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The economic heresy of Herman Daly

Lissa Harris

If economics is a religion, the World Bank is perhaps its grandest church.

For the last half century, the venerable institution in Washington D.C. has been dispatching its missionaries around the globe, spreading the theology of the free market to the heathens.

And if economics is a religion, Herman Daly is its arch-heretic, a member of the high priesthood turned renegade. From 1988 to 1994, Daly was the World Bank’s senior environmental economist, a voice of dissent in an organization which frowns on unbelievers. During his six-year tenure, Daly, the economist- turned-ecovisionary whose works established ecological economics as a discipline, succeeded in getting the WB to take notice of the environment in its policies and programs. But he made little headway persuading his colleagues to adopt his more radical views on economic cosmology, which – in his vision – placed the economy within the global ecosystem, instead of vice versa.

At last, frustrated with the institution’s unwieldy bureaucracy and antiquated policies, he resigned. In his farewell speech to his World Bank colleagues, he advised that they take “a few antacids and laxatives to cure the combination of managerial flatulence and organizational constipation” and prescribed for good measure, “new glasses and a hearing aid” to aid the WB in dealing with the outside world.

It was Daly’s parting shot not only at the World Bank, but at the entire edifice of neoclassical economics. First a believer, then a reformer, he is now content to remain outside the fold as a professor at the University of Maryland, working not in its economics department but in its school of public policy. “That’s not accidental,” he says. “They [the economists] would not have me, and I would not go.”

Speaking with me on the telephone from his home in Hyattsville, Md., Daly seems an unlikely rebel. He is affable and soft-spoken — but unswerving in his conviction that it is high time for a new world order. “Rather than redemption of the WB, I think it’s probably time to have a model of death and resurrection,”

he says. “Kill them off and start over again with something new.”

Source: Extracted from Independent Green News

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