It seems we will have quite a few open money items this week, so I asked for some special contributions.
Ryan Lanham sent the following editorial:
“Economics might be summed up as the field that studies allocation of resources. It might also be seen as a the field that studies the nature and flow of moneys, or as a field that considers human behaviors in relationship to happiness and resource allocation.
Remarkably, there is no good definition of the field’s proper focal points or boundaries. It is, as the literary theorists have taught us to say, increasingly contested. While that contest is very much in the “periphery of discourse” (more academic argot), the periphery is warming up through an increasingly buzz in various social networks, not least of which is our little P2P world here at the P2P Foundation, thanks largely to Michel’s catholic interests and sponsorship of discussion on these topics.
Economics, for now, has one dominant school (scarcity-based market theory) and a set of heterodox sects such as Marxism, post-scarcity economics, so-called post-autistic schools (which are typically closely linked to the dominant domain) and other far-flung ideas that are trying to earn a seat at the table…often while acting as if “the table” is absurd. Some I read here (on the P2P Foundation blog and in its research lists) frankly strike me as laughably naive, but I am losing my hubris in the face of technology futurism, economic crises and the advances of social media technologies.
Legitimacy as measured by academic appointments largely falls on very conventional market theories with surprisingly few exceptions; it used to be radical at the University of Chicago to be a behavioral economist! Even post-Keynesian writers are fairly rare in the academy–at least the academy that anyone seriously considers. It’s a Monetarist World (of money) that followed a long string of Nobelists from the Chicago School one must see as conventionally dominant…but also as increasingly decaying. Those people, and their relatively close quibblers, tend to rule our big banks and our economies in general though some, like Timothy Geithner in the US (the Treasury Secretary), have remarkably little formal economic training of any sort, and are problematic to classify as to theirs schools of thought much beyond the dreaded left wing epithet of almost no rational meaning–“neoliberal” or even worse, “market bureaucrat.” Such shouting doesn’t seem to help.
Now, as core newspapers and universities decline and economic crises erode institutional legitimacy of mainstream thinking in economics, one can almost smell the ripeness for new radical (and I don’t mean the term in the leftest sense so much as the disruptive sense) theories of money and business. The P2P movement is square in the middle of such lines of thinking. It is so much in the middle of such thinking that I often worry that I’ll tarnish my own minimal credibility by association with some of the heterodoxy. Clearly cranks exist, and most of the ideas are patently crap. But I’ve gotten over that egoism largely by realizing that something meaningful is afoot, and that Austrians, Behaviorists, monetarists, Marxists and Keynesians are not the whole family of legitimate thinkers. Something(s) else is emerging.
In short, we need new theories. I hope those harboring truly radical concepts start to bring them forward for real critical review. We are entering a transforming age and the very survival of our species (the times demand that sort of seeming hyperbole) may depend on new approaches to how we allocate stuff and how we judge our happiness and wealth. Bring it on. We need new and even outrageous ideas. We need tests and alternative currencies and new ways tried first by greeny hippies in Germany and neo-Fabians and Utopians in France. We need small nation currency experiments and micro-credit enterprises to innovate and allow for serious consideration of alternative models for both near and long-term consideration. We need Grameen dollars, twollers and everything else anyone can think of. We need ideas. P2P is the right space for these ideas to be treated with respectful encouragement and an occasional twinge of skepticism. Bring them on.’