Grail Economics

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The theme of this month’s issue is economists’ search for the Holy Grail. For many the Holy Grail is the ultimate unattainable object, a mystery that, because you cannot solve it, only becomes more attractive. In this interpretation one can perhaps see the aptness for many in its comparison to the failed attempts of all within the economic community, orthodox and heterodox, to explain the current global financial crises, its causes and possible solutions, if any.

But the quest itself involves other images: battling opposing forces, a desolate Wasteland, the Grail Castle, and the problem of asking the right question. The following articles undertake such a quest and, without reaching any definite conclusions, perhaps help point fellow travellers in the right direction as they initiate their own quest upon such economic paths.

Sign of Our Time begins with the search for A New Theory of Capitalism. Taking as his start the battle between the conflicting ideas of a stable or unstable economy, Paul Mason soon discovers that perhaps the problem lies within the very question that has been asked. From this vantage point one can begin to imagine the destiny of capitalism within the development of world history.

The first Feature considers Economists and Parsifal, tracing the evolution of an individual ‘poor and innocent’ economics graduate on a foolish quest across the profession’s academic wasteland. Again the result is an encounter with the problem of asking the right questions.

The Archive turns its attention to the possible current context of the Grail Castle in these times of global financial turmoil. Two sources from Walter Johannes Stein are cited, featuring questions on a commonwealth of nations and One-World Economy.

In the second Feature the quest approaches its climax by exploring the Economists’ Grail itself. The problem of models and phantasy economics is addressed, concluding in the call for something new.

The AEX Page develops the issue’s theme by including correspondence on the question of whom does one serve, and whether there is any additional significance to income over just the covering of one’s expenditure.

Accounting Backdrop completes the issue by comparing the path taken by those on a similar quest in the world of accounting. The impasse reached by the US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) is detailed in their stalled attempt at converging U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The article concludes with the thread that has woven its way throughout this issue: Whom does the accounting profession serve?

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