Alan Freeman interprets the art of deft manipulation of fact used in painting an unrealistically assuring, yet remarkably convincing picture of international inequality.
In his 1997 book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, astronomer and science populariser, Carl Sagan, drew up a few pieces of advice on spotting dishonest discourse. The advice (see box, A baloney detection kit) applies perfectly to economists, who have made harmful mistakes by ignoring his simple guidelines.
Evidence of this ignorance has a habit of popping up at inconvenient moments, such as the 2008 crash – lending weight to students’ heartfelt pleas for “real world economics”. It also pops up, however, in the global South, where 80% of the world’s population live. Many authors – Amin, Chang, DeMartino, Hickel, or Wade to name a few – point out that structural