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Why We Must Stop Fetishizing Economic Growth

Forget the fancy formulas - economics needs to ask profound questions about what makes a good life and just society.

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In a time of economic despair we cannot afford to place a premium on elegant mathematical models. It is more important to touch people's hearts and give them the hope and resolve that brings them to a place of action. Those who understand the power of faith and hope and love as a way to persevere can make a big contribution to this conversation. And in our opening conversation at Union we saw this in action, with discussions ranging from GDP and inequality to the Bible, Gandhian tactics, the power of faith, and the importance of theology's deeper moral insights.

It is just this kind of integration of humanity with economic insight that society needs to help us emerge from the ashes of economic crisis. This unusual combination of economic expertise with the examination of deeper values can help us create a better world, a world where economics does not ignore the suffering of everyday people.

It is only through the deeper insights of religion and the humanities that economics can get back to providing useful roadmaps for society. Economists can diagnose the current situation and even prescribe policy remedies that alleviate tragic situations. But by incorporating the deeper ethical, moral, and human insights of theology, economics can create a new way of seeing our circumstances that catalyzes positive and necessary change in our world.

That's the power of a morally centered economics.

Robert A. Johnson is executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.