The “fetishizing” of economics has resulted in a perpetual cycle of unfulfilled desire and debt and a “post coitum depression”, says Tomas Sedlacek. He is the Czech economist and bestselling author of The Economics of Good and Evil (2011), internationally renowned for challenging assumptions and radically rethinking and humanizing economics. Chief macroeconomic strategist at ČSOB and former economic advisor to President Vaclav Havel, he describes economics as a cultural phenomenon which cannot be free of ethics.
What is wrong with our economic values today?
There are a huge number of values in economics, some of which are bad – such as egoism, the belief that the markets are self-governing and that consumerism will deliver us into the “promised land”. In the absence of higher, traditional values in society – such as a belief in human decency, humility and openness – economic values dominate.
I am of course an economist and I have nothing against economics, capital markets or wealth. However, the problem occurs when economic values are the only values you see. Even the biggest virtue, if overdone, becomes a vice. We have fetishized the economy, to the point that we expect it to do everything for us. We expected it to solve problems of inequality, to give our lives meaning and even some kind of spirituality. These are things the economy will never do.
There is a crisis of faith in capitalism in the West. Is there a serious risk of being too dissatisfied with the system?
Yes. This is why I call it a post coitum depression crisis. Capitalism gave us everything that we could have possibly imagined and now we are depressed as a result. A very common trigger for clinical depressions in medicine is the fulfilment of dreams, leaving the patient with no reason to go on living.
We believe there is some god of economics that guides us into the future – the un-orchestrated orchestrator, as I call it. We blame the system. However, we don’t know what we want capitalism to be replaced with. We should decide we want a fairer system, based on equality and stability. Then as a society, work on making it so. However, there is a perpetual obsession with growth – everyone wants more and more.
Everyone complains capitalism, the EU or the economy didn’t give us enough, but what if the opposite is true? What if the EU gave us everything that it promised – which was peace and trade? The problem with Europe is that we have no new dreams to dream. This is the perfect definition of a post coitum depression.
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4th March 2019
1st February 2019