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Project of Metaeconomics

We must restore ethical reflection to the heart of economic reasoning, re-center policymaking on the common good, and re-embed ethical education in economics and business programs. Economics emerged as a subbranch of moral philosophy, and it must return to its roots  (Annett, 2018)

The overall Project of Metaeconomics is to bring ethical reflection back into economics.  It does so by introducing the other (shared ethic-based)-interest into a Dual Interest Theory, keeping self-interest primal, but now tempered by ethical reflection as represented in the shared other-interest.  Adam Smith would be a Metaeconomist, a MetaEcon, as Smith saw dual interest at play in Human nature: It was about seeking own-interest, made possible only by ethical (moral sentiments) tempering of self-interest, to bring the self-interest --- that of the Econ ---  down to something that the other can go along with (ethics).  Metaeconomics is about bringing economics back to its roots.

As a result of bringing ethics back to center stage, it also resolves “the Adam Smith problem” as well as the problems in  both the dominant Schools of Economics, including Chicago Economics applied to political economy, as represented in “the Chicago School problem” and “the Public Choice Theory/School problem.” Both schools put all attention to self-interest, and downplay the role of the ethics represented in the shared other-interest.  See What is Dual Interest Theory for more details. So, the overall Metaeconomic Project is also to solve said problems.


Metaeconomics has the following features (Go To or Return To the Metaeconomics book overview page):

  1. (Micro)Economics … is just political ideology in disguise” (Bromley, Daniel W.. Possessive Individualism. Oxford University Press, 2019, p. 28, who also makes the point that ethics is key). That is, Microeconomics is an ideology of ego-based self-interest only (Single Interest Theory, SIT), and (especially in the Chicago School, Libertarian application of it) “fiercely opposed to any ethical reflection whatever” (McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen. Why Liberalism Works. Yale University Press, 2019, p. 93). 

  2. Dual Interest Theory (DIT)  in Metaeconomics, which transcends the limitations of Single Interest Theory (SIT),  is based on an empirical foundation as well as bringing ethics back into view within the analytical system. As a result, Metaeconomics returns economics to a facts (empirical, scientific-method sourced foundation for economics) & ethics based endeavor.

  3. DIT builds on the notion that ethical reflection starts in mindful empathy-with the other, in the search for that which the other can go along with (ethics). DIT makes clear that being in empathy-with the other (ethical reflection) requires a bit of sacrifice in self-interest. DIT also makes clear that a bit of shared other-interest must be sacrificed  in order to attain a reasoned, tempered level of self-interest.  

  4. DIT sees ethics working to temper the self-interest, with outside (the person) influence only necessary when self-control fails. So, DIT goes beyond the limitations of SIT, with DIT not replacing SIT, but serving to make even SIT more science based, redeeming economics from ideology and taking it back to science.

  5. DIT is built on an empirical foundation --- recognizing the Behavioral and Neuroeconomics research pointing to the dual (ego&empathy) nature of human nature --- so, it holds the potential to nudge (Micro)economics away from being a political ideology in disguise.

  6. DIT brings ethics (extracted from the Microeconomics when it was mathematized in the 1930s) back into view within the analytical framework. DIT also recognizes that empathy-based ethics has many influences, including religions, with ethics ultimately about what reasoned people can go along with.

  7. DIT focuses attention on the best balance in ego-based self-interest & empathy-based other (shared with the other in an ethical system)-interest. It focuses on maximizing own (balanced self&other)-interest, which is essential to economic efficiency, to peace (minimal political and religious chaos), and, overall, to happiness.

  8. DIT focuses attention on the need for constant rebalancing of the I&We (as in Putnam, R. D. and Garrett, S. R. The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020). It is about seeing the jointness in Person&Community, Self&Other(shared yet internalized)-interest, and, writ large, the Market&Government.

  9. DIT  sees a potential key role for Government, replacing the Microeconomics frame of Market VS Government with Market & Government, each viewed as essential to the other, so investment in both is essential to economic efficiency represented in the joint private & public good, including good balance in private & public property.     Metaeconomics gives analytical content to the notion (posing it as an empirical question) that “… classical liberals need to acknowledge the need for government, and get past the neoliberal era in which the state was demonized as an inevitable enemy of economic growth and individual freedom  (Fukuyama, Francis. Liberalism and Its Discontents. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022, p. 146).”

  10. DIT also, then, in the realm of political economy on the political spectrum, points to the need for empirical analysis tempered by ethics, as in building on a sound foundation of facts (scientific-method sourced) & ethics (sourced and evolved in many arenas, including community, religion, political organizations, no longer bowling alone). 

  11. DIT is completely neutral to which position is chosen on the political (or religious) spectrum, other than pointing to the need to be based in sufficient reason built on an empirical foundation of facts & ethics, and leading to that which works for real people.

  12. DIT is about pragmatism --- what works for real people --- and ethics is key.


Annett, Anthony.  “Restoring Ethics to Economics: Modern Economics Should Return to Its Roots.”  Finance and Development.  International Monetary Fund, March, 2018. )

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