The economy and the link with science and philosophy

L-Ekonomija: F’ilsien ix-Xjenza u l-Filsosofija
by John Consiglio
posted by Faraxa

Writing a book on the scientific and philosophical foundations of economics is a difficult task, even if it is written in English, in which most of the economic terms have been used for about two and a half centuries. This is even more true if the Maltese language is used for this purpose.

The use of Maltese dictionaries, even the best ones, does not always solve translation problems, because many economic terms have specific meanings, and very sharp nuances, which require an economist to fully understand and translate them.

Another constraint faced by Maltese authors when publishing books of this nature is that local publishing houses tend to be more inclined, when publishing books in Maltese, to print books relating to Maltese literature. , especially those approved for students, as well as stories, drama, cookbooks and children’s literature, all areas where there appears to be some popular demand.

Books in Maltese on academic subjects, other than those related to Maltese literature, including economics and finance, are conspicuously absent.

The author places the discipline of economics in a broad context of relations with other disciplines.

So I can only congratulate John Consiglio, who made this effort and took the risk of publishing the book on the link between economics, technological science and philosophy. He even often courageously “malted” many terms and concepts which are not usually included, let alone translated, in Maltese dictionaries.

As Philip von Brockdorff states in the introduction to the book, the text is not easy to read, as the subject itself requires some knowledge of economic theory, perhaps even at an advanced level.

In addition, the discussion presented in the book covers a wide variety of topics, including economic principles, different methods of analysis and the interpretation of the motivations of economic actors. Not all of these are uniform fodder.

The author places the discipline of economics in a broad context of relations with other disciplines and, in doing so, engages in a very in-depth intellectual discussion in this regard.

While reading the book, I often felt the need to reread the text to fully understand the message, even though I am often called “a seasoned economist”. I learned a lot from this book.

The search for a clear identification and discussion of the philosophical foundations of economics is not a new quest, and various authors have provided different views in this regard, ranging from neoliberal to interventionist approaches.

The question of the economic motive of self-interest as opposed to the pursuit of social benefits is often addressed in such discussions. Consiglio often refers to this dichotomy, and although he did not say so specifically, the author would seem to lean towards the social objective of the economy.

This is not Consiglio’s first economics book written in Maltese. In 1973 he had collected in a book called Ekonomija għal Kulħadd, published by Klabb Kotba Maltin – the series of discussions on economic topics that he and I had had together on a local radio station. So far this is the only basic Maltese economics textbook still in existence, undoubtedly out of print.

Consiglio’s other important work, not in Maltese, was the 2020 Finance Readings for Diplomats, published by MEDAC, and Insights on Financial Services Regulation, published in the UK by Emerald.

Consiglio has also written various books on the banking history of Malta, including his flagship book from 2006, in English and Maltese, on the history of banking in Malta.

L-Ekonomija: F’ilsien ix-Xjenza u l-Filsosofija is not exactly a bedtime read, but a very intelligent intellectual product that I consider a must read, even for seasoned financiers and economists.

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