Teaching the Social Economics way of thinking:
Selected Papers from the Ninth World Congress of Social Economics

INTRODUCTION

Edward J. O’Boyle

Teaching the Social Economics Way of Thinking is unique in that it is the first time a large number of papers on this subject has been published as a collection. Our working premise in calling for papers on this theme has been that social economics makes a real and substantial difference in how economic affairs are understood and how economics is taught. Our approach has been direct and simple: we asked social economists who have been teaching for some time what they do which in effect sets off their teaching from the teaching of others who adhere to the conventional paradigm of contemporary economics.

Our collection is organized around and presented in eight major sections in the following order:

  • premises employed in economics
  • the masters on the social economics way of thinking
  • diagnostic tools employed in economics
  • teaching methods
  • teaching standard courses from a social economics perspective
  • teaching economics and ethics
  • team teaching economics and theology/religion
  • evolution of courses taught from a social economics viewpoint

With one exception each section contains at least two essays. The section on teaching standard courses from a social economics perspective covers the following courses: development economics, environmental economics, health economics, industrial organization, international economics, labor economics, money and banking, and principles. This section accounts for 18 of the 34 essays in the collection.

With three exceptions – two of which relate to team teaching economics and theology/religion – the essays are single-authored indicating that the contributors teach social economics by and large without a colleague in the classroom. Finally, the courses covered by the contributors are undergraduate level courses, some for economics majors, some for business students, some open for any student pursuing an undergraduate degree. Some of the students enrolled in these courses may be taking them for graduate credit, but the central focus is on teaching the undergraduate student. Because this collection is so large and varied, the interested reader might find the index helpful in locating specific subjects.

The collection begins where all economics originates -- in its premises. At times, authors and teachers are careful as to the premises they employ and are open about discussing them so that their readers and students are better able to see the prism (at least two of the contributors use the word "lens") through which authors and teachers present economics, interpret economic affairs, and judge economic policy. Too often, however, our colleagues in economics give short shrift to their premises or do not bother to address them at all.

 

Premises Employed in Economics.

In "A Personalist Economic Morality" Peter Danner states that, just as the health care sciences emphasize the need to consider the human patient when applying principles of human biology, so too personalism insists that since economic agents are persons the insights of a personalist philosophy are essential in using economic principles to guide human actions. Specifically, he argues that a person as an embodied spirit needs material goods for survival and for personal development. In fact, personalism emphasizes that it is especially as spirit that the human race has so transformed living in civilized society today from the animalistic existence of Cro-Magnon. Given expanding human needs and wants, increasingly intricate technologies need a more elaborate economy with more complex production, more refined skills, more extensive trade, more involved finance and wider sharing. Thus economic principles entail also a set of philosophic and moral precepts, regarding what persons want and desire, their material betterment, value espousals, competing and collaborating in community with others and contributing to and sharing in the common good. Danner examines five topics centrally important to his understanding of economics and economic affairs: scarcity, gain-seeking, economic value, economic community, and economic common good.

In "Incorporating Creation-Sin-Redemption in Economic Thought and Analysis" Albino Barrera addresses the following question: What happens when we incorporate insights from theology in economic analysis? The Christian trajectory of Creation-Sin-Redemption, Barrera states, overlaps with moral philosophy in many of the changes both require in economic thought. According to Barrera, there are distinctively theological contributions which flow from such a substantive and particular theory of the good. In particular, the theology of creation gives rise to concomitant just use obligations to property rights, original sin casts the theory of preferences in a more dynamic setting of learning and improvement, and the transcendent teleology of the human person requires a re-specification of the maximand in order to account more effectively for human flourishing within a very long time horizon.

 

The Masters on the Social Economics Way of Thinking.

In his "Teaching Social Economics Through the History of Economic Thought: Adam Smith on Power and Markets, " John Elliott begins with the observation that social economics is holistic, normative, and historical as opposed to mainstream economics which is individualist, positivist, and ahistorical. In contrast to conventional economics, he continues, social economics is concerned with human values, the nature of the person, the distribution of wealth, income, and power, and the well-being of those who are not able to fully participate in economic affairs. It follows, Elliott insists, that the history of economic thought provides a particularly efficacious means of teaching social economics, and a moment’s reflection reveals why this is so. Most prominent and enduring figures in the history of economic thought--Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Alfred Marshall, John Maynard Keynes, for example--more or less held the same methodological and substantives premises advocated today by social economics. Consequently, systematic examinations of their thought provide powerful case studies in social economics which improve our understanding of the social economy.

Elliott’s essay endeavors to verify and illustrate this proposition by an explication of Adam Smith’s views on the subject of power in economy and society, notably in his Wealth of Nations, focusing on wealth power, monopoly power, employer power, and political power. In contrast to some contemporary models of market systems, Smith’s argumentarium incorporates, indeed features, causes and consequences of the pursuit and exercise of social power by individuals, organizations, governments, and classes.

An attempt is made by Hans Jensen in his "J.M. Keynes and A. Marshall on the Social Economics Way of Thinking" to demonstrate that Keynes and Marshall must be counted among those who have made contributions to the social economics way of thinking. It was a sympathy for the poverty-stricken working class which, Jensen says, stimulated the two economists to make their forays into social economics. Marshall found that it was governmental and educational institutions which had caused working-class poverty through their malignant neglect of the educational needs of the underclass. As a means to the eradication of poverty, Jensen shows that Marshall recommended public investment in human capital in the form of drastically expanded public expenditures for education. In Keynes’ lexicon, working-class poverty was due to massive unemployment. The economy had become mired in depression because the institution of rentiership had intentionally reduced its funding of the institution of business entrepreneurship. Keynes’ solution was public investment in private enterprises, which he called socialization of investment. The result would be universal affluence in a society in which the institution of rentiership would be conspicuous by its absence.

In "Three Pillars of a Social Economy" William Waters suggests some ways of enriching the teaching of economics by focusing on three aspects of an effective and efficient economy: solidarity, creativity and high living standard. Economies and economics are incomplete without a full measure of each of these components. The essay might have been entitled "three great social economists" for the solidarity part of the paper refers especially to the contributions of Heinrich Pesch, the creativity portion to Joseph Schumpeter’s kind of economics and the treatment of an adequate living standard to the path-breaking work of the contemporary economist, Robert Fogel. Waters begins with five questions meant to reflect the difference between mainstream economics and social economics. Those five questions are: what is the dominating behavioral value or ethos assumed in the discipline of economics?; is competition the unique, positive driving force of our economic activities?; what makes the economy work?; how scientific can we be in studying the economy?; and can we know about the economy without stressing history? Waters concludes with three lessons. First, solidarity as explained by Pesch is a complement to competition and deserves to be treated analytically and recognized as a component of the basic model. Second, the role of innovation explained by Schumpeter reflects the sacredness of human creativity and shows economics in its most essential aspects to be a dynamic, not a general or partial-equilibrium, science. Third, the unique achievement of our century, as told by Fogel, was to raise the majority of people in the industrialized world from a wasteful life to one of social economic well-being.

Jonathan Wight’s "Will the Real Adam Smith Please Stand Up? Teaching Social Economics in the Principles Course" examines a method of introducing social economics into the principles course using primary source readings of Adam Smith. Four characteristics of modern "economic man" are examined -- greed, materialism, individuality, and rationality -- and contrasted with Smith’s alternative views -- self-interest bounded by internal moral restraints; humans connected by emotional bonds which extend beyond utility; feelings as primary guides to moral judgment; and justice and benevolence as more rewarding virtues than prudence. Economics and business students' preparation for decision-making in work and life, according to Wight, is enhanced by stimulating this more complex portrayal of human motivation.

 

Diagnostic Tools Employed in Economics.

Wallace Peterson in "Macroeconomic Policy in a Social Economics Perspective" sets out to complete two tasks. The first is to sketch out a social economics perspective on the state of the economy, one which shows that a growing gross domestic product does not necessarily bring with it social health. Economic growth and social health are not the same. The second is to analyze three of the main causes for the divergences between economic and social health. These, according to Peterson, point to what has to be done with respect to correcting shortcomings in gross domestic product, increasing public investment in social capital, and developing a full employment policy tailored current needs, not conditions as they existed in the "Age of Keynes," the quarter century after World War II.

The really tough question which Peterson raises is: Can these things be done? Social economists are good at analyzing the ills of the economy, including prescriptions for their correction. The trouble is that the patient is all too often indifferent, or even hostile, to what we prescribe. Peterson regrettably does not have a remedy for this condition but he is convinced that economics is pointless unless it is aimed at what to do, how to tackle real problems in the real world. Peterson says that we social economists need to find out why we are virtually ignored, why what we say and do has so little impact, especially on the policymakers of the real world. It is his view that sorting out the answers to those questions is the best application of our energies and research as we look to the 21st century.

 

Teaching Methods.

Sherryl Kasper’s "Teaching the Social Economics Way of Thinking in Money and Banking Course" asserts that social economists think about economic affairs in ways which differ substantially from mainstream economists. Specifically, social economists examine ethics, methodology, history, institutions, and policy formulation in their economic analysis. Kasper’s essay discusses ways in which professors teaching money and banking can incorporate issues of concern to social economists into instruction, including position papers, policy simulations and service-based learning. In her essay, Kasper argues that the social economics way of thinking promotes the development of critical thinking skills, using the framework of intellectual and ethical growth created by William G. Perry.

Barry Keating’s "Teaching Social Economics Through Active Learning - Examples" presents examples of classroom experiments and techniques to teach social economics through active participation of students. These experiments, simulations, and techniques are not meant to replace mainstream economic teaching, but rather to augment student understanding of some concepts which are sometimes overlooked or, at the very least, given little class time in most undergraduate courses. Group decisionmaking and the benefits and costs of group decisionmaking are demonstrated.

In "Getting the Balance Right: Teaching Neoclassical Economics Responsibly" Maureen Maloney discusses the use of small-group exercises to help students explore the limitations of neoclassical economic theory. Two examples of small-group exercises from the microeconomics section of the principles course are included. The first exercise is designed to contest the claim that economic modeling is positive and scientific. The second exercise invites the student to consider the implications of the assumptions underlying consumer theory. The challenges and benefits of this teaching methodology are also discussed.

In her essay "Social Economics in Ecological Context: A Pedagogical Inquiry" Karin Sable cautions that as environmental-type crises increase in complexity, reach, and severity, social economists no longer can ignore the interconnections between humans and the environmental system. With minor theoretical adjustments, Sable argues, social economics becomes the ideal platform to redirect environmental and resource economics toward the study and application of models of coordination, compromise, and collective action in addition to the standard competitive responses. In this essay, she proposes a theoretical extension to social economics. After this extension, she says, one can explore pedagogical tools for use in social economics education. One of the ideal pedagogical tools for Sable is the simulation of conflict resolution. Through in-class simulations, social economists can easily assist students in their inquiry into the social conditions within an ecological context. Such real-world relevant teaching tools readily expose students to multiple and diverse value judgments and to the applicability, if not necessity, of cooperation and intervention in the resolution process.

 

Teaching Standard Courses From a Social Economics Perspective . . .

Development Economics. In "Approaches to Development Economics: A Social Economist’s Perspective," Kishor Thanawala states that mainstream development economists are often preoccupied with self-sustained growth, establishment and evolution of institutions, and other issues relating to attainment of a higher standard of living. Achieving reduction in inequality of incomes and wealth, eradicating poverty, and relieving other aspects of human suffering are given scant attention or are ignored altogether. Social economists acknowledge that economic development is a means toward the more general end of promoting the well-being of all people, including especially the poor and marginalized people. Economic justice and other normative questions, according to Thanawala, are central to their inquiry.

Environmental Economics J. Lloyd Lill’s "Sustainability, Economics, and Alternatives: A Mentor Looks at Changing Values" sets forth how he addresses the teaching of environmental issues. According to Lill, the declining quality of the environment and its costs to society have magnified the significance of the various and complex ecological issues facing society, including population growth, global warming, poverty and the consumption of resources. At State University of New York Empire State College students are offered an environmental residency at Camp Huntington in the Adirondack Mountains where they are given the opportunity to examine environmental issues. Lill’s essay explores one of the studies undertaken by students which involves several options to reversing the declining quality of the environment. One alternative examines environmental management, focusing on sustainability and carrying capacity. A second approach explores neo-classical economics and cost-benefit analysis, while a third perspective examines alternative solutions to environmental concerns.

In "Teaching the Social Dimensions of Environmental Economics" John Gowdy states that the past two decades have seen unprecedented scientific achievements bring a steadily increasing understanding of how the world we live in works. Information from archaeology, biology, climatology, and psychology, to name a few, is changing how we view the place of humans on planet Earth. Within economics, the field of environmental economics has been especially affected by this wealth of new information. Under increasing scrutiny from other disciplines, Gowdy argues, standard economics has been found wanting in dealing with environmental crises such as global warning and biodiversity loss. Some of the basic assumptions of standard economic theory including the sanctity of the price mechanism, marginal value as a universal measure, and money as a universal substitute for everything, he says, have proven ineffective when used as the basis for environmental policies. and have been questioned by social economists since the beginning of the twentieth century. Social economics, Gowdy asserts, provides alternatives to the methodological individualism of standard economic theory. Gowdy has found that an effective way to integrate the perspective of social economics into teaching environmental economics is through cross-cultural comparisons of the relationship between society and environment.

Gale Summerfield in her essay "A Social Economics Approach to Teaching Environmental and Resource Economics" uses the case of privatization of forest lands during the economic restructuring in Laos in the 1990s to illustrate how including social economic aspects in teaching environmental and resource economics can influence assessment of policy outcomes. In this essay, Summerfield addresses the impacts on women’s well-being and on management of the forests. She concludes by discussing the need for comprehensive curriculum reform which brings in the human and environmental impacts of policies and considers differences based on factors such as gender and ethnicity. A paradigm approach in teaching these issues can be especially useful, she asserts, and Internet discussion groups can provide a new means for promoting students’ critical thinking.

Health Economics. John Davis is one contributor who see economics and economic affairs through a lens. His "Health Economics Through the Lens of Social Economics" investigates affinities between health economics and social economics and their significance for social economics. He argues that health economics as a field fits poorly into the standard neoclassical model, and that the reasons for this are of special interest to social economists teaching health economics. Four domains of special concern in health economics which suggest important affinities with social economics are: the relationship between the health provider and patient; the attenuation of standard market logic through third-party participation; the concept of well-being used in health-care outcome measurement; and the public policy issue concerning high rates of uninsurance. These domains and their significance for teaching health economics from a social economic perspective are discussed in the main body of the essay. Davis closes with a brief discussion of how reasoning in terms of these concerns in health economics might also help re-shape thinking in social economics.

Health economics is a relatively new subject and its rise has coincided with the increasing spread of the market as the means by which to organize economic activity. David George’s "Health Economics: Responding to the Lure of the Market" begins by considering bias in the way that the health-care spending crisis has been framed. It goes on to consider ways in which students may be made aware that: (1) the market model has been gaining prominence in the health care professions without adequate consideration of what distinguishes health care from other productive activity; (2) inefficiencies stemming from health insurance have played a pivotal role in prompting changes but that socially grounded approaches to overcoming insurance abuse have been ignored; and (3) economists’ methods for placing a value on the saving of human life confuses an individual’s discounting of the future with relative "timelessness" of a broader social perspective. George’s essay concludes with brief consideration of how the market’s popularity threatens both public health spending and in-kind transfers of health care to the poor.

Industrial Organization. Traditional industrial organization (IO) is primarily concerned with competitive and strategic behaviors, and with how firms interact in the market. In contrast, IO from the perspective of social economics also considers cooperative behaviors, along with a fuller account of firms and the market. "Industrial Organization and Social Economics"by Lanse Minkler has three main sections: behavior, firms, and the market.

The behavioral assumption for economic agents in IO is taken from neoclassical economics: rational /self-interested /maximizers. It is operationalized with the concepts of shirking, opportunism, and strategic behavior. Minkler suggests that those kinds of behavior are only part of the story, that cooperative behaviors exist, and that the economy could not function without some degree of trust. Evidence for cooperative behaviors are reviewed, and alternative motivations considered. A theme throughout his essay is that it is crucial for us to develop a fuller understanding of motivations and behavior. Mainstream IO offers principal-agent and transaction cost explanations for firm organization and behavior. Social economists sometimes favor labor-managed firms. After considering all of these literatures, Minkler provides a sketch of some recent work which offers a roadmap for evaluating firms according to their ability to: (1) produce socially beneficial (as well as private) goods; (2) respect their members and provide meaningful work; (3) contribute to the community around them; and (4) safeguard the natural world. When discussing firm strategies in the market, many IO theorists appeal to game theory and its explication of information problems and credible commitments to analyze barriers to entry, predation and limit pricing, vertical restraints, advertising, research and development, and the like. Chicago economists emphasize potential competition (sometimes called contestability) and property rights. Social economists, according to Minkler, focus on advertising and endogenous preferences, and question the notions of efficiency proffered by property rights theorists.

International Economics. In "Thinking and Acting Globally: The Social-Economics Approach to the World Economy," Brent McClintock affirms that he social economics approach to international economics focuses on how the economic process of trade and finance is instituted and evolves within a cultural context. Technological change and institutions such as the national state, markets, multinational corporations, and supranational organizations interact in a path-dependent process of circular and cumulative causation to shape a society’s development and international relationships. According to McClintock, the valuation of this social economics process is in terms of the furtherance of social provisioning which not only attends to matter of economic efficiency but also equity, environmental sustainability, and democracy.

Because he thinks the global distribution of income will be an important determinant of peace and prosperity in the twenty-first century, as a social economist Scaperlanda draws attention to it as he teaches an otherwise rather orthodox, junior/senior level, neoclassical international economics course. "International Social Economics Through a Neoclassical Lens" describes how the emphasis is placed on the global distribution of income when considering the factor endowments theory of trade and foreign direct investment as an alternative to trade and when considering changes in the international terms of trade. The welfare implications for less developed countries of trade barriers imposed by development countries also receive Scaperlanda’s attention.

"Teaching Social Economics in the International Economics Course" presents Gerard Stockhausen’s views on how he teaches international economics. In it he states that, while some may argue that teaching social economics means teaching an alternate economic paradigm, for undergraduate students at least the preferred approach is to teach the standard material from a neoclassical perspective. Then, he says, the students are encouraged to apply what they have learned in ways which will open up the social economics perspective. This essay points out a number of topics in the standard international course which lend themselves especially well to this approach, and suggests one particular approach which uses writing assignments and class discussion to lead students to do "economics as if people mattered."

Labor Economics. "Integrating Social Economics into Analysis of the Labor Market: Causes and Consequences of Hours of Work and Leisure as an Application" relates how Lonnie Golden applies some basic principles of social economics to broaden the conventional approach to analyzing labor and the labor market, in particular, the determination of labor hours for individuals and society. His goal is to begin to make the analysis of work and leisure time more holistic, realistic and value-directed. The first section presents and critiques the formal neoclassical labor supply and labor demand models. In this essay, Golden attempts to develop some ideal regarding hours of work for the common good, and then explores how work hours are determined in order to contrast the divergence between orthodox and heterodox perspectives on average working hours. In language designed to make it accessible to those familiar with the neoclassical approach, contributions from various heterodox perspectives are applied to specify a more realistic function describing both worker desired hours of work and employer demand for hours per worker at a micro level. Such functions highlight the primacy of culture, macroeconomic climate and inequality of bargaining power in the determination of working time. A recursive, macro level framework is then offered to describe how five, distinct sub-components of "leisure" time both affect and are affected by the economy’s performance, thus illustrating the social and economic causes and consequences of working time patterns. Such a pedagogical approach can be readily introduced into standard undergraduate labor economics courses even on its own conventional terms of description, explanation, prediction and policy prescription.

The "The Social Economics of Labor: Work Decisions in the Short Run and the Long Run" by James Jonish and Neil Terry identifies key concepts and assumptions important to distinguishing social economics from conventional economics as it applies to the labor market. Areas of comparative distinction include the definition of work activity, value judgements, units of analysis, and goal-seeking behavior. Accepted analytical tools of conventional economics are used to provide pedagogical insights. The contributors’ primary emphasis is on the supply side of the labor market which offers the richest alternative specifications for social economists to the rational self-interested maximizing behavior assumed in conventional economics. Four implications are drawn by Jonish and Terry. First, the focus on nonmarket activities, especially household production and volunteerism, means labor force participation rates and hours of work are greater than under conventional market-based measures alone. Second, emphasis on cooperation as an organizing principle in social economics results in richer household decisionmaking. Third, social economics is better able to capture attributes of team production in the workplace. Fourth, the modification of conventional economics to include interpersonal utility comparisons allows social economics to incorporate charity or benevolence as part of the decision framework.

Money and Banking. In "Teaching the Social Economics Way of Thinking in Money and Banking" Maryann Keating, Indiana observes that usury, adverse rejection, and moral hazard are just a few of several normative issues which compete with positive economic theory in the syllabus of a money and banking class. The role of the social economist is to make normative assumptions explicit. The communitarian and personalist approaches to social economics are outlined in this essay. Keating suggests that financial institutions are first and foremost associations which enable its members to achieve some common purpose by mutual assistance. Most financial institutions, she says, originated as cooperatives; contemporary examples include credit unions and microlending.

Principles. In "Teaching Principles of Economics from a Social Economics Perspective" Zohreh Emami describes the teaching of social economics in the context of a course in principles of economics for non-majors. In this essay she emphasizes the importance of paying attention to who the students are and what as a teacher she wants her students to be able to do as a result of taking her course. The main point of this essay is that teaching social economics involves not only teaching a certain content in economics as an alternative to the mainstream but also changing the way we as teachers conceptualize the learning process. This emphasis on outcomes and process, as well as content, alters the students’ understanding of what economics truly is. The students themselves as active learners, reject orthodox conceptions of utility maximization and the atomistic self and define economic life in terms of responsibility and community.

One question facing any social economist when teaching the principles course is whether social economics ought to be presented in a substitutive or complementary relationship to the mainstream model. In "On the Need for Controlled Craziness: A Revisionist’s Perspective" David George argues for the latter strategy and presents several examples of how the social perspectives can be presented in the context of demonstrating the limitations of the received body of theory. Specific practices of the texts which are challenged include: (1) the odd connection between the "is" and the "ought"; (2) the evolving meaning of "competitive"; (3) the oddly non-democratic picture of government which emerges; (4) the failure to adequately consider the social-determined nature of poverty; and (5) the neglect of institutions other than the market in the process of "globalization."

In "The Person Behind the Principles" Edward O’Boyle relates in detail how he teaches the one-term principles of economics course to nonbusiness students. His essay is based on more than twenty-years experience in which he has taught the course about 65 times to nearly 3,550 students. The general goal of the course is to instruct the beginning student as to how a capitalist economy functions and dysfunctions both from a conventional-economics perspective which underscores economics as the study of things and from a social-economics perspective which focuses on human beings as the subject of economics. Since 1994 O’Boyle has been using his own textbook on a diskette which replaces the standard textbook and which he calls A Critical Examination of Production, Consumption, and Investment. It is distributed to the students without charge. The course and the diskette are organized around seventeen major lecture topics presented in three main parts: foundations, microeconomics, and macroeconomics. The essay follows the same organizational pattern as the course and includes considerable detail as to how much conventional economics is preserved in the teaching process and to what extent social economics is substituted. The essay ends with eight lessons which O’Boyle has learned over the years of which the last explains why he calls his own rendering of economics personalist economics and what prompted him to title this essay "The Person Behind the Principles."

John Tiemstra’s "A New Approach to the General Education Economics Course" describes a new approach to the general education economics course as embodied in his new textbook. The book makes use of models which focus on comparative advantage, specialization, and exchange. Bilateral market power is taken to be the general case, with perfect competition and the usual supply and demand model taken as a special case. In the macro section, Tiemstra gives extensive attention to financial markets, including foreign exchange, and to the income-expenditure model, built on a foundation of imperfect competition. Disagreements among economists are approached from a postmodern point of view, and the role of ethics in driving economic behavior is given attention. This approach and organization allow Tiemstra to deal realistically with issues concerning international trade, the distribution of income, the role of government in the economy, and inflation and unemployment.

In "Teaching Introductory Macroeconomics as Social Economics" Jon Wisman sets forth how his course in introductory macroeconomics differs radically from what is suggested by mainstream principles textbooks. Specifically, it is crafted upon his answers to the question: "If my students were to take but one course in economics in their lives, what should they learn?" The result is a story told at several different levels. The overarching story is how humanity evolved to command such power over the forces of nature. To tell this story requires the telling of several sub-stories: how humans make themselves through culture; the interrelationships between the material struggle, the social struggle, and the struggle of ideas; a brief survey of economic development; a short review of the history of economic thought; the character and analytics of economic rationality; the rise of the challenge of macroeconomic instability and the analytics of the Keynesian economics and subsequent theoretical responses; the U.S. and world economy since World War II; the challenge of ecological spoilation.; the breath of contemporary economic debate.

 

Teaching Economics and Ethics.

"Teaching Economics and Ethics: A Social Economics Perspective" describes Charles Wilber’s course on economics, ethics and public policy in which he focuses on the interaction between ethics and economics, both in economic theory and economic policy. Wilber emphasizes three ways in which ethics is important in economics. First, economists have ethical values which help shape the way they do economics. Second, economic actors have ethical values which help shape their behavior. Third, economic institutions and policies impact people differentially and thus ethical evaluations must supplement economic evaluations. Philosophical and theological moral theories are introduced by Wilber and used as the framework for later discussion of public policy issues. This is a course in which Wilber emphasizes questions not answers. The various readings claim that ethics is important to economics--both its study and practice. Economic ethics is more wide ranging than business ethics or medical ethics and far less studied. From the economist’s side, Wilber states, this might be because of the value-free claims made for so long by economists. As the value-free position becomes more difficult to sustain, there is hope that discussion of ethics by students and professional economists will become less self-conscious and better-informed.

 

Team Teaching Economics and Theology/Religion.

The issues which Nancy Ruth and D. Stephen Long set out to explore in "Profits and Prophets: Economics and Theology in Conflict?" are the differences and similarities between Christian theology and market economics. In this essay they pose four possibilities. Are the two in an incommensurable conflict? Are they in a remediable conflict? Can they be cooperative or must one ultimately be subordinate to the other? Fox and Long explore these issues at both a theoretical and practical level, arguing that economics and theology speak different languages, have different goals (efficiency versus justice and charity), and different criteria by which to judge outcomes. The co-authors conclude that market exchange is necessary but not always appropriate, and although economics and theology are related, their respective goals of efficiency and "a vision of God as a true end" are indeed incompatible.

In "Team Teaching Religion, Economics, and Culture" Patrick Welch and J.J. Mueller report on the team development and teaching of a course on religion and economics. Their essay is divided into four sections. The focus of the course and problems in arriving at that focus are covered in the first section. The course’s organization, including lecture and discussion topics, reading assignments, and grading are described in the second section. The paper closes with conclusions and a discussion of how a course such as this relates to social economics.

 

Evolution of Courses Taught From a Social Economics Viewpoint.

Gladys Gruenberg in "Historical Developments in Teaching Labor Economics: Conventional Economics Versus Social Economics" states that, although by the 20th century most industrialized countries had recognized the need for social economic thinking to achieve a proper balance in labor markets, this recognition did not formally occur in the United States until the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. Most economic theorists, however, continued to use traditional competitive models in teaching labor economics. Labor unions, Gruenberg says, were looked upon as an aberration designed to raise wages above "normal" levels and thus cause inflation and eventually unemployment. Labor economists who favored union organization as a proper economic tool for promoting true labor market competition were branded as unorthodox and were ignored in most programs of the American Economic Association, mainly on grounds that their institutional analysis lacked scientific rigor. In 1948, in exasperation, they formed their own professional association, the Industrial Relations Research Association, to promote the realistic study of labor markets. In this essay, Gruenberg traces the growth of labor economics and industrial relations (LE/IR) as an academic discipline and its relationship with the labor movement. She states that developments in the field can be divided into three periods: before 1960; 1960-1980; and 1980-1998. During the first two periods the social economics way of thinking and teaching LE/IR were clearly in evidence. But since 1980, the pendulum has swung back to traditional competitive models. Collective bargaining again is looked upon as an unwelcome interference in the labor market. This change in thinking has affected curricula even at universities long noted for their labor-oriented industrial relations cultures and institutes. Recent literature, according to Gruenberg, suggests that a rebellion may be smoldering among some labor economists, signaling a return to the social economics way of teaching LE/IR.

Thomas Nitsch’s "Masking and Unmasking Social Economics in the Curriculum: An Evolution" chronicles the introduction and development of what commenced as applied social economics under a more conventional designation and evolved via other guises as well on its home ground at Creighton University. Later it was unmasked as Current Issues in Social Economics and Political Economy at home, and subsequently traveled with Nitsch abroad to Richmond College. Back home, the same guise and several disguises were utilized over the course of five years during its process of maturation. As Nitsch himself became more inclined toward the social economics way of thinking and involved in its praxis outside the academic ghetto, that ideological modality and those off-campus experiences found their way into his other teaching assignments, including intermediate macroeconomics and public finance. It is those examples which really conform to the intent of the theme of the Ninth World Congress of Social Economics as bannered in the title of this collection. But, given the fertility of the home sod, Nitsch could not avoid bringing social economics, especially in its secular- and religious-normative selves, with its more praxis-oriented companion of political economy out into the open. True social economists, Nitsch asserts, need little more than a few "for instances" to exercise that way of thinking in the conventional economics curriculum. What has been exposited in his essay, it is hoped, will not only encourage others desirous of enriching that standard menu of courses but also incite and arm them as well to the introduction of a course unabashedly social economics in character.

Contact the publisher, The Edwin Mellen Press, for information regarding ordering this book at cs@wzrd.com.  A 20% discount is available on credit card orders.