, Iron Filing, because you seem to be overreaching the established bounds of ‘ironic’ messaging this politicalirony website usually contains.

    Sure, debunk the republicanisms and throw light on ineffective democratic schemes with humour. Heck, even some of the thoughts provided in the ‘econ4’ video make sense. But who are they and what do they stand for? Sounds like just another potential scam to take advantage of the new-found occupy movement questioning global economics. I hesitate to visit their website because I fear that all it will contain is more propaganda – and likely requests for money.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink
  6. Iron Filing wrote:

    GWN – Point taken on “overreaching the established bounds of ‘ironic’ messaging this politicalirony website usually contains.”

    I do sometimes lose sight of Political Irony’s mission to enhance insight through humor.

    I also have a tough time with appearing non-partisan since I believe reality has a liberal bias whereas attempting to appear objective creates a conservative bias. Most of the irony out there is currently on the conservative side. I am unwilling to encourage the main stream media’s practice of reporting false equivalences in order to appear balanced.

    If I don’t see an ironic hook for an event which I’d like to comment on, I’ll usually come up with a humorous title. The alliteration in this title, “Economists Encouraging Economic Empathy”, was too far a stretch to make that connection.

    As for your concern that Econ4 “Sounds like just another potential scam to take advantage of the new-found occupy movement questioning global economics” and your hesitation to visit their website, I wouldn’t provide the link if I hadn’t checked out their website. These guys are legit. Founders Gerald Epstein and James Boyce are Economic professors at the University of Massachusetts with long histories of progressive economic analysis – a perspective needed to balance complacent media accepted economic “propaganda”. In fact, rather than taking advantage of the OWS movement, Epstein and Bowles’ efforts precede OWS by over 40 years. Yes, there is a donation button on their website but that is pretty standard for non-profits and far from a hard sell push for cash which you would expect from a scam or a political campaign.

    If you want to know “who are they and what do they stand for?” visit the website and decide for yourself whether what it contains is merely propaganda. Or read this TruthOut interview at

    Monday, November 28, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink
  7. GWN wrote:

    As they say, it’s easier to criticize, so apologies for that. Next time I’ll check the links. Given the long list of economists supporting the site and the lucid statements and support of the occupy movement I’ll be going back there to read more. Thanks for your work on the site – I couldn’t come close to doing better!

    Monday, November 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  8. rk wrote:

    IIRC, my economics class a long time ago…
    The Adam Smith theory that is quoted supporting free markets also included the forgotten phrase that it relies on the ethical behavior of business. That portion is always forgotten.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink
  9. starluna wrote:

    RK – there’s alot of what Adam Smith said that is forgotten by market fundamentalists.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink