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Morality and Power

On Ethics, Economics and Public Policy Mike Berry, Emeritus Professor, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University, Australia
Offering a compelling critique of orthodox economic analysis in the public realm, Mike Berry exposes the lack of development in economic thinking in public policy since the economic crisis of 2008. Focusing on both the ethically unacceptable outcomes of recent public policy and the threat of populism and rising nationalism, this book offers noteworthy suggestions for an alternative social democratic future. Both students and practitioners of heterodox economics and public policy will find this a compelling insight into the ethical concerns and social impacts raised by the political ascendency of neoliberal policies in recent decades.
Extent: 352 pp
Hardback Price: $145.00 Web: $130.50
Publication Date: 2017
ISBN: 978 1 78643 555 2
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  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Political Economy
  • Public Administration and Management
Morality and Power offers a compelling critique of orthodox economic analysis and its impacts on public policy. Mike Berry argues that the theoretical underpinning of evaluative tools like cost–benefit analysis rests on an incoherent concept of ‘efficiency’ derived from Paretian welfare economics.

Beginning by reviewing the historical progression of economic thought, Berry argues there has been a lack of crucial development in economic thinking in public policy since the economic crisis of 2008. The ethically unacceptable outcomes of the current public policy approach are exposed: most notably the support for policies that accentuate inequality and social polarization; the outbreak of crises in the financial sector, and the treatment of refugees and migrants. Finally, threats to liberal democracies in an age of rampant populism and rising nationalism are examined, offering noteworthy suggestions for an alternative democratic future.

Both students and practitioners of heterodox economics and public policy will find this book a compelling insight into the ethical concerns of neoliberal policies shaped by politicians and policymakers today.


‘This is a wonderful book full of insight and argument about the biggest issues facing humanity. Mike Berry writes with verve and imagination, translating the history of ethics and economics into a manifesto for 21st century public policy. Its scope is something to behold.’
– Gordon Clark, University of Oxford, UK

‘This outstanding book shows why mainstream economics, purporting to be the premier social science, is really neither social nor scientific. Economists’ standard conception of individual rationality ignores the social context, values and power structures that shape actual economic outcomes. Berry’s book takes us through the evolution of key economic ideas about markets,efficiency and welfare, explaining how economists lost their way. It shows how an explicitly ethical alternative can help us to deal with current challenges like financial instability, economic inequality and environmental crisis. It is warmly recommended to readers seeking a more sensible and humane approach to public policy.’
– Frank Stilwell, the University of Sydney, Australia

‘Critical of the dominant neoliberal application of economics to public policy, Berry makes a convincing case for the renewal of ethical principles in search of wealth and the “good life”. Erudite and accessible, this book is an intellectual tour de force that covers the major historical and normative aspects of capitalist economies in its quest for more sustainable alternatives.’
– Manfred B. Steger, University of Hawai’i at Mãnoa, US and RMIT University, Australia
Contents: Preface Part I Foundations 1. Introduction 2. David Hume’s “Judicious Spectator” 3. Bentham’s Legacy 4. J.S. Mill’s Apostasy 5. The Retreat to the Margin Part II Analysis 6. The Concept of Economic Welfare 7. Cambridge versus Lausanne 8. What Is Efficiency? 9. Social Justice and Economic Policy 10. Is Democracy Possible? 11. Building a Consequentialist Framework Part III Outcomes 12. Privatization 13. Inequality 14. Financial Crisis 15. Environmental Crisis 16. Population Crisis 17. The Hollowing of Democracy Epilogue 18. Recapturing the High Ground Index