THE IDEAL WORLDS OF ECONOMICS: Liberal, Radical, and Conservative World Views by Benjamin Ward

THE IDEAL WORLDS OF ECONOMICS: Liberal, Radical, and Conservative World Views

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In a time of continuing economic chaos, non-economists may wonder at the ability of economists to remain confident in their models and predictions, even while they disagree on the models themselves. Berkeley economist Ward wants to at least show how different economic ""world views"" are possible, and to inspire doubt about the absolute truth of any one of them. Like a multiple personality, Ward creates ""optimum"" models of three broad ""types"" of economic approach, putting himself inside each in turn, and critically discussing variant theories within each type in defense of his optimal construct. By optimal, Ward means a combination of theoretical coherence and agreement with ""known facts."" His liberal model--to which he adheres ""in real life""--is less theoretical than descriptive, however, since it consists mainly of a characterization of contemporary capitalism, employing aggregate statistics to ""show"" that the state-stimulated market system is the most effective method of achieving growth and wealth while promoting political freedom. The radical (Marxist) and conservative models serve as historically--grounded critiques of the foregoing: the first (derived principally from Baran and Sweezy's Monopoly Capitalism) argues that capitalism is based on exploitation and waste and that Third World development is structurally blocked by the capitalist world market: the second (indebted to J.A. Schumpeter and von Mises and especially to F.A. Hayek) shows that the spread of markets carried greater individual freedom with it, while contemporary capitalism restricts that freedom by constraining markets. Although Ward does an excellent job in presenting these models--overly synthetic or not--the result is confusion, since they are all plausible but contradictory. Instead of providing alternatives or correctives, a stand-off is a win for the model of status-quo liberalism while the reality is in trouble still.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1978
Publisher: Basic Books