Much of modern economic theory is based on a rather unflattering view of human nature, one that is essentially selfish and materialistic. Not surprisingly, this incomplete version of human anthropology makes for some rather incomplete economic theory, argues Edward Hadas in Human Goods, Economic Evils. Hadas argues that human beings are not simply utility maximizers, but seek to "maximize" morality in their everyday economic lives. For Hadas, economic man is moral man, who always strives for the good according to his nature. While the weakness of human nature ensures that the good is never fully achieved, economic activity is nevertheless best understood as part of the great moral enterprise of humanity.
Human Goods, Economic Evils does not claim that the basic economic activities of laboring and consuming are the most important things in life, but they are literally vital, and as such deserve to be studied and understood through a more morally sympathetic view of human nature. With this in mind, Human Goods, Economic Evils provides both lay readers and policymakers the intellectual tools necessary to judge what is right and what is wrong about the modern economy, and returns the study of economics to its proper, more humanistic sphere.
What They're Saying...
"Building on wide reading in classical and contemporary economic theory as well as on the breadth and depth of the Catholic theological tradition, Hadas proposes looking afresh at economics through the categories of labor . . . and consumption . . . set within a hierarchical framework of values."
— Amos Young Religious Studies Review
"Hadas also shines a piercing light on economists' inablity to take account of activities which are clearly of economic (and human) benefit. The classic example is motherhood."
— Times Online
"It is refreshing, occasionally, to read something that carries one back from economics through political economy to moral philosophy, back to the roots of our discipline.
Although this book is mainly about modern, free market, 'industrial' economies, its author seeks a deeper, philosophical unity that covers…not only all contemporary economies but all economies in the past (and in the future , to the extent they can be imagined)…Hadas attempts to build his unity on two firm beliefs: that human nature never changes and that its main characteristic is profound soul-desire and mind-demand for 'The Good.' A fatal flaw in human nature is said to be moral weakness (original sin), which prevents people from achieving The Good, or even recognizing what it is; hence the 'evils' in the book’s title."
— Colin Richardson, Imperial College, London
"Edward Hadas does not seek to undermine economics so much as to complete it… Besides the paean to undervalued service, Hadas launches a broadside on so-called "homo economicus", that non-existing paradigm invented by economists to simplify their task. The subtitle of Human Goods, Economic Evils gives readers a clear indication of the ground covered… The book is clever, well researched, thought provoking, and ambitious."
— Times Literary Supplement
"Modern economic theory has been called a “dismal science” because it has been focused on the “stuff,” processes, and numbers of economics rather than on its human face. This book attempts to re-establish economics on a more realistic moral and anthropological foundation... Hadas rightly argues that economics plays an essential but nevertheless “supporting role” in the overall scheme of human affairs. In the end, he defends the modern industrial economy for its overall contributions to human well-being, but warns that potential abuses (because of human moral weakness) are best checked by stronger governmental regulation. The result is a commendable effort to “redeem” the human understanding of homo economicus."
— Religious Studies Review
"Many observations expressed in this book—on the adequacy of GDP (gross domestic product) as a measure of social well-being, on conspicuous consumption, on the nurturing effects of fulfilling labor—have been made before. What distinguishes this effort is its religious perspective. Though ostensibly a work in economic philosophy… the recurrent appeals to Christian theology put this book more properly in the domain of religious thought."
"Hadas is absolutely correct in asserting that, 'conventional economics is based on false premises about human nature, comes to many false conclusions and ignores many important facts." His insight is critical to the reconstruction of economics that is necessary if economists are to describe and analyze economic affairs correctly and offer sound advice to policymakers."
— Journal of Markets and Morality