Animating rational economic man


I had the privilege to work with the fantastic Jonny Lawrence to make this 1 minute vid about rational economic man…I hope it kicks off some thoughts and starts a discussion on humanity’s outdated portrait at the heart of economics.


I see part of the problem as politics. The politics of pretending to offer everything to everybody is rife at present. There are hard decisions to be made and there do not appear to be many, if any, statesmen and stateswomen who are prepared to accept the challenge of telling the truth about how bad the situation is.


Maybe the problem is with the ideas behind the politics? Surely any purposeful economics is political, and the the political-economic ideas we’ve been left with are from the 19th century when things were very, very different. Maybe the whole Left-Right thing is not only no longer fit-for-purpose, but getting a little ridiculous?


I can’t disagree with you apart from the Left-Right thing as far as the use of violence goes. I always considered Attila the Hun to be a bit of a lefty until I started thinking about what I believe is right in this day and age.

I believe education at all levels should be free as our youngsters are our future and the better educated they are, the brighter ours and their futures.

I believe the health service should be free at point of use for all. But, I feel that such things as free fertility treatment should be abolished. My thinking is that there may well be a valid medical reason why some people can not have children via the normal route. My brother and sister in law could not conceive and so they adopted two youngsters who would likely not have had such a favoured upbringing had they not been adopted.

I believe that the lowest paid workers should receive a decent living wage and not just a bare minimum that means they require government assistance to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

I believe our government should be getting a grip of our energy industries by fully backing renewable gas and electricity production. Fossil fuel burning causes pollution now and nuclear generation causes pollution later and sometimes now too. Plus, renewables are getting less costly whereas fossil burning and nuclear are getting more expensive.

The reading I have been doing of late has made me think a lot about how we as a species can stay alive and progress. Increasing GDP is not the answer, rather, we need something like an individual welfare level.


The wrong starting point, a man with money in his hands, is the real problem of modern economics. Going back to the origin of economics, housekeeping (oikos), the housekeeper had to work to keep the house on order…and mostly the housekeeper was a women…

All economics start with human energy, not with (a man with) money his hand. By using tools men could extend human energy. We became a successful specie by controlling the energy of fire. But the real success came when we found coal and created the steam engine…and oil and gas, the bases for an unprecedented economic growth after World War 2…

Unfortunately the usage of fossil fuel has a drawback on our life environment, an effect we discovered already in the fifties of the last century. However, this guaranties the continuation of our future growth, simply because economic growth is only considered to be positive. If we produce a car the economy grows. If clean up the mess of using our cars the economy grows…

Hence economic growth is not a proper measure for the quality of life. It is merely a measure for the quantity of money. It also does not say anything about a honest devision of money. That’s a moral question, not an economic one.

To become sustainable, mankind can no longer use the toolsets and the picture of ‘the man with money in his hand’ of the present economy. Redefining the starting point of our, worldwide inclusive, economy is a planet with limited resources with 7.600.000.000 women and men using it as home. Forunately with an abundance of daily delivered solar energy and its sustainable derivates.

The proces of a sustainable and successful life of our communities should be the basis for the economy. Not the cheapest way to convert matter into money for just a few.

And that is in short, what I understand of the doughnut economy from Kate Raworth…


I like your statement “All economics start with human energy”
Would be good to have a drawing of that. Hmmmmm…


Agree that logic and reason (common words associated with the definition of rational) should now lead to a depiction, as shown in this animation, of empathy, willingness to assist for the common good and share resources. This is the logical path to survival of all - and let’s face it, we all need each other. I read that “survival of the fittest” meant survival of those most fit to adapt/collaborate. That might prove tricky to draw


Instead of debating the frame “homo economicus” us/and “homo socialis”, I’ll show another frame, mostly pointing to the human essence. This frame could be framed in human needs and human capabilities (Sen & Nussbaum), both complementary. I’ll focus on the first one.

When I saw the next picture, designed in 1973, it was like the first moment I saw the doughnut. Wow!! That’s clear! And it became the centre piece of my model. Let’s put first the human being! This is the picture (Sorry, I can’t find the picture in English, it is in Spanish). However, in this link (English), I discovered just last year, You could see the “making-of” of the human essence by the Argentinian Carlos Mallmann. Apart of the first picture, I couldn’t find more documents via Internet in 2012 when I was writing my thesis (mostly all of them were no digital and there were in libraries in Argentina). So last year without the pressure of finishing a Master Thesis, I found a lot of interesting things about Mallmann, including that document via UNESCO and I wrote my small tribute to him in Spanish.

Just to put in context to Mallman, I should say that he was the first president of the Bariloche Fundation, a centre that in the 70’s became famous for the alternative model “Modelo Mundial Latinoamericano” (from the South) to the Limits of Growth (from the North). It’s funny because these people just wrote some reports, 30 and 40 years later, the same and some people of the “Limits of Growths”. In those reports, they explained the possibilities of following that model but updated.

In my opinion, Mallmann cou8ld be the inspiration of Max-Neef or maybe both inspire each other because they work together. Max-Neef went to Bariloche in September 1973 after the Chilean dictatorship. In the first picture from June 1973, Mallmann has their own 9 “universal needs”: Maintenance, protection, love, understanding, government or participation, recreation, creation, meaning and synergy. The only difference I can find between (Max-Neef el al.) and Mallman is that Max-Neef includes identity and freedom instead of meaning and synergy. Identity & meaning can have some relationships and freedom & synergy could be similar from the point of view of a systems thinker. Regarding Mallmann’s inspiration, he said in a paper that Erich Fromm was a great inspiration for him. Last year I could read some papers of Mallman and I can say that the metaphor of “healthy society”, the concept of character and the influence of “The art of Loving” could see in Mallmann’s writings

You can read this holistic paper that Mallman presented at the UNESCO in 1977 showing this human essence where there are the 4 principles: Living, Living Together, Growth (in prosperity not in GDP) and Perfection (I changed this word in my model and I prefer to say “Consciousness” because transcendence and maturity the 2 elements of Perfection could be reframed in this word that we use more in these days)
So, in my opinion the principle “Nurture Human Nature” could be re-framed in “Human Needs” (Mallmann, (Max-Neef el al.), Doyal and Gough…) and “Human Capabilities”

P. S: A wonderful and outstanding Plus from Mallman, this short story (letter) writing in prospective from 2100 although it was written in 1977. Among other issues like Hunger and so on, Mallmann can see the problem about Women that it is in front pages these days and how it was solved. Inspirational!!