By Jonathan Aldred
- License to Be Bad; How Economics Corrupted Us (2019)
- The Skeptical Economist; Revealing the Ethics Inside Economics (2009)
Over the past fifty years, the way we value what is 'good' and 'right' has changed dramatically. Behaviour that to our grandparents' generation might have seemed stupid, harmful or simply wicked now seems rational, natural, woven into the very logic of things. And, asserts Jonathan Aldred in this revelatory new book, it's economics that's to blame.
Licence to be Bad tells the story of how a group of economics theorists changed our world, and how a handful of key ideas, from free-riding to Nudge, seeped into our decision-making and, indeed, almost all aspects of our lives. Aldred reveals the extraordinary hold of economics on our morals and values. Economics has corrupted us. But if this hidden transformation is so recent, it can be reversed. Licence to be Bad shows us where to begin.
"The book works best when you substitute the word 'economics' in its provocative subtitle for 'neoliberalism' — although the author dislikes the term, which he calls vague. It is really an account of how a group of rightwing economists persuaded policymakers, particularly in the governments of Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US, to adopt their ideas. He gives no evidence that these theories had an influence on general standards of behaviour. [...] Readers familiar with the topic will find little new. [...] Overall the book already feels dated. Most of the thinkers Aldred focuses on are dead and the economics profession is moving on. Politics has too: many date the end of the neoliberal era to the 2008 financial crisis, or the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Economists are not in charge any more, if they ever were. Among academics, the pendulum is swinging back to those who define the discipline by subject matter rather than an assumption of rational self-interested agents. Ideas that were consigned to the margins are finding their way back into the mainstream. Aldred devotes little space to the flaws in recent trends, such as the increasing focus on data rather than models. Economics may redeem itself yet."
- "This pandemic has exposed the uselessness of orthodox economics", oped by Aldred in The Guardian, 5 July 2020
- The full interview by Renegade Inc. (a fragment is shown at the top of this page), 5 October 2019
- Podcast interview by The Mint Magazine, 20 September 2019
- "‘Socialism for the rich’: the evils of bad economics", article by Aldred in The Guardian, 6 June 2019
Table of Contents of License to Be Bad
- The Shape of Things to Come
- Trust No One
- Wealth Beats Justice: The Curious Coarse Theorem
- The Government Enemy
- Free Riding, or Not Doing Your Bit
- The Economics of Everything
- Everyone Has a Price
- Trust in Numbers
- You Deserve What You Get
- A Troubled Relationship: Modern Economics and Us
About Jonathan Aldred
Jonathan Aldred is Fellow and Director of Studies in Economics at Emmanuel College and Lecturer in the Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge. He is interested in the ethical foundations of economics and how they have shaped modern life. He has been lecturing and writing in this area for over twenty years, with a particular focus on questions of social and environmental justice, and the relationship between economic ideas and political change.