Prof. Amartya Sen talks in Geneva (en)

4 octobre 2012
ITC Nouvelles

Economics is a "moral and social science" but is subject to widespread scepticism - it is seen as subjective and imprecise. However, when economic analysis is ignored, the social cost can be enormous. A warning from Nobel Laureate, Professor Amartya Sen who addressed around 1000 people including students at the beginning of their academic year at the Graduate Institute in Geneva in a lecture entitled What is the Role of Economics?

 An economist is a "doubter" 

For Sen, the role of an economist is to be the "doubter" in the room. To voice doubts serves a double purpose - it guards us against errors and initiates potentially enriching enquiry. His doubts led him to ask what were the causes of famine in his famous "Poverty and Famine". He is now focusing on what is happening with the euro crisis.

Economics is known as the dismal science. However, economics being the "Queen" of social science would have cut no ice with WH Auden who advised new students starting the academic year at Cambridge, "Thou shall not sit with statisticians/Nor commit a social science".

 Professor Sen at the podium

Director General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy introduces Prof. Sen in the Council Room of the WTO

Adam Smith and the dual role of markets

Perhaps Auden hadn't read Adam Smith, who for Sen, provides the central philosophical perspective on political economy, that markets have a dual purpose - to create wealth and to provide revenue to governments to protect the poor.

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