Thinking economists are grappling with why their profession has made our lives worse

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

By sanctifying selfishness, it has undermined community-mindedness and the role of co-operation in advancing our mutual interests. Voting has become a simple matter of “what’s in it for me and mine”, while businesses and industries have been licensed to lobby for preferment at the expense of everyone else. “In recent decades the balance between these instincts [of competition and co-operation] has become dangerously skewed: mutuality has been undermined by an extreme individualism which has weakened co-operation and polarised our politics,”

Since the late 1970s, however, Americans have talked less about the common good and more about self-aggrandisement; less “we’re all in it together” and more “you’re on your own”. There’s been “growing cynicism and distrust toward all the basic institutions of American society – governments, the media, corporations” and more.

Thinking economists are grappling with why their profession has made our lives worse

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