My Story

My interest in economic justice and various schools of economic thought stems from attending a socialist-Zionist summer camp as a kid and working at it as a youth.  (The socialism always resonated with me more than the Zionism to say the least.)  As a white cis-male with class (and other) privilege, I am deeply grateful for the political education I received at summer camp.

I attended Swarthmore College and eventually decided to double major in sociology and economics because I wanted to explore how to build egalitarian, democratic, and sustainable economic structures.  While some of my friends warned me to avoid economics,  I hoped to understand the “science” that many use to justify exploitation.  Economists tell stories, and I tried to learn how to frame some of their stories as tall tales.   I do not believe in a “marketplace of ideas” where the best arguments eventually win, but I have a strong faith in the power of honest stories to mobilize people and build power.

I became convinced about the importance of stories as an active member in the Swarthmore Labor Action Project, through its connection to the UNITE HERE local, and by supporting my friends in their activism.  For the last few years of college, I spent a lot of time working with staff, faculty, and students on a campaign to win a subsidized on-campus child care facility.  And while organizing with SLAP helped me explore new theories of change, my partners in the Swarthmore Housing Cooperative pushed me consistently to think about how I wanted to contribute to the left.

Academically, I mostly studied economic sociology, mainstream economics, and heterodox (non-mainstream) economics.  I wrote my thesis on whether “Taking Econ 101 Causes Overconfidence?” (hint: it does), and the process of writing made me acutely aware of how quickly those with institutionalized power dismiss people who cannot speak economics.  After graduating in June 2014, I spent the summer working as the Domestic Intern at the Center for Economic and Policy Research where I was lucky enough to spend my days doing progressive economic research. Since then, I have been working on my Spanish in Guatemala, and I plan to move back to the Untied States in the spring.

While it might not seem obvious, there are a number of mainstream economists whom I deeply respect and appreciate.  I certainly would not be writing this without their training, and members of the Swarthmore department were far more willing to support me than I ever anticipated.  I see the discipline as deeply flawed, but I do not find it appropriate to ignore or demonize all of mainstream economics.  The left needs to call people in and get larger not smaller.

 

in solidarity,

ben wolcott

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