Ideals, Values and Economic Necessities: On Augustin Landier and David Thesmar’s Book ‘Le Prix de nos valeurs’


This article is published in Futuribles journal no.449, juillet-août 2022

Early in 2022, a book was published that our rulers and their advisers would be well advised to read, particularly where economic matters are concerned. That book is Le Prix de nos valeurs. Quand nos idéaux se heurtent à nos désirs matériels [The Price of our Values: When our Ideals Clash with our Material Desires] byAugustin Landier and David Thesmar. The book’s focus is on the clear gap between the opinions of economists (which often shape public decision-making) and the views of ‘ordinary’ individuals, driven by their ideals and values, but also their aspirations and material constraints — things which are sometimes contradictory. ‘Real people turn out to be very different from Homo œconomicus, that cold automaton and consummate calculator of the economics textbooks,’ they write. This gap might explain the growing distrust of expertise and might be said, the authors argue, to underlie the rise of populism, extremism or political disengagement and, by extension, the weakening of the democracies. Pierre-Yves Cusset has read the book and summarizes its main lessons here, beginning with this gap between the values of economists and those of the rest of the population, illustrated with many concrete — and particularly telling — examples (on free trade, immigration, inheritance etc.). He then presents the results of the international survey which serves, in the second part of the book, to evaluate the aspirations of individuals in terms of the economic cost of the options offered to them — enabling us to grasp the compromises they would (or would not) be prepared to make between their moral principles and economic reality. Ultimately, despite the certainties that may drive many economists, they do not have a monopoly on good decision-making, and citizens remain the only source of legitimate economic choices, operating by a rationality that is all their own and needs to be taken into account.
#Aspects économiques #Idéologie politique #Politique économique #Système de valeurs #Théorie économique