IHBC Yearbook 2024

38 YEARBOOK 2024 SHAPING THE FUTURE OF HERITAGE EMBRACING THE EVOLUTION OF ECONOMIC THINKING ADALA LEESON ECONOMICS, ACCORDING to Lionel Robbins in 1935, is the study of ‘the allocation of scarce resources’. Economic thinking has been traced back millennia to the scholarly writings of ancient philosophers including the ancient Greek poet, Hesiod, who contemplated the scarcity of resources within his agricultural community and the need therefore to allocate labour, materials and time efficiently. While the core problem of scarcity still dominates today’s economic discourse, modern economics has evolved and, indeed, continues to evolve with its core concepts heavily debated, contested and new theories emergent. The heritage sector can and should actively participate in the emerging economic thinking as it will have an impact on heritage in future. ‘Economics is a discipline that shapes decisions of the utmost consequence, and so matters to us all.’ David Attenborough, Dasgupta, 2021 Economics is a powerful tool used by businesses and governments to guide decisions. These decisions have significant impacts on society and on future outcomes. The Culture and Heritage Capital Programme of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) aims to engage culture and heritage more actively in contemporary economic debates, theory and models to formalise the connection between culture and heritage and economics. ‘Economics is in a state of creative ferment that is often invisible to outsiders.’ Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik and Gabriel Zucman, 2019 In broad terms, modern economics in the global north has its roots in four epochs of economic thinking. Classical Economics Developed in the late 18th and early 19th century, classical economics is associated with the Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith. Smith’s basic contention was that markets, when left alone, work efficiently, as consumers working in their own interest will choose the producer that provides goods and services at the quality and price they demand. The market, through the process of competition, allocates resources efficiently and produces the best outcomes for society as a whole. Smith’s works were so influential he is known as the father of modern economics. Well-known economists, including David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, continued to develop classical economic theories, emphasising the importance of free markets. Neoclassical Economics In the 19th century, neoclassical economics moved away from the empirical practice of classical economics, becoming more grounded in mathematical models. Like classical economists, neoclassical economists stressed the importance of free markets Banksy’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in Bristol (2014): new approaches are emerging from the recognition that current economic models failed to predict the crisis of 2008 in particular, and were fuelling greater social inequality and deprivation. (Photo: Jonathan Taylor)