My top ten in heterodox economics

Just inspired by the news about the alternative PPE being launched by Goldsmiths (, here is my top ten of heterodox economics. I’m sure everyone will disagree, possibly about if any are truly heterodox. Good! I am still astounded by what most politicians see as heterodox economics, let’s start with the easy stuff.

1. Zero growth

A lovely idea, safe, clean, easy and macroeconomically proven to get your washing cleaner. And makes redistribution seem normal rather than something that you to have to cough at the same time as you say it.

2. Capabilities approach

Amartya Sen’s lovely way of thinking about ‘people and stuff’ (as I like to call economics) in terms of ‘doing and being’. Opens the door to a thousand heterodox flowers and their potential blooming.

3. Complexity/non-linearity

Once you start down this particular road you will spend half your time wishing you hadn’t and the other half wishing for more powerful computers and fancier software!

4. Behavioural approaches

Probably the easiest way of convincing people that almost every outcome from the general Equilibrium Model should be at best thoroughly tested against reality and at worst chucked away. I particularly like cognitive biases, because I just read about them : )

5. Happiness

An idea whose time has come. Exam question: is any current happiness measure worse than GDP?

6. Rejecting pareto

Of course, in theory, any pareto gain can be redistributed, so why not do it? I just can’t face answering the question – it’s too obvious.

7. Non-independence of preferences

You see that group of lemmings/wilderbeest/geese… that’s you that is, but in your economic decisions. Will someone please tell the invisible-hand that simple fact.

8. Rubbish measurement

Let’s embrace our rubbish measurement. Our brains are great (producing theories), our computers are incredible (producing number crunching) our articulation is great (saying things in impressive ways) – but come on, our ability to measure the things that matter is still, and will probably always be, hopeless. So let’s build that straight into our analysis.

9. Evolution

My personal theory is that there is more than enough randomness in most of the things we do that evolutionary natural-selection can be as much of an influence in decision-making and system-change as human agency is. Complicated isn’t it… that’s why I love the evolutionary stuff.

10. Morality

I can’t quite decide whether I want more of it or less of it – perhaps that depends if you agree with me or not. But we certainly should think about it more. 


About stuartastill

Consultant: interested in analysis that impacts politics i.e. everything! Can do difficult equations - but avoids when working with humans
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