Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street

By Tomas Sedlacek | Go to book overview

Foreword

Václav Havel

I had the opportunity to read Tomas Sedlacek’s book before it was published in the Czech Republic in 2009 under the same title, and it was obvious that it was an unconventional view on a scientific discipline that—as the general belief has it—is exceptionally dull. Of course I was taken with the book, and I was curious about the kind of interest it would provoke in other readers. To the surprise of both the author and publisher, it immediately drew so much attention in the Czech Republic that it became a bestseller within a few weeks, and both experts and the general public were talking about it. By coincidence, Tomas Sedlacek was at that time also a member of the Czech government’s National Economic Council, which, in its behavior as well as its views on long-term goals, stood in sharp contrast to the quarrelsome political environment, which usually doesn’t think further than the next election.

Instead of self-confident and self-centered answers, the author humbly asks fundamental questions: What is economics? What is its meaning? Where does this new religion, as it is sometimes called, come from? What are its possibilities and its limitations and borders, if there are any? Why are we so dependent on permanent growing of growth and growth of growing of growth? Where did the idea of progress come from, and where is it leading us? Why are so many economic debates accompanied by obsession and fanaticism? All of this must occur to a thoughtful person, but only rarely do the answers come from economists themselves.

The majority of our political parties act with a narrow materialistic focus when, in their programs, they present the economy and finance first; only then, somewhere at the end, do we find culture as something pasted on or as a libation for a couple of madmen. Whether they are on the right or left, most of them—consciously or unconsciously—accept and spread the Marxist thesis of the economic base and the spiritual superstructure.

It may all be related to how economics as a scientific discipline frequently tends to be mistaken for mere accounting. But what good is accounting when much of what jointly shapes our lives is difficult to calculate or is completely incalculable? I wonder what such an economist-accountant

-ix-

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