Saturday, September 4, 2021

Seven Deadly Economic Sins: Obstacles to Prosperity and Happiness Every Citizen Should Know (James R. Otteson)

The seven deadly sins that many of us know include greed, pride, wrath, and others. These sins are human flaws that can impact our happiness and the well-being of others. James R. Otteson, a professor and economist at Notre Dame, believes there are economic sins as well that wreak havoc on our lives and on society. Those economic sins are outlined in his new book Seven Deadly Economic Sins: Obstacles to Prosperity and Happiness Every Citizen Should Know.

Otteson’s seven economic sins are misconceptions held by many (including a good number of economists) about wealth, progress, equality, and the markets (not just the stock variety). Otteson mixes his arguments with economic theory and moral philosophy, drawing on Adam Smith as one of his primary inspirations. He also ropes in Greek, Roman, and other early Western thinkers to help shape his arguments. Not all of his arguments will be agreeable to economists, and some will resonate more strongly than others. His strongest argument, in my opinion, rests with “Progress is not inevitable.” See the Dark Ages and China’s lost century as evidence for moments where civilizations can take significant steps back. 

Seven Deadly Economic Sins is geared towards those with an interest in business, economics, philosophy, and even history. While I did not agree with all of the author’s arguments, his research and reasoning are well-founded and solid throughout the book. One intriguing part of the so-called “dismal science” known as economics is that there is often plenty of room for debate and discussion on issues. Otteson’s seven deadly economic sins certainly warrant closer examination, more study, and debate. Whether his views are the ones that take hold or another theory comes forth is yet to be determined.