Activist Economics was successfully run in 2019 with participants from Zambia, Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, Lesotho, New Zealand, Lebanon, Ireland and South Africa. It is a six-week, critical overview of mainstream economics and of the basic principles of an alternative, more socially-conscious “political economy.” It surveys and debunks myths about what the economy is and how it works. Economies are not technical systems governed by laws of nature. They are cultural systems subject to social control. A better, fairer, more equal world is possible! This course helps participants see through the mysteries of economic orthodoxy and strengthens their arguments for a more democratic and sustainable economy.
UNIT 1: Political Economies and Economics
MYTH: The economy is a complex machine, which only experts can understand and operate successfully.
REALITY: The economy is a system of power, which ordinary citizens can and must learn to control.
UNIT 2: Exchange and Cooperation
MYTH: Markets are the only way to cooperate efficiently and profit is the best reason to do so.
REALITY: Markets aren’t the only way to cooperate efficiently and profit is not the only reason to do so.
UNIT 3: Households, Markets and Money
MYTH: Money eliminates the need for barter and enables markets to function better and fail less often.
REALITY: Money makes widespread barter feasible but leaves markets more unstable and failure-prone.
UNIT 4: Labor, Capital and Output
MYTH: Wages and profits are paid to labor and capital for what each contributes to their joint product.
REALITY: Wages and profits are what labor and capital are each able to claim from their joint product.
UNIT 5: Government, Banks and Taxes
MYTH: The public sector is unaccountable, reduces private wealth, and its taxes should be resisted.
REALITY: The public sector is accountable, adds to private wealth, and its taxes should be supported.
UNIT 6: Organizing Prosperity and Power
MYTH: All income is earned; all wealth is owned; only capital accumulation will end poverty.
REALITY: All income is rent; all wealth is in trust; only social cooperation will end poverty.