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The hollowness of human capital

By Edward Skidelsky   March 2010

Economists, said John Maynard Keynes, should think of themselves as humble specialists, on a par with dentists. But his advice has gone unheeded. Over the past 50 years, economics and its jargon have penetrated every corner of human life. Decisions to marry and inject heroin alike are explained in terms of utility maximisation. Doctors, priests and scientists are lumped together as service providers or rent seekers. Schoolteachers are urged to “add value” to their pupils. The pig philosophy, as Thomas Carlyle called it, has become all-embracing.

Of the many harms inflicted by economics on the English language, “human capital” is…

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