Comments on DeMartino’s ‘I solemnly swear’

This is the prepublication version of my contribution to a symposium on George DeMartino’s ‘I solemnly swear’, which was organised by the journal Rethinking Marxism and appeared in Volume 28 Issue 1 January 2016.

I first came across DeMartino’s work through the early version of an essay presented at the 2007 Utah conference of the International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE). It struck me as of the utmost importance and I persuaded Association for Heterodox economics (AHE) to invite him to their 2011 conference as a keynote speaker; I was subsequently pleased to have him participate in the World Economic Association’s online ethics conference (DeMartino 2012) and to welcome him in 2015 as a visiting speaker at the University of Manitoba (website of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group).

In the course of a long and fruitful engagement, it became clear to me that we had arrived at very similar conclusions along different routes; the differences in these routes in many ways reflect the different ways in which the theoretical crisis of economics has manifested itself in the US, and to a degree, Canada, and in Europe and most of the rest of the world – specifically, but not only, the UK and Australia. These differences are responsible, I think, for an issue which remains to be resolved, namely whether or not a formal code of conduct is required for economists, or whether there is some other means of providing for collective ethical responsibility. In my contribution to DeMartino’s forthcoming book, I attempted to deal with this by linking these two issues of pluralism and ethics. My argument, very briefly summarised, is that the chief way economists do harm is by means of untruth.

Reference: DeMartino, G. 2008. ‘”I do solemnly swear…”: On the need for and content of professional economic ethics’, in Harvey, J. and R. Garnett, Future Directions for Heterodox Economics, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

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