In 2024, post-neoclassical economic thinking is more prominent than it has been since the 1980s. In academia, post-neoclassical economists have claimed their share of the limelight, with concepts such as degrowth (Hickel, Kallis, Steinberger, Parrique…), doughnut economics (Raworth), mission economics (Mazzucato), modern monetary theory (Kelton, Wray), ergodicity economics (Peters) and others. A synthesis is starting to emerge, with Hickel’s 2023 claim that degrowth and modern monetary theory are strategic complements, and should be used as two aspects of the same theoretical framework. Meanwhile, decision makers are sitting up and paying attention, with the European Parliament hosting the Beyond Growth 2023 high profile conference.
This is not a coincidence. This new economic thinking paves the way to economic policies previously thought unsound, like federal job guarantees and universal basic services. Such retooling is welcome at a time when humanity is facing a difficult polycrisis, with climate change putting a growing pressure on social and economic systems.
What is still missing is a way to operationalize this progress into actual policy. New economic models tend to be high-level and static: they make the point that never-seen-before societal arrangements are possible, but they are vague on how we get there. The seminar aims to contribute to plugging this gap by proposing policy mixes that are optimized for the future, but also viable in the current system. Its core output, then, is an ambitious, yet realistic pathway to an economy compliant with the Paris Agreement. This has some precedents in science fiction, like Yanis Varoufakis’s Another now and Kim Stanley Robinson’s The ministry for the future.
The seminar’s output consists of two descriptions of a future economic system.
One description is in the form of an encyclopedia entry dedicated to that system. The history of how that system came to pass is part of each entry, in the style of previous Lab work on Witnesspedia (example). This part draws from applied economics, including public finance, public micro, industrial, monetary, and development economics, paying attention to recent contributions from non-neoclassical economics. It contains a plausible future history for a Paris Agreement-compliant economy. If time allows, we could decide to develop more than one such entry, each representing a different economy (for example, one inspired by a middle-income country and one by an island state).
The other description is artistic. It could be a short story, a set of illustrations, or something else, depending on the group involved. Its role is to bring to life the economic system being designed, so that a conversation can be had about it that does not exclude everyone who is not a professional economist (example).
All outputs are published with open licenses.
The output will result from a facilitated process, organized into two-hours sessions. In each session, small groups (about 5 participants each) will produce a draft of one part of the encyclopedia entry: for example, one group could work on anti-monopoly policies, another one on labor laws, and so on. This formula is borrowed from Space Economy Camp.
Once the seminar is over, the organizers will spend some time finalizing the output.
We aim for a group of 20 participants, built in such a way that all the main competences are represented. The relative majority of the group consists of people with policy experience: civil servants, politicians (for example mayors or former mayors). We also need academics (economists, social scientists and economic anthropologists, perhaps one futurist); people from civil society; and a few (two or three science fiction authors and artists). The Global South must be adequately represented. We pay attention to gender balance.
Recruitment happens through our own network. We ask people we trust (tier 1) to participate, and also to nominate others (tier 2) for participation. This leads us to a long list (around 100 people). From that list, we cherrypick in order to achieve the desired mix.
A provisional wishlist of tier 1 people exists, but, as a matter of courtesy, we do not it share before we have been able to reach out to each person individually – they are, after all, our trusted colleagues and friends.
Facilitators! They are important for efficient work.
We may need to support some participants with reimbursed travel. We assume that accommodation on site will be provided.
Day 1: Sharing and discovering. This day features a keynote by Ha-Joon Chang, as well as field visit to exploring the Messina advanced cluster (info in Italian) as a real-life science fiction economy.
Days 2 and 3: two-hours thematic parallel sessions. Each session imagines an aspect of a fictional, radically different, conceptually sound economy. For example, one session might be dedicated to welfare, one to monetary policy and so on.
Day 4 is dedicated to curation of the materials generated, with a view towards publication. Most participants will probably leave at this point. We will create a smaller curation group on a voluntary basis.