La thèse centrale de ce livre polémique est simple et y est exprimée avec force : à l’occasion de nombreux débats sur des questions économiques, les argumentations avancées font souvent fi d’une argumentation réellement scientifique et ignorent superbement les travaux validés selon des critères scientifiques usuels dans toutes les sciences (peer review, publication dans des revues à comité de lecture…). Ces argumentations valorisent des analyses non validées par un filtre scientifique effectif, ce qui dénature la qualité des débats ...
(1353 more words)
Comment les économistes réchauffent la planète est publié dans la collection Anthropocène aux éditions du Seuil. Antonin Pottier, chercheur au Cerna (Centre d’économie industrielle à l’École des mines de Paris), y dresse un réquisitoire contre l’économie, ou plutôt ses dévoiements, tout au long de quelque 300 pages. Car dans le contexte schizophrénique actuel, où les objectifs adoptés par la communauté internationale pour limiter le changement climatique se renforcent et où les émissions de gaz à effet de ...
(913 more words)
Économie du bien commun, de Jean Tirole — économiste, président de TSE (Toulouse School of Economics), enseignant au MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), directeur d’études à l’EHESS (École des hautes études en sciences sociales) et auréolé en 2014 du prix de la Banque de Suède en sciences économiques en mémoire d’Alfred Nobel —, est un ouvrage somme de plus de 600 pages. Destiné à un large public et divisé en 17 chapitres, Jean Tirole y aborde autant le quotidien ...
(784 more words)
The psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize-winner for economics in 2002, has contributed to some notable advances in economic theory with his work on “prospect theory”, which goes to the heart of behavioural economics, and, more recently, with his work on the economics of happiness. In a book that appeared in the USA in 2011, Thinking, Fast and Slow, he presents the core of his analyses and theories in a highly concrete form.
Charles du Granrut has read this work for Futuribles and offers a critical review of it here. He begins by outlining the two main styles of thinking of individuals, as Kahneman conceives them –fast and intuitive and/or slow and rational– before going on to note the main “cognitive biases” that are likely, in his view, to impair reasoning (errors, incoherence, prejudices, the halo effect....). Du Granrut then runs through the various criticisms that have been levelled at this analysis of the decision-making process. He also describes Kahneman’s prospect theory and the way it has been applied within the framework of “liberal paternalism” through the “nudge” concept. Lastly, he notes the contribution made by Kahneman’s analyses of individuals’ perceptions of happiness, not just in the economic field but also, and most importantly, in the area of public policy. All in all, Kahneman’s work is now often integrated into traditional economic theory, while enabling us all to be aware of –and hence potentially forearmed against– the various biases inherent in human thinking.
Not only did the economists not see the present crisis coming, but they played a large part in triggering it, argues Christian Stoffaës, and he demonstrates the degree to which the dominant paradigm of “efficient financial markets” led to extravagant financial speculation.
Blaming the circumventing of financial rules for impelling the global economy towards catastrophe, Stoffaës argues for a thorough transformation of economic thought, focussing back on the real economy, the economy of production.
Les pays industrialisés ont tardivement pris conscience de l'ampleur du phénomène de changement climatique mais ont réagi avec énergie, en prenant des engagements quantitatifs sur les émissions des gaz à effet de serre à Kyoto dès 1997. Mais, depuis, la nécessité d'une lutte ambitieuse contre le réchauffement de la planète a été contestée. Le gouvernement des États-Unis, comme plusieurs experts qui ont trouvé un fort écho dans les médias, font valoir que les coûts sont immédiats, que les ...
(314 more words)
Among the sayings associated with the social upheavals of 1968 in France were "nobody falls in love with a growth rate" and the gross national product (GNP) doesn't measure the level of national happiness... This was the start of criticisms of the yardsticks used to measure national performance, and what some called derogatively "the gospel of progress" with its heavy reliance on economic indicators.
Almost 40 years later, have we really managed to shake off this way of thinking? Not really, says Jean Gadrey. He echoes the criticisms of the gross domestic product (GDP), which is used even more often today, and discusses the advances that have been made towards creating different indicators, the best known being the "human development index" constructed by the UN Development Programme.
From the outset Gadrey acknowledges that "the choice of weights attached to the different variables making up an indicator, like the choice of variables taken to be significant, is a matter for public debate and for a confrontation of viewpoints, as to what should be included and what should be of greatest importance". Bearing this in mind, he presents the efforts made in recent years to develop new indicators that capture more accurately social advances and/or the impact of human activities on the environment. He then describes the new overall indicators, which can be grouped into three categories:
- those mainly concerned with matters of human and/or social development, without systematically attaching monetary values to the variables;
- those inspired mainly by environmental concerns, without systematically attaching monetary values to the variables;
- those intended to complement the national accounting indicators by adding or subtracting variables measured in monetary terms, with variants that factor in environmental criteria to a greater or lesser extent.
Since the second half of the 1990s there has been renewed interest in these overall indicators of development. Gadrey describes those that he considers the most promising, making clear how they have been constructed and how reliable they appear to be. His article is especially welcome at a time when a new approach is emerging (exemplified in France by the work of Dominique Méda and Patrick Viveret) that seeks to "re-evaluate wealth", to assess more accurately the true level of economic and social development, also taking environmental factors into account, not only of our countries but also of our organisations. In many ways, therefore, the article is in line with the studies being undertaken, including in businesses, to improve accounting systems and to be less rigidly bound by evaluations measured solely in commercial terms.
We reprint here a piece that was originally published by Bertrand de Jouvenel in 1957, later included in his book Arcadie. Essais sur le mieux vivre (Arcadia. Essays on Living Better; Paris: SÉDÉIS, collection Futuribles, 1968), which happily has just been brought out again (Paris: Gallimard, coll. Tel, 2002).
In this text, which appeared almost 50 years ago, the author of Arcadia, after discussing the limitations of economic accounting methods, argues how inadequate the methods are, inasmuch as they do not take account of unpaid services (work in the home, for example) or free goods (such as oxygen) or what he terms "negative goods", today more commonly called externalities.
Reading this article by the pioneer of "political ecology" makes one wonder how much progress there has been in our thinking over the last 50 years. We should recall, moreover, that it was at roughly the same time (1971, to be precise) that Futuribles published Jacques Delors' book Les Indicateurs sociaux (Social Indicators), which also stressed the need even then to design better tools (than economic indicators alone) for measuring the state of our societies. Let us hope that in future, further encouraged by concern for the environment, more sustained efforts will be made to improve national accounting systems.
Avec pédagogie et esprit de synthèse, l'auteur parvient en une centaine de pages à dresser un panorama complet des différentes théories du développement économique. Cet ouvrage a pour objet d'initier le lecteur à l'économie historique, discipline qui a véritablement pris corps dans la deuxième moitié du XIXe siècle, mais tombée en désuétude dans le cadre des développements économiques suscités par les Trente Glorieuses. La crise de la pensée économique contemporaine et d'autres facteurs, présentés en introduction ...
(185 more words)
L'environnement a fait une apparition récente dans les études économiques. Certes, il en était question et Marx lui-même se préoccupait des ressources naturelles. Mais l'essentiel de la théorie économique était consacré à l'optimisation des acteurs de production et de vente. Les études menées prenaient la nature comme une donnée, à la limite comme un invariant, qui n'entrait pas en compte dans la comptabilité, ni celle des entreprises, ni celle des nations. Désormais, on prend conscience des ...
(156 more words)
The upturn in economic growth in France since 1997, a few years later than in the United States, has been interpreted in a number of different ways. For many observers, it suggests the start of a new phase of expansion, following logically, as required by the Kondratiev cycles, on the "Thirty Lean Years" that succeeded the post-war period of growth.
According to many enthusiastic believers in the Kondratiev function, our economies are subject to phases of expansion and then of less rapid growth occurring inevitably, no matter what we do, every 50 years; the present upturn is supposedly stimulated by a favourable international environment and the coming-of-age of the information and communications technologies.
Éric Bosserelle argues that this is a crass and wrongheaded interpretation of the theories of Nicolaï Kondratiev, who was interested only in long-term fluctuations in prices and never claimed to construct a theory that would be able to explain the past, let alone predict future patterns of economic growth.
Bosserelle reminds us of some essential truths about Kondratiev's work, the somewhat fragile empirical basis for it and the long-term fluctuations that he brought to light. He demonstrates the advantages as well as the limits of the theories, including those that arose from the particular circumstances of the period Kondratiev studied.
He therefore stresses that the Kondratiev cycles are concerned with the dynamics of prices of basic products over the long term, a concern that is unfortunately completely or partially overlooked by modern theories, none of which has managed to deal convincingly with a key question: the recurrence of cycles lasting half a century. Consequently, Éric Bosserelle concludes, it would be as well to remain cautious with regard to certain fashionable viewpoints which suggest that our economies are going to develop according to unalterable laws.
Economics is the only discipline, among the social sciences at least, which tries to be both descriptive and normative. In fact, however, as it is often difficult to find corroboration from empirical observations, economics tends to fall back on a theoretical approach; economic recommendations are rarely robust or consensual, and ultimately have little impact on decision-making.
To counter such criticisms, Quinet and Walliser focus on the field of transport, which is a special area of study within economics. They discuss three examples:
- transport of goods, which has been relatively well studied by economists, but their recommendations have tended to be blocked by vested interests, clinging to the status quo, even though the existing situation may be contrary to the collective interest as well as to their own interests in the long term;
- management of urban transport infrastructures, where -once again- "expert" opinion comes up against the inertia of institutions that fight to retain their position and defend their privileges;
- control of urban traffic flows, a particularly delicate matter, where opinions are divided and recommendations, once again, are thwarted by the lack of a common stance, with everyone concerned acting in accordance with their own particular logic.
As transport economists, are Émile Quinet and Bernard Walliser simply disappointed that their advice is not followed? No, they start by taking a critical look at their own field. "The models cannot cope with the diversity of the real world: every situation is unusual, there is no such thing as an average user, a representative firm or a standard cost." The measures proposed are "too blind and clumsy, and fail to reach their targets". Transport economists do not, above all, take sufficient account of the way the actors operate.
The authors conclude with some suggestions for ways in which economics might make progress. But they harbour no illusions: economists recommend change. For this to occur, their recommendations must chime with what the decision-makers want, something that the economists cannot determine...
Taking as his starting-point a recent article by Richard Thaler on the future of economics, Alain Michel launches a vigorous attack on "economic science" which is interested only in homo oeconomicus with his supposedly rational behaviour, and pleads instead for "political economy" which is concerned with homo sapiens as a being also motivated by emotions, sensitivity, perhaps with a soul.
He shows how economists, utterly convinced of the scientific nature of their work, have managed to create a form of economics that is heavily mathematical and nothing to do with the real world -an approach that is admittedly not without interest, but its claims to objectivity are exaggerated and it lacks real descriptive force.
He points out that human beings are not bloodless agents who act in a purely rational way, so that their actions cannot be understood without combining the branches of knowledge that have been artificially separated in the name of science. He is therefore highly critical of the current scientism, and in fact highlights its limits; instead he argues passionately in favour of a more interdisciplinary approach that is better suited to an understanding of homo sapiens, who for that matter is a more congenial being.
Accessible à tous, cet ouvrage reproduit en fait les conférences qui ont été diffusées chaque mois sur France Culture depuis l'automne 2000, conférences dans lesquelles l'auteur cherche à fournir aux personnes intéressées par les problèmes économiques des clefs de compréhension du monde contemporain. Il est vrai que le discours dominant conduit parfois les autorités qui nous gouvernent à prendre des décisions dont le bien-fondé peut nous échapper. La démarche adoptée par l'auteur consiste donc à reprendre dans ...
(504 more words)
Consacrer un ouvrage entier au thème du protectionnisme à l'époque de la mondialisation peut paraître surprenant, mais force est de constater que les échanges internationaux se caractérisent dans la réalité par la persistance de nombreux obstacles. Sous le titre « Le protectionnisme », Bernard Guillochon, spécialiste reconnu d'économie internationale, propose dans la collection « Repères », une synthèse complète des problèmes relatifs à la protection des échanges, en évoquant successivement les formes du protectionnisme, les justifications proposées par les théories traditionnelles et ...
(474 more words)
À la suite de la ridicule affaire de la « cagnotte » budgétaire française de l'an 2000, le Sénat a lancé une mission sur le thème de « la démocratie budgétaire en Amérique » pour procéder à des comparaisons avec le système français. Tout ce qui est américain n'est pas transposable. Mais le rapport du Sénat publié en 2001 insiste tout de même sur la supériorité « démocratique » d'un système fondé sur le pluralisme, l'importance des contre-expertises indépendantes, notamment pour l ...
(778 more words)
In his latest book, Les Structures sociales de l'économie [The Social Structures of Economy], Pierre Bourdieu observes that economists' models do not accurately reflect reality. He therefore argues that the discipline should be restructured, taking as the starting point a consideration of the economic actors and the areas that they act upon.
Gérard Dréan accepts this view, but stresses that -although Bourdieu would probably deny it- the proposed approach is closely related to the methodological individualism that lies at the heart of the Austrian School, too frequently forgotten because of its free-market stance...
This is a time of "new growth", thanks to the IT (information technology) and the widespread confidence, indeed conviction, that we are at the beginning of a new Kondratiev upturn, launched into a new era of stable prosperity.
Michel Godet, sceptical as always of generally accepted ideas, warns us to be cautious. True, Europe is currently enjoying a new growth spurt, which furthermore has created new jobs. But this phenomenon, here in Europe as in the United States, has little to do with the IT.
The impact of the IT obviously should not be overlooked, since they have undoubtedly helped in the development of a new economy, in particular by stimulating competition and therefore lower prices. Yet the new growth should not be overestimated on the basis of the Nasdac and the stock market bubble which will ultimately burst.
In any case, Godet argues, convinced that human beings are the only real source of wealth and that the future depends on what they want, the growth cycle theories (especially that of Kondratiev) are illusory. The new growth cannot continue without generating adverse side-effects and consequently in Europe, with its ageing population, weak and fluctuating demand.
People are being exposed to, and are more aware of, rising levels of transport noise, which (despite higher standards and the progress made by the motor manufacturers) is likely to get even worse as road traffic, in particular, increases.
Having made this worrying observation, the authors look at how this nuisance can be assessed in monetary terms and how much we are prepared to pay in order to overcome this decline in the quality of our environment.
They demonstrate that various methods of evaluation exist (both "hedonistic" and "contingent" analyses), and their results are remarkably similar and reliable. However, they stress that little notice is taken of these results in decision-making processes, partly because the views of special interest groups often carry more weight than more objective criteria.
Finally, the authors offer suggestions for possible action, drawing on the experience of other countries. They examine how better use might be made of such studies in decision-making, which should also take account of the "public good", whose definition is often a source of confusion.
De fait, cet ouvrage de vulgarisation, écrit sur un ton « branché » mais s'appuyant sur la culture économique solide de l'auteur, ne vise pas tant à répondre à la question posée (y croire ou pas ?) qu'à dégager les caractéristiques essentielles de ce qu'il est désormais coutume d'appeler la « nouvelle économie » et à essayer de déterminer la pertinence d'une telle appellation plus ou moins contrôlée. Les diverses facettes de la nouvelle phase de croissance forte tirée ...
(261 more words)