Yesterday in Mariënkroonun, during the EoC Summer School, there was a fruitful exchange of views between Italian and Dutch economists on the EoC and its environs.
by Sibiel van Haastrecht
What place do interest, reciprocity and happiness have in the economy? These questions were at the centre of the academic discussion that took place yesterday, 25 August 2017 in Mariënkroon, Holland, as part of the open meeting of experts with seventy participants. It took place as the initiative of the Thomas More Foundation and the Focolare Movement during the EoC Research Summer School 2017.
In the meeting room, the participants were arranged in two circles: on the inside, discussing with each other, two Italian professors Luigino Bruni (LUMSA University ) and Vittorio Pelligra (University of Cagliari), two Dutch professors, Erik Borgman and Lans Bovemberg from the University of Tilburg together with Joost van der Net, the director of the Thomas More Foundation were seated. The observers, sitting in the outer circle, followed the conversations and at the end they had the opportunity to respond or ask questions.
Luigino Bruni's first "provocation" was about happiness and poverty. "If we think that happiness is an individual quest and that the poor person is poor by their own fault, then there is nothing to do for us". Lans Bovenberg replied that there is a synergy between the individual search for happiness and collective wellbeing: the two realities are not in contrast and can constitute a win-win situation. Vittorio Pelligra stated that even though economics tends to assume that there is a direct relationship between well-being and wealth, happiness has much to do with the virtues, dignity and appreciation of life and is not so much linked to the economy.The discussion continued with various talks on reciprocity and gift in the economy, with references to Protestant theology and the three forms of love: eros, philia and agape. Luigino Bruni concluded the session by saying that the first duty of an economist is to love. Research shows that 95% of everything we do in our lives contains reciprocity.
The meeting concluded with some questions from the public on the role of companies, short- and long-term development models and on the power structures in companies.
Some statements by the experts worth reflecting on:
Vittorio Pelligra: "Economists need to dialogue with scientists of other disciplines and integrate their knowledge into economics. This can only be a benefit for everyone".
Erik Borgman: "Society is complex. Economists tend to simplify reality with economic models. It is very likely that these are not capable of describing reality. It is important to keep up curiosity for everything that we cannot "contain"; we are only part of the total reality. The Economy of Communion shows us something about what already exists but that economists still have to discover".
Lans Bovenberg: "In secondary school teaching practice the emphasis is on the fact that man is selfish and self-interested. Instead, we must return to the Greek origins of the word economy - oikonomia - the good management of the family".
Luigino Bruni: "We economists want to measure everything. Productivity can be measured. But mercy cannot be measured. Through other eyes, you can see the same reality in a different way”.
Joost van der Net: "Telling stories can be another way to describe what is happening in the economy”.
The EoC Research Summer School, which was the background to this interesting meeting of economists, will close tomorrow, Sunday 27 August. We will keep you updated.