· Define economics in terms of popular usage.
·Put economics into perspective by relating it to other important areas of human culture like ecology, psychology and philosophy.
Two class periods
Written or oral responses to study questions, and completion of story can be turned in for a grade.
1. Do step 1 from Activity 1-1 if skipped Activity 1-1.
2. Introduce and have students read the handout: "A Royal Meeting."
3. Have students work in small groups to discuss and answer the questions in the handout. Make sure students understand the vocabulary or have access to a dictionary.
4. Ask students to write an ending to the story. Suggested length for this assignment is one page.
5. Facilitate a class discussion based on the students' writing about how the goals of economics change when we consider the non-material needs of humans and the needs of nature.
A Royal Meeting
Once upon a time, in a Queendom far, far away, there were two young children of the royal family. They were both boys and their names were Economicos and Technologicos. They were not the only children, but their three sisters, Ecologia, Psyche and Philosophia, were much older and had grown up and ventured beyond the boundaries of the Queendom.
Certain conditions made early life for the two younger children very different from what it had been for the older sisters. Not long after the births of Economicos and Technologicos, their mother, the Queen of the land, disappeared mysteriously while out on one of her solitary walks into the forest. Her husband became the new ruler, and being grief-stricken at the loss of his companion, did not take another bride. Further, the new ruler, being a superstitious type, thought the misfortune of losing the Queen was a result of the way they had brought up the first children. Ecologia, Psyche and Philosophia had been given many freedoms and had been allowed a youth full of wonder and imagination.
To rectify his mistakes, the ruler raised the two youngest children in a much more strict and logical way. There was not much time for play or experimentation for Economicos and Technologicos. The Arts and Humanities, and even much of the Social Sciences, played little part in their education.
When Economicos and Technologicos were young adults, their father died, still saddened by the loss of his wife, but confident that he had helped to make amends by reforming the Queendom. He even gave the country a new name, Capitalis. The two brothers then ruled together. Their goals were simple: through innovation, specialization and material productivity, they would increase the material standard of living throughout the land. Those who had the largest schemes and the most resources at their disposal were given the money and freedom necessary for their projects. Others would benefit from the various jobs necessary to keep the wheels of progress moving.
Roads were built, forests were cleared, every kind of machine was invented. New weapons were made and sold to other countries who feared for their security in the fast changing world. Many diseases were eliminated and much toil was reduced. But there were other effects of the rapid advancement as well. The water, soil and air became poisoned. Rivers actually became so full of synthetic chemicals that they caught on fire. For some reason, the rich kept getting richer while the poor got poorer. The weapons of destruction became more and more life-threatening. And people lost their ability to relate cooperatively and without inhibition with each other and the rest of nature. New diseases, related to stress and hazardous substances, took the place of the old ones. And many wars were fought over control of the markets and resources necessary to keep the machine of progress running.
This went on for generations as the male descendants of Economicos and Technologicos inherited the rulership. Meanwhile, the descendants of Ecologia, Psyche and Philosophia developed another society, called Humanitas, in a remote region relatively unaffected by the changes sweeping over a great part of the world. But finally the changes reached their doorstep too. Having been raised to value the Arts, Humanities and the Social Sciences, the offspring of Ecologia, Psyche and Philosophia did not welcome the intensity of the new thrust toward rationalism, materialism and militarization. Feeling a familial connection with Economicos and Technologicos, their government sent three female ambassadors named, appropriately, Ecologia, Psyche and Philosophia to discuss the matter.
The three were received well, though they were generally viewed as being soft and impractical in comparison to those of the society of Capitalis. Two government leaders, also named for their forebears, were selected to discuss the matter with the ambassadors from afar. And so the five gathered together at a retreat center in the hills of the government compound.
Philosophia began the discussion by expressing her people's concern over the spread of the culture of Capitalis. She said that the ambition and materialism of their ways was wiping out the pursuit of higher knowledge of human possibility and deadening the life of imagination and intuition. She said that it was unethical that some should have so much while others do not have even enough to meet their basic needs. She said this was bound to cause resentment and violence. She reminded her hosts that the wisdom of the ancients counsels us to simplify and uplift our desires rather than simply seeking to fulfill them without question.
Economicos and Technologicos responded that life had improved immensely under the influence of Capitalis. They pointed out that freedom and wealth had been extended to many who never dreamed of either before. They reminded their guests that differences in wealth have always existed, and that absolute equality could only come at the cost of giving up our freedom. They said that members of their society were free to choose their material destiny, whether they would be rich or poor.
The three listened with patience. Then, after a pause, Ecologia said that these were noble accomplishments. But, she continued, one of the great learnings of Nature is that life depends on balance. Too much of even a good thing becomes a poison. There is proof of this in the fact that your industry has altered and poisoned the air and water and soil upon which we all depend. We are not outside, but within the fabric of life. The soil and air and water and other creatures are the threads of that fabric no less than we. What is done to one is done to all.
Economicos and Technologicos both felt strange sensations inside. But they did not want to appear weak, so they responded quickly. They assured the three that they were capable of solving the problems of the environment through scientific innovations. They also said that every benefit has its costs and that the benefits of their society outweigh the costs.
Again there was a pause. Psyche broke the silence by saying that sometimes costs are hidden. Sometimes it is hard to place a value on things. What is the value of peace of mind? What is the value of being a whole person, balanced in the skills of thought, feeling, intuition and sensation? What is the value of knowing a wide range of things, rather than being trained in only one area of knowledge? What is the value of uninhibited friendship? What is the value of knowing you are passing on an unpolluted and peaceful Earth to future generations?
Economicos and Technologicos felt strange and disoriented. The arguments that immediately sprang to mind seemed out of place. They knew that the ambassadors were not being hostile and so they resolved to consider their comments. The outcome of their reflections was that they decided to . . .
A Royal Meeting
1. What are the goals of economics when it "grows up" disconnected from an awareness which includes ecology, psychology and philosophy?
2. How does this compare with our present understanding and practice of economics?
3. Why do you think the author links economics and technology in the story?
4. Why do you think the author used gender the way she/he did?
5. In your own words, what are the messages that come from Philosophia, Ecologia and Psyche?
· Philosophia -
· Ecologia -
· Psyche -
Are these messages accurate? Are they relevant? Explain.
6. On a separate piece of paper write your own ending to the story.
7. What kinds of changes would economics and technology make if they listened to the insights of philosophy, ecology and psychology? What would the goals of the economy be?