So what function might SOLO Economics fulfil? Well, we can start some words from SOLO’s founder, who indicates some of the pitfalls we should watch out for:
“…let’s abandon this terminally tedious fatal conceit of economists – that theirs is the fundamental discipline. It most certainly is not.”1
“…economists – they could be laid end to end and still not reach a conclusion.”2
“…economics – a very dull & rather obvious discipline whose most useful function is to keep limited minds amused …”3
First, it is true that, in the area of political philosophy, there has been far too much emphasis on economics, with dire consequences for liberty. (Anton Zantonavich provides an eloquent discussion of this point here). However, unlike the largely consequentialist liberal movements of the past, Objectivist political philosophy places much greater emphasis on the philosophical foundations and ethics of liberty. And in this context, it is right that economics should be considered further down the pecking order.
But that doesn’t mean there is no place for economics at all in political philosophy. Economics remains a critical building block in Objectivist political theory, and we need to prove again and again that things simply work a lot better under capitalism. As Zantonavich puts it, “we need to champion economic capitalism and social libertarianism” - to which I might add, “and a reality-based moral philosophy and a vibrant individualist culture”.
However there is, in any case, much, much more to economics than mere political philosophy. If that’s all economics was then it really would be the “dull & rather obvious discipline” Lindsay (half) jokingly refers to. No - done properly, economics fits squarely with the KASS, SOL emphasis on culture and on philosophy as a tool for living. Indeed, economics should be considered as much a part of the culture and a tool for living as computing, cooking, or socialising - you can get by without these skills, but it sure helps if you have them.
So, this forum should cover all the usual things that Objectivist economists are typically interested in: the philosophical foundations, Austrian economics, political philosophy, the role of money, etc. But it should equally be considered a success if it covers all the related fields that, in my opinion, fall under the broad tent of “economics”, such as market analysis, business strategy, finance, statistics, and even, dare I say it … accounting. Then at some mythical point in the future when we’ve mastered all these complex and extremely difficult areas we can turn around and see whether Lindsay was right that “the most useful function of economics is to keep limited minds amused”…!
One final point on style. Like everything else that SOLOists do, SOLO Economics should be KASS. Let's not hesitate to draw conclusions, even without waiting for Lindsay to lay us end to end! Let's speak up! Don’t be afraid to ask about that horribly confusing thing you can’t get your head around. As I said, economics can be extremely complex and difficult, and the only way we are going to learn anything is to engage our minds on these difficult topics. With some issues we may indeed never reach a conclusion, but we can sure as hell try.
For more details about RoR Economics, contact Tim Sturm by email (note, you must be logged in to view this email address).