Herman Daly and the True Costs of Economics

Herman Daly and the True Costs of Economics Excerpted from Wisdom for a Livable Planet: The Visionary Work of Terri Swearingen, Dave Foreman, Wes Jackson, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Werner Fornos, Herman Daly, Stephen Schneider, and David Orr, by Carl N. McDaniel, published by Trinity University Press, San Antonio, Texas. Used be permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. President Harry S. Truman was frustrated by the advice his council of economic advisors was giving him. On the one hand, its members would tell him, you should raise interest rates. On the other hand, they said, you should lower them. In exasperation Truman pronounced, “I’m tired of this one hand, other hand business. What I want is a good one-armed economist.” In response to this story, told at a public forum by another panel member, the economist Herman Daly leaned forward in his chair and, with a slight forward motion of his upper body, he propelled his right arm up—his only arm. Placing his hand on the back of his neck, Daly commented, “Well, I was too young for Harry Truman, but I am here now. His prophecy has been fulfilled.” Why are economists equivocal? After all, even in Truman’s time, economics was paramount among the social sciences. The discipline achieved its academic and political status in large part because, in an attempt to be a science like physics, it grounded...

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