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Folbre

Folbre publishes new book on Greed, Lust, and Gender

The (London) Times Higher Education supplement just published a glowing (and intellectually rich) review of Nancy Folbre‘s new book, Greed, Lust and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas (Oxford University Press).

Greed, Lust, and  Gender by Nancy Folbre
Greed, Lust, and Gender by Nancy Folbre

Invisible hand needs someone to stir the pot. 22 October 2009 By Matthew Reisz (Times Higher Education Supplement)

Reproduction and childcare tend to get short shrift from dismal science. But Nancy Folbre brings to the fore the impact that sex and family can have on economic activity. Matthew Reisz learns the value of home economics

// In 1714, the economist and satirist Bernard Mandeville published a long poem called The Fable of the Bees, which suggested that prosperity is propelled by avarice and a love of luxury. It made him a notable early advocate of the philosophy – which became something of a catchphrase in the 1980s – that “greed is good”.

A decade later, Mandeville wrote “an essay upon whoring”, A Modest Defence of Publick Stews, which made the case for state-run brothels. The city fathers of Amsterdam were absolutely right, he said, to tolerate “Houses in which Women are hired as publickly as Horses at a Livery Stable”.

This may be an extreme example, but it vividly illustrates the central theme of Nancy Folbre’s bold new book, Greed, Lust and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas, which surveys English, French and American thinkers of the past 300 years.

Economists have had a lot to say about greed, fiercely debating whether the naked pursuit of wealth tends to benefit society as a whole or needs to be held in check. Yet since reproduction and childcare are essential for keeping up the supply of new producers and consumers, they have also unavoidably (though not always openly) had to touch on the issues of gender and lust.

Some writers simply assumed that women would, and should, take responsibility for the domestic sphere. Others have seen the family as a harmonious realm of altruism, quite distinct from the ruthless selfishness of the market, presided over by a benign household head who knows what is best for all its members.

Most of these subtexts are ignored in standard histories of economics. So what happens when they are brought to the surface?

Folbre has been professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst since 1991. She co-authored the Field Guide to the U.S. Economy (first published in 1988, with subsequent revisions in 1995, 2000 and 2006), as well as The War on the Poor: A Defense Manual (1996), books she describes as “user-friendly resources to help people understand the numbers and overcome their antipathy towards economic analysis”. Next spring will see the publication of her book Saving State U, which argues for greater public investment in American higher education but also addresses “a kind of parental question about how much we should invest in the kids (and in whose kids)”.

Greed, Lust and Gender arises out of Folbre’s continuing research into family and non-market work, such as a current project that involves “measuring the time that parents put into children and asking what you would have to pay for it if it were withdrawn”. It also reflects her longstanding “interest in the philosophical underpinnings of economics as a discipline”.

The book “emphasises the evolution of a moral double standard that gave men more permission than women to pursue individual self-interest”, she says. “It unpacks debates over sexual self-interest, drawing analogies between greed and lust and exploring the double standard there in some detail. And it insists on the importance of non-market work, especially ‘reproductive work’ – the work of bearing, caring for, socialising and educating the next generation – and shows that efforts to bring this topic under close consideration have a long history.”

As this suggests, Folbre is keen to expose how social institutions and economic theories have often “offered men the possibility of inhabiting both worlds, buying their cake and having it homemade for them, too”. Censuses and national income accounts have focused on paid work and apply words such as “dependent, unoccupied, inactive, non-gainful” to those who are not “economically active”. Yet these adjectives, she writes, “reinforced the assumption that men contributed more than women to economic growth … (They) also literally devalued women’s lives, promoting estimates of the value of a human life based primarily on the value of a future earning stream.”

But while Folbre attacks the myopia and open sexism of much economic theory, she is equally concerned to celebrate how the thinkers of the past can still illuminate our current concerns. Seemingly crazy Utopian ideas can become official policy many decades later (although no one has yet adopted the proposal of the 19th-century French socialist Francois Marie Charles Fourier that everybody has a right to a “sexual minimum”, a safety net analogous to the minimum wage).

Ideas can also be co-opted or subverted to serve new agendas. Folbre praises birth control pioneers Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes, for example, for “seizing the language of individualism, which had traditionally applied to men in the marketplace. They said it applied to women too, in the realm of sex rather than money. I loved the way those ideas morphed in ways very different from those their original progenitors had in mind.”

Of her research for the book, Folbre says: “I had a wonderful time reading and thinking. It also felt very relevant to my policy-related work. I love the force and flow of those ideas. Of course you understand them differently from the people writing then, but they still speak to you and you come back better informed about where you are today. It’s wonderful that you can continue a conversation with some of the people who were thinking about these things hundreds of years ago.”

The textbook idea of the “rational economic man” – calculating, selfish, independent and without attachments to others – has understandably come under fire from feminists, writes Folbre, who want to replace this notion with “an androgynous decision-maker with a complex range of motivations intermediate between the selfish and the selfless”. The plain truth is that we were all once helpless and dependent. “Much as we like to think of ourselves as producers, we are, ourselves, produced.”

Although this may sound like a rather abstract point, it has major policy implications. “We are often told,” claims Folbre, “that Europe risks becoming moribund if it doesn’t drag the hands of retirees off the public purse. But that perspective lacks appreciation of the character of the intergenerational contract.

“The elderly are owed something for what they have produced! The idea that the only thing people do for which they should get a pension is wage work is a little confused, because parents devote an enormous amount of their time and money to raising the next wave of producers and taxpayers. There’s not much discussion of what they should get in return. We need to work out the difference between a parent and a non-parent in terms of what we owe them.”

At the heart of her book, in Folbre’s view, is a 19th-century debate that remains very much alive. “The early socialist feminists”, she writes, “celebrated female altruism and regarded it as a model for society as a whole. In this sense they emphasised the importance of differences between men and women. The early liberal feminists chose a simpler and, in the short run, more successful strategy, celebrating the masculine pursuit of self-interest as a strategy that women could and should adopt for themselves.”

By a strange coincidence, each of these opposing positions was best represented by an intellectual collaboration between a man and a woman, with socialist feminists William Thompson and Anna Wheeler lined up against liberal feminists John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor.

“It was very difficult in the first half of the 19th century for women to find an independent voice in philosophical or scholarly discourse,” explains Folbre, “and here are women who managed to do so via their relationship with a man very much aware of gender inequality. Each became the primary voice for a woman and discussed the fact that they were putting forward ideas that were not entirely theirs.

“Somewhat to my surprise, these two couples became the centre and in some ways the anchor of the book … like characters in a novel who take on a life of their own. I have had the pleasure of many imaginary conversations with them. They anticipated much of what I have to say. If my book finds an audience, it will be theirs as well as mine.”

Postscript :Greed, Lust and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas is published by Oxford University Press.
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Pollin

Pollin calls full employment “a moral imperative” in Gamble address

Here’s the CSBS publicity for the 2009 Gamble Lecture delivered by UMass Econ Professor Robert N. Pollin.

http://www.umass.edu/sbs/news_events/news_stories/gamble_2009.htm

Robert Pollin, 2009 Gamble Lecturer
Robert Pollin, 2009 Gamble Lecturer

Robert Pollin is professor of economics and founding co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research centers on macroeconomics, conditions for low-wage workers in the U.S. and globally, the analysis of financial markets, and the economics of building a clean-energy economy in the U.S.

Most recently, he co-authored the reports “Job Opportunities for the Green Economy” (June 2008) and “Green Recovery” (September 2008), exploring the broader economic benefits of large-scale investments in a clean-energy economy in the U.S. He has worked with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa on policies to promote to promote decent employment expansion and poverty reduction in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. He has also worked with the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress and as a member of the Capital Formation Subcouncil of the U.S. Competiveness Policy Council.

His books include A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the United States (co-authored, 2008); An Employment-Targeted Economic Program for Kenya (co-authored, 2008); An Employment-Targeted Economic Program for South Africa (co-authored, 2007); Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity (2003); and The Living Wage: Building A Fair Economy (co-authored, 1998); and the edited volumes Human Development in the Era of Globalization (co-edited, 2006); Globalization and Progressive Economic Policy (co-edited, 1998); The Macroeconomics of Saving, Finance, and Investment (1997); and Transforming the U.S. Financial System (co-edited, 1993).

The Philip Gamble Memorial Lectureship Endowment was established by Israel Rogosa ’42 and other family and friends in memory of Philip Gamble, a member of the economics faculty from 1935-71 and chair of the department from 1942-65. The fund supports an annual lecture series featuring a prominent economist. Previous speakers in this series have included John Kenneth Galbraith, Joseph Stiglitz, John Nash, James Tobin, Kenneth Arrow, Robert Solow, Barbara Bergmann, Lani Guinier, Robert Reich, Robert Shiller, Dani Rodrik, and Marianne Ferber.

October 1, 2009

Categories
Boyce

UMass’s Boyce joins Nobelist Ostrom in shaking up econ mold

Writing in the Guardian (U.K.) in praise of 2009 Econ Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, B.U. Professor Kevin Gallagher cites the pioneering work of UMass Economist James K. Boyce and 2007 UMass Econ Ph.D. Liz Stanton on “payment for environmental services”:

Elinor Ostrom breaks the Nobel mold The economics profession needs to be shaken up. Ostrom’s Nobel prize should encourage us to take a fresh approach…

Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics
Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics

Some economists on the frontier of their discipline have started to use Ostrom’s insights in their work. In their recent book Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration, James Boyce, Liz Stanton and Sunita Narain, show how communities in Brazil, India, West Africa and even in the United States have managed their resources in a sustainable manner when given their rightful access to their assets.

Indeed, Boyce and his collaborators find that communities should be paid for their services, since they can sometimes do a far better job than government or corporations at managing resources. Indeed, “payment for environmental services” has become a buzzword in development circles. Now even the World Bank has a fund for PES schemes across the world.

Categories
UMass Economics

John de Graaf pops the Big Question at UMass

Filmmaker John de Graaf, critically acclaimed producer of Affluenza, The Motherhood Manifesto, and other socially relevant yet entertaining documentaries, debuted his new film, “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?”  at an eventdegraaf-economy4 sponsored by PERI, CPPA, and the Department of Economics at Gordon Hall  on Wednesday, October 7, 2009.

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Bowles Katzner Resnick

Three UMass Giants Discuss Econ’s Past and Future

In a panel discussion entitled “History of the UMass Economics Department and the Future of Radical Economics,” Professors Donald Katzner and Stephen Resnick and Professor Emeritus Samuel Bowles mixed personal reminiscence and economic analysis to describe the department’s trajectory over the past 40 years.  UMass has broken important ground, but challenges remain for the next generation of UMass-trained economists.

l. to r. Resnick, Bowles, and Katzner
l. to r. Resnick, Bowles, and Katzner

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Epstein

Economics welcomes Epstein as chair

Economics welcomes its new (and former) chair, Professor Jerry Epstein. Here’s the coverage from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Progressive Economist Leads Department, Helps Set Economic Policy

Professor Jerry Epstein, New Chair of Economics
Professor Jerry Epstein, New Chair of Economics

Like many children of the 1960s, Jerry Epstein, new chair of the Department of Economics and co-director (and co-founder) of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), came into adulthood wanting to make the world a better place. “Since economics is one of the key driving forces of our social and political life, I realized that to understand the world and try to change it, I would need to learn more about it ,” Epstein reflects. “That’s why I chose economics, along with political science, as my undergraduate course of study at Swarthmore College.”

From the beginning, though, Epstein was critical of standard approaches to economics and looked for alternatives. “In the 1960s I observed a society that was riddled with war and inequality but my economics courses were not addressing these issues at all.” In graduate school at Princeton, he found a lot of inspiration in the writings of “radical” economists like James Crotty, Sam Bowles, Herb Gintis and David Gordon. “I remember thinking, wouldn’t it be great to teach at a place like UMass Amherst, home of the first three, or the New School, where Gordon taught,” Epstein says. As it turned out, after teaching at Williams College, he landed a job teaching at the New School and in 1986 became an assistant professorship at UMass Amherst.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed with a lucky star, getting my dream job,” Epstein adds, noting that these individuals, who became his senior colleagues, also became extremely important mentors. “The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences in fact has a collection of truly remarkable people—faculty in many departments and administrators in the Dean’s Office. It is big enough to get a lot done and be interesting and small enough that it feels like a community. I hope that doesn’t change.”

Meeting Robert Pollin, then a graduate student at the New School, at a conference when Epstein too was in graduate school marked the beginning of another enterprise. “We became friends, and later associates at UMass Amherst,” he says. “When he was a professor at the University of California at Riverside, we came up with the idea of starting a research institute. The outcome about 12 years ago was the creation of PERI. We do nationally recognized work in egalitarian macroeconomic policy analysis for the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, the development of green jobs, peace building and the environment, living wages, financial reform, and other areas.”

Epstein’s focus has been researching financial markets and monetary policy, including the Federal Reserve. “I have studied the role of the influence of banks and other powerful actors in affecting monetary policy and have, along with others, developed ideas for reforming the Fed and the financial system, making it more democratic and accountable. We are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and one of the causes was poor financial regulation,” Epstein says. “Recently, I brought together a group of economists, analysts and policymakers who are devising solutions to the crisis and developing reforms to dramatically reduce the chances of this happening again.”

Taking over as chair of the Economics Department, Epstein says, is likely to be exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. Speaking from his earlier experience of leading the department ten years ago, he says, “I’ll really enjoy getting to know everyone in the department and many more people, both faculty and administrators, around the University. It’s so easy to live in your own little world here on campus, but as chair you get pulled into the large world of the place. You won’t like everything you see, but you get to see and experience a lot. It’s also fun to get to know alumni, many of whom have devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to helping our department.”

Epstein says that he loves working one-on-one with students, both graduates and undergraduates. “Of course, I have to teach my share of large lectures too, but it is the person-to-person discussions and advising that I truly love.”

In Epstein’s “off-campus hours” he enjoys speaking to non-academic groups interested in economic issues which he has done for many years through the Center for Popular Economics, an Amherst based group of economists that teaches the subject to lay people and political activists. “I also am married to a woman who insists that I do at least half the housework and child care. In fact, she wrote the book on this. (Halving It All: How Equally Sharing Parenting Works (Harvard University Press) by Francine Deutsch, professor of psychology at Mount Holyoke). I also try to find some time to study French—when I finish my household chores.”

But mostly, Epstein’s life revolves around the Department of Economics. “It is one of the top departments in the nation for giving a critical understanding of how our economy works and for helping students find a constructive area of interest to pursue in their lives,” he notes. “We have a strong alumni group that supports students. Our faculty are committed educators who are also deeply involved in the important issues of the day: global warming, gender equality, gay and lesbian issues, employment and equality, economic development, financial reform and regulations, to name just a few.”

September 24, 2009

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Wolff

Wolff: Capitalism has hit the fan. What next?

UMass Professor Emeritus Rick Wolff has electrified audiences nationally with a lecture based on his new book, Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to do About It.  He recently spoke at UMass.Richard Wolff  At UMass: Capitalism Hits the Fan

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Boyce

Boyce advises California governor on arresting climate change

UMass Professor of Economics James K. Boyce will join an all-star panel to advise California on implementing cap-and-trade emissions program to reduce carbon emissions. Boyce has focused on combining equity and efficiency in climate-change policy.  Here’s the coverage from UMass In the Loop.

Boyce advising Calif. officials on cap-and-trade emissions program

James K. Boyce To Advise Governor Schwarzenegger
James K. Boyce To Advise Governor Schwarzenegger

Economics professor James K. Boyce has been appointed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to a 16-member panel that will advise the state on implementing a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gases.

Three years ago, California adopted the Global Warming Solutions Act, aimed at cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A key element of that plan is the creation of a cap-and-trade program that is part of a regional market involving other participants in the Western Climate Initiative.

A faculty member since 1983, Boyce directs the environment program at the Political Economy Research Institute. His current work focuses on strategies for combining poverty reduction with environmental protection, and on the relationship between economic policies and issues of war and peace. Boyce is the co-editor of “Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration” (2007) and author of “The Political Economy of the Environment,” published in 2002.

Boyce and other members of the Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee will provide recommendations on the allocation of allowances and the use of their value. The economic, financial and policy experts will also evaluate the implications of different allowance allocation strategies. The committee is expected to submit a report to the California Air Resources Board by the end of the year.

“By designing a cap-and-trade program that will achieve our greenhouse gas reduction goals without impairing robust economic growth, California has the opportunity to provide a model for the rest of the country, and indeed the rest of the world,” said Schwarzenegger in his appointment letter to the committee. “The committee’s input will be critical to the design of such a program, so it is no exaggeration to say that the eyes of the world will be upon your work.”

The Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee is chaired by Larry Goulder, the Shuzo Nishihara Professor in Environmental and Resource Economics at Stanford University.June 24, 2009.

Economics professor James K. Boyce has been appointed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to a 16-member panel that will advise the state on implementing a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gases.

Three years ago, California adopted the Global Warming Solutions Act, aimed at cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A key element of that plan is the creation of a cap-and-trade program that is part of a regional market involving other participants in the Western Climate Initiative.

A faculty member since 1983, Boyce directs the environment program at the Political Economy Research Institute. His current work focuses on strategies for combining poverty reduction with environmental protection, and on the relationship between economic policies and issues of war and peace. Boyce is the co-editor of “Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration” (2007) and author of “The Political Economy of the Environment,” published in 2002.

Boyce and other members of the Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee will provide recommendations on the allocation of allowances and the use of their value. The economic, financial and policy experts will also evaluate the implications of different allowance allocation strategies. The committee is expected to submit a report to the California Air Resources Board by the end of the year.

“By designing a cap-and-trade program that will achieve our greenhouse gas reduction goals without impairing robust economic growth, California has the opportunity to provide a model for the rest of the country, and indeed the rest of the world,” said Schwarzenegger in his appointment letter to the committee. “The committee’s input will be critical to the design of such a program, so it is no exaggeration to say that the eyes of the world will be upon your work.”

The Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee is chaired by Larry Goulder, the Shuzo Nishihara Professor in Environmental and Resource Economics at Stanford University.June 24, 2009.

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Categories
Badgett

Badgett testimony moves California

Econ Professor and CPPA Director Badgett is the leading social scientist of the economic lives of gay men and lesbians.  Her expert testimony played a key role in the California State Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage.

Badgett Plays Role in Golden State Decision on Nuptials

Lee Badgett

Professor Lee Badgett (economics and public policy), director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration and an expert on the economic characteristics of same-sex couples, played a pivotal role in the California court’s decision to allow same-sex marriage. Not only did she serve as an expert witness in the case, she also co-authored an amicus brief in support of gay marriage that was used numerous times in the California Supreme Court chief justice’s oral arguments on the economic characteristics of same-sex couples.

“The amicus brief made the point that same-sex couples are similarly situated financially to other couples,” Badgett says. “When you compare same-sex couples with kids to different-sex married couples with kids, they look very similar in financial terms and in terms of having a stay-at-home parent. The court’s decision picked up on this general point, noting that same-sex couples with kids have the same need for access to marriage that different-sex couples with kids would have.”

California—the second state to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage—could capitalize on Massachusetts’ mistakes, according to Badgett. She says California could experience an interstate wedding industry boom if it welcomes same-sex couples from across the country. Badgett sees something similar to when San Francisco briefly allowed same-sex marriages.

“Four years ago, when same-sex couples were married in San Francisco, couples from 46 different states flew to San Francisco to get married,”‘ says Badgett. “California is now in a position to get a state economic boost for the exact same thing.”

Badgett thinks Massachusetts has overlooked a potentially viable economic opportunity by not recognizing many out-of-state couples seeking to marry here. The Bay State only permits gay marriages for residents and residents of states where gay marriage is also allowed. “Massachusetts could have had that boost from out-of-town couples, but now that we have laws stating that if they are married here, they won’t necessarily be recognized in their home states,” Badgett says. “Simply put, we’re not letting same-sex couples marry from out of state.”

After an initial wedding boom, Badgett says California will likely return to a state of normalcy. “My prediction is that, if everything comes according to plan, I think that things will get back to normal very quickly,” Badgett says. “In California, people will begin to realize that the sky will not fall and that there will be couples that are very ecstatic about this decision.”

Overall, Badgett says, Thursday’s ruling is an important milestone for same-sex marriage. “It’s another indication that the world is changing and that the world is recognizing the need for equality,” Badgett says. “The other important thing is that it shows that domestic partnership is not equivalent to marriage.”

May 19, 2008

Adapted from an article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton) by Andrew Horton, staff writer, that appeared on 5/16/2008.