The not so worldly philosophers: Why mainstream economics can’t be green

Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy 2010; 1:T3-10

The economic theory that serves as the basis for coordinating economic activities in the global market system and for implementing economic solutions for environmental problems is neoclassical economics. In economic textbooks, the creators of this theory are credited with transforming the study of economics into a rigorously mathematical scientific discipline. But what is not widely known is that neoclassical economic theory was created by substituting economic constructs derived from classical economics for physical variables in the equations of a soon-to-be outmoded mid-nineteenth century theory in physics. The mathematical formalism that resulted from these substitutions was predicated on unscientific axiomatic assumptions that remained essentially unchanged in subsequent extensions and refinements of neoclassical economic theory. And this explains why the mathematical formalism used by contemporary practitioners of neoclassical economic theory effectively precludes the prospect of implementing scientifically viable economic solutions for a broad range of very menacing environmental problems.

Key words: Neoclassical economics, invisible hand, global warming, two culture problem.