Episode 38: Alexa Clay
Alexa Clay is an author, economic historian, and director of thought leadership at Ashoka Changemakers. She is co-author of The Misfit Economy, a forthcoming book that looks for economic innovation in the black and gray markets of pirates, hackers, and urban gangs, among others.
We begin by talking about economics in the 17th and 18th centuries and its close bonds with philosophy and psychology. From there we trace the increasing abstraction of economics into a formalized, quasi-scientific discipline that has become indecipherable to most people affected by it. This leads to a discussion of agency and other types of economies that have sprung up on the fringes of our global economy. Can these “misfit economies” offer a substantive critique of our current economic system? Do they offer better systems or address the problems of endless growth highlighted by Wes Jackson, Jan Lundberg, and David Korten? Alexa and I talk about these questions in the body of the episode while Micah and I will revisit them in our conclusion.
Alexa’s conversation has a wealth of interesting connections. Editing has left a few on the cutting room floor, but many remain: Douglas Rushkoff and quantification, Colin Camerer and neuroeconomics, Lawrence Torcello and the philosophy of John Rawls. There are far more implicit connections, of which Micah and I talk about Gabriel Stempinski and the sharing economy and Laura Musikanski’s Happiness Initiative. You may also hear a redefinition of progress-as-relationships which has a faint resonance with John Zerzan.
Ms. Clay’s conversation is fascinating, but gangster and pirate economies do raise questions of value. What is the “good” to a bunch of thieves? A fuller explanation (the book) will no doubt maker her argument more compelling.