Saturday, August 6, 2011

Barefoot Economics

AMY GOODMAN: Today we begin with acclaimed Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his book Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics. I sat down with Manfred Max-Neef in Bonn, Germany, at the 30th anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards. I began by asking him to explain just what "barefoot economics" is.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Well, it’s a metaphor, but a metaphor that originated in a concrete experience. I worked for about ten years of my life in areas of extreme poverty in the Sierras, in the jungle, in urban areas in different parts of Latin America. And at the beginning of that period, I was one day in an Indian village in the Sierra in Peru. It was an ugly day. It had been raining all the time. And I was standing in the slum. And across me, another guy also standing in the mud — not in the slum, in the mud. And, well, we looked at each other, and this was a short guy, thin, hungry, jobless, five kids, a wife and a grandmother. And I was the fine economist from Berkeley, teaching in Berkeley, having taught in Berkeley and so on. And we were looking at each other, and then suddenly I realized that I had nothing coherent to say to that man in those circumstances, that my whole language as an economist, you know, was absolutely useless. Should I tell him that he should be happy because the GDP had grown five percent or something? Everything was absurd.

So I discovered that I had no language in that environment and that we had to invent a new language. And that’s the origin of the metaphor of barefoot economics, which concretely means that is the economics that an economist who dares to step into the mud must practice. The point is, you know, that economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don’t understand poverty. And that’s the big problem. And that’s why poverty is still there. And that changed my life as an economist completely. I invented a language that is coherent with those situations and conditions....

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really tried watching the video but my Marxist quota is filled for the weekend. Everyone would still be barefoot if guys like this were in charge.

"We're not using 19th century physics, why are we using 19th century economics?" My barefoot friend, sadly you would like to use 19th century economics. Give Karl a chance.

Tom Hickey said...

Anonymous, I hope you are not barefoot in the mud in your next lifetime. :)

TomatoBasil said...

Amy Goodman's show would be a great place to put MMT in front of the millions in the liberal wing of the democrat party. I wonder if she would... I think their studio is conveniently located in NYC near other media-savvy high profile MMT economists.

Tom Hickey said...

Yes, Democracy NOw seems like a good venue for MMT. Amy Goodman is open to fresh solutions and isn't afraid to push the envelope. We should knock on her door.

rvm said...

Michael Hudson was already in that studio, and he sounds closer to MMT paradigm now.

http://neweconomicperspectives.blogspot.com/2011/08/michael-hudson-interviewed-on-democracy.html

GLH said...

Amy Goodman for President.
I tried one time to send both Amy and Michael Moore messages about MMT, but it's like there is a door no one can get through.
Amy Goodman is the most honest news person alive.