Vast support for grassroots economics group

A professional association for economists working outside mainstream economic thought attracted more than 3,500 members within a week of being launched.

Membership of the World Economics Association (WEA) has now exceeded 6,000, making it one of the largest such groups in the field.

Embarrassment felt within the profession during the global financial collapse is one of the primary reasons behind the launch of the group. While some economists have said that the financial crisis of 2008 could not have been foreseen, WEA believes that this is not the case.

Ann Pettifor, a founding member of the association, anticipated the financial collapse in 2006 in her book, The Coming First World Debt Crisis. Other economists had seen the signs and warned of the impending turmoil but had difficulty publishing their findings in leading journals, the association has stated.

In order to give voice to such economists, WEA will run online conferences and produce two publications: the World Economic Journal, and Economic Thought, which will focus on the history, methodology and philosophy of economics. The Real World Economics Review, an existing online journal, will continue under the umbrella of WEA and deal with current policy issues.

Edward Fullbrook, WEA’s lead organiser and editor of Real World Economics Review, said: “The financial crisis has exposed how limited the understanding of mainstream economists is, in terms of what is going on in the real economy.”

The American Economic Association (AEA) is currently the main global economic association. “Although half its members are from outside the US, the AEA has a very strong national focus and does not serve the economic community in other regions and continents very well,” said Fullbrook, adding: “The same is true for the established journals.” With enlightened economists such Herman Daly, author of Ecological Economics, also among its founding members, the WEA hopes to increase the relevance, breadth and depth of economic thought, so that in the future the economics profession will be better equipped to serve humankind.

The association, which is registered as a community interest company in the UK, promises to be an international and inclusive body. “A great many economists all over the world have been waiting for a more inclusive association, which will give voice to an enthusiastic professional membership and cannot be ignored,” said Fullbrook.

Membership is free and also open to non-economists.

“The public should be interested simply because of the enormous impact economics has via policy,” said Fullbrook. Referring to the financial crisis he added: “Those policies were wrong, but didn’t have to be. There were ideas and analysis that could have helped, but which were ignored. That cost jobs and loss of wealth. We want to help make sure that doesn’t happen again.”