An Interesting Letter Regarding Economic Systems

Below is an excerpt from a  reader’s letter found in The University of Chicago Magazine, Nov-Dec 2009 p. 10-11.  It is from Frank R. Tangherlini.  I found the ideas he presents to be interesting and notable:

“Second was Michael Fitzgerald’s article on the Chicago School and the economy…my experiences as a youngster during the Depression of the Thirties have left an imprint on my thinking about economics, which is why I noticed a glaring omission in the exchanges and comments of these distinguished economists: their failure to empathize with the hardships experienced by average folks because of the severe economic downturn, such as described in the article by Lydialyle Gibson, “On the Line.”

There have been millions of workers who have been laid off in the past few years, who are now living in straightened circumstances, not because of poor performance on their part, but rather because of the poor performance of the market system. Indeed, one reads in Gibson’s article, “‘It’s less and less uncommon,’ says Kathy Donahue, Catholic Charities’ director of programs, ‘to find working people among those in line for a hot meal.’” The basic problem is that the system of economics that informs the thinking of many economists tends to maximize the wealth of a relatively small number of people, without imposing the constraint of requiring the simultaneous well-being of the average citizen, including a substantial reduction and eventual elimination of those below the poverty level, as well as a significant reduction of those in prison. This social constraint is what government is intended to bring about, i.e., “to provide for the general welfare,” as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution. Not placing sufficient emphasis on this fundamental injunction is the basic flaw in the Chicago School of Economics and our present system of capitalism more generally. Unless one admits this and redesigns one’s approach to economics, this tragic situation will reoccur over and over again, eventually, alas, bringing down our nation.

Frank R. Tangherlini, SM’52
San Diego


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