By Mike Berry
Morality and Power offers a compelling critique of orthodox economic analysis and its impacts on public policy. Mike Berry argues that the theoretical underpinning of evaluative tools like cost–benefit analysis rests on an incoherent concept of ‘efficiency’ derived from Paretian welfare economics.
Beginning by reviewing the historical progression of economic thought, Berry argues there has been a lack of crucial development in economic thinking in public policy since the economic crisis of 2008. The ethically unacceptable outcomes of the current public policy approach are exposed: most notably the support for policies that accentuate inequality and social polarization; the outbreak of crises in the financial sector, and the treatment of refugees and migrants. Finally, threats to liberal democracies in an age of rampant populism and rising nationalism are examined, offering noteworthy suggestions for an alternative democratic future.
Both students and practitioners of heterodox economics and public policy will find Morality and Power a compelling insight into the ethical concerns of neoliberal policies shaped by politicians and policymakers today.
About Mike Berry
Mike Berry is emeritus professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy in the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University, Australia. Mike has extensive expertise in urban, regional and environmental policy studies. He has carried out innovative research into alternative financing approaches to expanding provision of affordable housing in Australia. He is the author or co-author of over one hundred research reports, books and journal articles in housing and urban studies.
"This is an ambitious and sustained critique of mainstream economics and its influence on public policy and its complicity in the rise of neoliberalism and the decline of social democracy. It’s aimed at senior undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in heterodox economics and practitioners of public policy. It shows how over the last two and a half centuries moral considerations were gradually attenuated and expelled from economic analysis, and how, in the process, the new discipline of economics was depoliticized. The result is that contemporary economics is dominated by what Amartya Sen has called an 'engineering' approach, largely divorced from any consideration of ethics. As the book develops, Mike Berry both critiques this shift and proposes alternative ways of thinking about economic life in relation to moral issues and considerations of political power. [...] Morality and Power is well-written but perhaps inevitably–given that it moves from analyses of specific theories to discussions of messy, complex phenomena like the financial and environmental crises and the decline of social democracy – the overall thrust of the book loses focus in the process. Near the end, the author bemoans the absence in mainstream economics of the 'basic insights of classical economics – namely that the capitalist system is driven by the dynamic of competitive pursuit of profit maximization under crisis-prone conditions and that the key unit of analysis is class not the individual . . .' (p.299). Yet the book doesn’t quite address this either. It tends to discuss inequalities in terms of outcomes – albeit broadly conceived – but not with regard to the social relations that generate them. [...] Unearned income and rent-seeking more generally are occasionally mentioned in passing, but their ethical as well as functional significance is not taken up. Here, a discussion of the work of authors such as Henry George, R. H. Tawney, J. A. Hobson and Thorstein Veblen and of course Marx, which discuss and evaluate how people get their incomes, would have been helpful. But overall, there is much to appreciate in this book, particularly regarding its analysis of the rise of mainstream economics, and it is refreshing to find someone demonstrating the relation between the abstractions of economic and political theory and a wide range of pressing contemporary issues."
Table of Contents of Morality and Power
Part I Foundations
- David Hume’s “Judicious Spectator”
- Bentham’s Legacy
- J.S. Mill’s Apostasy
- The Retreat to the Margin
Part II Analysis
- The Concept of Economic Welfare
- Cambridge versus Lausanne
- What Is Efficiency?
- Social Justice and Economic Policy
- Is Democracy Possible?
- Building a Consequentialist Framework
Part III Outcomes
- Financial Crisis
- Environmental Crisis
- Population Crisis
- The Hollowing of Democracy Epilogue
- Recapturing the High Ground Index