TEHRAN –(Iranart)- Economics of Good and Evil,’ a book humanizing the most public and powerful of the social sciences, written by Czech economist and lecturer Tomas Sedlacek is now available in Persian.
Iranian translator and literary critic Ahad Ali-Qolian, 58, has rendered in Persian Sedlacek’s 2009 book whose full title is ‘Economics of Good and Evil: the Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street,’ Mehr News Agency reported.
Nashrenow publication, based in Tehran, has recently released the book in 552 pages. The book was published in original Czech in 2009. Its English edition was brought out in 2011 by Oxford University Press.
In the book, Sedlacek takes mainstream economics as his clay, digging both his arms up to the elbows in an attempt to explain the beliefs and ethical values underlying modern economics, according to a review by The New York Times.
As sophisticated and mathematical as economics has become, it is ultimately a cultural phenomenon and cannot be free of ethics, so argues Sedlacek, 40.
The book is given a foreword by the former Czech president Vaclav Havel (1936-2011) to whom Sedlacek was once an adviser.
Now a chief macroeconomist at the Czech bank CSOB, Sedlacek argues that all of economics is, in the end, about good and evil. He adds: “Even the most sophisticated mathematical model is, de facto, a story, a parable, our effort to (rationally) grasp the world around us.”
Only in the late 18th century, he argues, did today’s concept of economics emerge as a mathematical science. Before then, he says, economics lived within myths, religion, theology and philosophy. Sedlacek sets out to investigate these origins and to reflect what they might mean for the discipline today.
It is a big, rambling quest, and he yanks his readers along through economic perspectives, practices and meanings in the Old Testament and early Christianity, and in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and others.
Sedlacek offers an interesting insight about the story in Genesis in which Joseph interprets the pharaoh’s dream of seven fat and seven lean cows. The dream, Joseph tells the ruler, means that seven years of abundance will be followed by an equal period of poverty and famine. Joseph advises the pharaoh to store food during the boom, in preparation for the dearth.
Sedlacek identifies this as the “very first historic economic cycle” and calls Joseph’s advice a form of “anti-cyclical fiscal policy,” introduced by English economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946).
Sedlacek devotes a fair bit of attention to unpacking the origins of the ‘invisible hand.’ This metaphor, one of the most powerful in economics, is usually attributed to Scottish economist, philosopher and author Adam Smith. In ‘The Wealth of Nations,’ Smith put forward the idea that the interaction of individual self-interest, supply and demand in a free market produces economically beneficial results for society.
Persuasively Sedlacek argues that this concept did not originate with Smith; its roots go back at least as far as Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century philosopher who suggested in his masterwork ‘Summa Theologica’ that evil things may produce larger, good outcomes “as a consequence of the providence of the governor.”
Sedlacek thus goes further back until he analyzes in economic terms the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, the first great work of literature recorded.