am 17. August 2012
Our thanks go to Donald Rumsfeld. At least in part. In 2003, the former US Secretary of Defense revived the term "Old Europe". This grouchy politician wanted his wording to be perceived as dismissive. He felt that some European states' refusal to participate in the Second Gulf War for ethical reasons was worthy of all the contempt. However, those on the receiving end of his condemnation embraced his neologism with enthusiasm. Since it has served them as positive identification of all the achievements of their continent in the fields of ethics and morality.
Tomás Sedláèek, an economics graduate and university lecturer in Prague, is transferring this attitude of mind into our current understanding of economics. In his international bestseller "Economics of Good and Evil", he reveals the fact, that the question of good and evil in economics is an almost eternal topic for the last 4.000 years. Building on that, he 35-year-old characterises, that our contemporary economic doctrine of an neutral, steril science is a special case and hindering us to solve many of today's problems and challenges. The debt problems of the USA and Europe as well as the ideology of growth are only two significant examples for him. For this reason, the reader should not expect an intellectual extravaganza to solve these issues. The book's merit lies in Sedláèek's courage to present an uncompromising and unfashionable review of what gave rise to the situation in which we currently find ourselves. And how do deal with it in a better way, rather than developing yet more complex models or theories.
The first two thirds of his work lay the foundations and provide an introduction. In doing so, Sedláèek focuses specifically on the legacy of his spiritual home, the Occident. In double quick time, he covers the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Old and New Testament (also the Jewish Talmud), half a dozen antique Greek philosophers, and St. Thomas of Aquin, subsequently arriving at such important representatives of the modern age as Descartes, Adam Smith, Wittgenstein, and the epic movie "The Matrix". What awaits you is a collection of sharp-sigthed and yet entertaining conclusions from an economic and moral perspective - an amalgam that was a matter of course for our ancestors, but which we have completely lost sight of today. For Sedláèek, economics is a branch of social sciences with high ethical relevance and not a specialized area of mathematics or any other exact science. At last, somebody puts it on the table.
The final third of the book is entitled "Blasphemous Thoughts". Recently graduated MBA students are explicitly warned before reading this section. In it, Tomás Sedláèek entirely dismantles the idea of a rational, self-serving "homo oeconomicus", who is constantly seeking to derive his own benefit. He deftly banishes the mathematical hocus-pocus that surrounds demand and supply into the land of make believe. Future economists should be more like prophets of a new era, who manage to reconcile reason and emotion. Divine rationale and "animal spirits" combined, the author's synonyms for good and evil, thereby exchanging the imperialism of theoretical models for a more beneficial "methodological Dadaism". Economists should dare to climb over their models and equations and let inspiration and the sensitivities of our spirit come in. For Sedláèek, the rich heritage of European and Anglo-Saxon intellectual history provides good services here. This honesty to the ambivalence of our human nature is worth to be discovered and revisited.
Our sincere thanks go to Tomás Sedláèek for his refreshing thoughts. And in no small part.
Was soll das Buch, welche Absichten verfolgte der Autor? Die wertvollen Erkenntnisse ließen sich in ein Paar wenigen Sätzen zusammenfassen. Stattdessen schwadroniert über obskure Mythen, zitiert das Gilgameschepos als wahre Geschichte etc. Das erste Buch, das ich nicht fertiggelesen habe; ich bin wohl tief eingeschlafen bei der Lektüre ....
What's it about? You could summarise fruitful wisdom in only few sentences. Instead, farfetched and boring swaggering over obscure myths. For instance, the Epic of Gilgamesh is taken as truth and it is misused to prove the author's ideas. That book is the very first that I haven't read to the end - probably because it made me fall asleep.