Home > Uncategorized > Trumponomics and the inadequacies of the mainstream neoclassical economics orthodoxy.

Trumponomics and the inadequacies of the mainstream neoclassical economics orthodoxy.

from Julie Nelson

I thought that any reasonable person would be revolted by the narcissistic, juvenile, bullying, lying behavior of the Republican candidate, and realize that he was clearly unfit for office. As an economist, I was taken aback by the variously kleptocratic and fantastical aspects of Trump’s intended economic directions. As a feminist and ecological economist, I was especially appalled by Trump’s braggadocious pussy-grabbing and climate-change-denying. While, according to the popular vote, a majority of voters saw Trump this way, my assumptions clearly did not apply to a substantial and vocal minority.

On further reading, conversing, and reflection, however, I’ve come to think that the causes of this disastrous event are not unrelated to something that I’ve been writing about for a long time: the inadequacies of the mainstream neoclassical economics orthodoxy. Mainstream economics and liberal political philosophy have in common a particular story about human beings and how we relate to each other in society. Both have emphasized individuality, reason, freedom, and a marketplace or public sphere in which agent-citizens interact, at somewhat of a distance, as peers and equals.  Both have, correspondingly, neglected much about what makes us human, and about how we evolved as social beings. My serious mistake was in thinking that we, as a discipline and a society, might be able to move past this one-sided view in a positive direction.  read more


  1. April 8, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Hello Julie Nelson,

    I enjoyed your article and the nuance you supply by recognizing us as social beings in individual and complex relationships. I am a Californian who has lived near your University for almost 25 years and have spent this winter in California. Here I have associated with a few male Trump voters who are life-long friends. After taking him at his word and supporting someone vilified by elites from both oligarchic parties, they now see Trump as unreliable. Personally, I went with the Green candidate and would have done so voting in any state.

    Thank you for exposing internal contradictions that bind all American citizens in a seemingly endless spiral of violence and greed. I hope you don’t mind my small additions for consideration.

    Many women stand for their equal rights yet refuse to notice that a woman candidate for president was involved in continuing US government atrocities against women world-wide.

    Many environmentalists grieve over global climate collapse and specie extinction yet live a way of life that requires more than one Earth to absorb and recycle their pollution.

    All Americans live in a country that terrorizes humanity with weapons of mass destruction and eternal war yet refuse to admit they are therefor terrorists.

    Humanity is one race. La raza humana,

    Garrett Connelly

  2. April 8, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    This is one of the finest short critiques of Neoclassical that I’ve seen:
    “The neoclassical orthodoxy focuses on markets and perhaps the public sphere, but categorizes families and unpaid work as ‘non-economic’.
    “The discipline adheres to exaggerated notions of (strictly logical) reason, while neglecting emotion and embodiment. It sees the economy in terms of autonomous agents, while glossing over all connection, dependency, and interdependency. It elevates self-interest, considering an interest in the well-being of others to be an anomalous and largely unnecessary trait. It defines objective ‘rigor’ in terms of detachment and abstraction, treating normative or moral concerns as overly subjective, and assuming they can be safely denied or excluded. It elevates mathematical proof and fine-tuned econometric methods while downplaying detailed, concrete observation and good, verbal narratives.”

    Although I’d quibble with the “perhaps” in “perhaps the public sphere” (Richard Musgrave’s fine Theory of Public Finance excepted), I find your statement not really debatable. What is debatable, given these serious biases, is whether the Neoclassical can ever be useful, no matter how thoroughly reformed.

    One issue that I’d like to see explored more thoroughly, central to any feminist or ecological framework, is the maldistribution of political power. Power, by definition, must be equalized in so-called “representative agents.” The subject of political power also is missing from Neoclassical, from the root assumptions and from theories of trade as well. Your “asymmetric mutuality” is a good focus.

    Also, implicit in your term “embodiment” is intuition which, in my experience in political-economic activism, is central to the behavior of politicians. Intuition as an equal to intellect and emotion, not as in the disrespectful insecure-male expression “women’s intuition”.

    And this leaves me breathless: “the two become one, and the one is the husband.” Wow!

    Good article.

  3. April 9, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Much of this goes back to humans’ (homo Sapiens) invention of money as a universally agreed way of humans trusting one another. According to Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Sapiens,

    “Money is based on two universal principles: a. Universal convertibility: with money as an alchemist, you can turn land into loyalty, justice into health, and violence into knowledge. b. Universal trust: with money as a go-between, any two people can cooperate on any project. These principles have enabled millions of strangers to cooperate effectively in trade and industry. But these seemingly benign principles have a dark side. When everything is convertible, and when trust depends on anonymous coins and cowry shells, it corrodes local traditions, intimate relations and human values, replacing them with the cold laws of supply and demand.


    Money has an even darker side. For although money builds universal trust between strangers, this trust is invested not in humans, communities or sacred values, but in money itself and in the impersonal systems that back it. We do not trust the stranger, or the next-door neighbour – we trust the coin they hold. If they run out of coins, we run out of trust. As money brings down the dams of community, religion and state, the world is in danger of becoming one big and rather heartless marketplace.”

    Humans’ distinctive feature, intellectually is its imagination. Money is purely imagined. People imagined a new inter-subjective reality that existed nowhere except in humans’ shared imagination. But imagination is powerful. And in the case of money not at all benign. The economic history of humankind is a delicate balance. People rely on money but fear it will corrupt human values and relationships, and thereby destroy the communal connections upon which human life depends and in which it developed. They continue to use money. That use can either destroy humanity or humans are able to construct barriers that protect society, religion, and the physical environment from enslavement to money. Right now I think it’s clear humanity’s barriers are breaking down or broken. If it goes much further as a species we’re looking at an unpleasant end. Wealthy and dead.

  4. charlie
    April 11, 2017 at 5:08 am

    thank you Garrett Connelly you speak my mind …

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