Heterodox Economics Newsletter

Issue 192 February 08, 2016 web pdf Heterodox Economics Directory

Last week I was invited to a workshop initiated by the German Bertelsmann foundation to give a talk about the possible use of trade policy to foster 'inclusive growth' - a label introduced by the OECD to flag economic policy measures, which aim to ensure an equal distribution of the benefits associated with economic growth. This trip was interesting for at least three reasons.

First, I found that some people at the Bertelsmann foundation - which is traditionally conceived as a key player in creating and sustaining a neoliberal atmosphere in the German-speaking policy arena - are having second thoughts. These concerns are mainly due to the obvious decrease in social cohesion across Europe and within single European states. While they have not yet changed their general orientation, I had the impression they are honestly interested in alternative perspectives on economic issues, which seems to be a promising development.

Second, I came into contact with other interesting researchers, like James B. Glattfelder from the Unversity of Zürich, whose paper on the „network of global corporate control" seems to be a must-read for heterodox economists. However, I also found that James, who is a physician by education, had next to no knowledge of heterodox economics (which will change soon, as James is now subscribing to this Newsletter...; hey James!). Against, this backdrop, I will use this opportunity to restate my claim that a closer alliance between heterodox economists and natural scientists working in the area of socio-economic modelling and analysis seems me to be a precondition for improving the status of economics as a scientific discipline. This maneuver will require patience on all sides, but it will eventually come with a nice pay-off.

Third, I also was confronted by a series of suggestions for fostering inclusive growth from mainstream researchers. While half of the mainstream researchers present at the workshop used the opportunity to state their belief that ‚inequality does not matter’ and, hence, also questioned the political legitimacy of ‚inclusive growth’ as a guiding concept, the other half was indeed trying to add constructively to the discussion. While one might argue that these proportions are still disturbing, I was pleasantly surprised to see German mainstream economists acknowledging that increasing inequality exists and that this tendency might even pose an actual challenge for our economies and societies. As bad as it sounds: In Germany, that's still quite unusual.

All the Best,

Jakob

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