6 WHAT SHOULD THE ECONOMY BE, CONVENTIONAL VIEW
This subject makes the difference between mere economic thinking (how DO we
organize the economy) and political economy. Politics being the way in which
we create (or at least influence) the future of a society as a whole.
A conventional view of what the economy should be can be found on the Human
Development Report (HDR) Website of the United Nations Development Program
'Human development is about much more than the rise or fall of national
incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop
their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with
their needs and interests. People are the real wealth of nations.
Development is thus about expanding the choices people have to lead lives
that they value. And it is thus about much more than economic growth, which
is only a means -if a very important one -of enlarging people 's choices.
Fundamental to enlarging these choices is building human capabilities -the
range of things that people can do or be in life. The most basic
capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be
knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard
of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community.
Without these, many choices are simply not available, and many opportunities
in life remain inaccessible.
This way of looking at development, often forgotten in the immediate concern
with accumulating commodities and financial wealth, is not new.
Philosophers, economists and political leaders have long emphasized human
wellbeing as the purpose, the end, of development. As Aristotle said in
ancient Greece, "Wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking, for it is
merely useful for the sake of something else."
In seeking that something else, human development shares a common vision
with human rights. The goal is human freedom. And in pursuing capabilities
and realizing rights, this freedom is vital. People must be free to exercise
their choices and to participate in decision-making that affects their
lives. Human development and human rights are mutually reinforcing, helping
to secure the well-being and dignity of all people, building self-respect
and the respect of others.'
[End of quote]
Enumerating and compiling statistics about all the things people can do or
be in life and setting the highest (apparently) achievable limits as goals
(like the UNDP HDR's do) is not really a way to describe what the economy
should be. It tells us very little about how we should organize the
realizing of those goals.
Even making 'freedom' our goal in economics and seeking more capabilities
and more rights as means to realize that goal, misses the point that
'freedom from' want will always elude human striving if the origin of want
and wants is not recognized. Without wants we have no identity and our
existence has no meaning without wanting ever new things. 'Freedom to'
choose and the right to create one's own life is pointless without wants or
even without own wants, not copied from others.
The analysis of the origin of want and wants and of our present economy
1) Peoples' needs and interests should not be taken as given. People can be
and are influenced by what others want and by what others want them to want.
2) Having more capabilities, more choices available to them and more rights
to exercise them, people often do not choose and act wisely. More often than
not they leave the choices to leaders of diverse kinds, who not only take
into consideration the well-being of their followers but also -and often
disproportionately- that of themselves.
3) More often than not people involuntary behave like everybody else,
following 'normal' patterns of behaviour, because their sense of identity
and ability to act independently is limited to a small part of their lives.
I know no conventional view of what the economy should be that takes this