New BESS edition released

| November 28, 2023

This article is the foreword by Peter Fritz AO to the new edition of BESS – the Journal of Behavioural Economics and Social Systems published by Global Access Partners. GAP also publishes Open Forum.

I am pleased to introduce the new issue of the Journal of Behavioral Economics and Social Systems.

Several articles in this edition explore the development of a more sustainable model of economic development to ensure our democratic structures and commercial processes reflect our values and protect our future.

The siloed nature of our governance structures makes it impossible to manage conflicting priorities in a single centralised approach. Discrete departments in companies and governments are tasked with their sphere of responsibility – be it sales or social security – and so inevitably act to promote and protect that interest, sometimes at the expense of the administration, corporation, or even nation.

Unfortunately, this neat fragmentation of administrative responsibility does not reflect the complex, interconnected nature of the real world. The effects of industry are felt in agriculture and transport, for example, through the impacts of climate change, while social, health and education policies may stoke or undermine economic success.

People live ‘holistic’ lives, touched by the decisions of every department and sector. The free-market process and democratic structures which theoretically aggregate and balance our interactions now lag behind a worrying range of ever more urgent needs and challenges.

Siloed departments have strong financial and institutional incentives to avoid collaboration, lest that reduce their budget or policy freedom, despite the overall detriment that causes to outcomes. When financial input rather than concrete outputs measure achievement, and the avoidance of failure advances more careers than risks innovative success, it is little wonder that governments see problems as issues to be postponed or managed rather than tackled and solved.

Rigid boundaries do not align with real life, so our organisations and governments lack the flexibility and overall vision to respond to fast-changing circumstances. The “First Track” processes which channel communication within and between these siloes encourage compliance, rather than creativity, and circumscribe, rather than encourage, constructive engagement. Siloes may allow individual actors to evade their collective responsibility when failure inevitably results, but in the long term – be it a company, a government or a planetary species – we are all in this together.

The Second Track encourages a broader cross-section of stakeholders and experts to contribute their thoughts and experience to explore issues from every angle. Solutions that evolve from a pool of knowledge are more likely to reflect current real-world conditions, escape the bonds of ideological presuppositions, and achieve the life-force they will need to succeed.

I therefore commend Prof Peter Söderbaum’s paper on sustainable economic development and his call for a new language in economics education as a counterweight to narrow neo-classical doctrine. I invite readers to absorb and offer their own opinions on the many other insights in this edition of BESS alongside the articles on everyday human interactions, neurological decision making and behavioural economics in previous issues.

These topics are of academic interest and directly relevant to our increasingly imperilled political, social and natural world. Our current form of democracy is endangered on several fronts, not least because our current economic model is losing a social license and public legitimacy by ignoring its social inequalities and environmental effects.

Karl Marx thought the revolution would inevitably follow an increasing polarisation of wealth and power between the elite and the masses, but that threat was nullified in the West by a hundred and fifty years of broad economic, democratic and social progress for society. The failure of current politicians to address the glaring gulf between a super-wealthy, technologically powerful elite and a population losing hope of secure employment and affordable housing, medicine and education demand urgent attention.

Marx argued that economic relations are crucial, while his post-modern descendants view power dynamics between identity groups as society’s motive force. Both critiques contain a grain of truth but ignore other factors, from intrinsic human biology through individual effort and responsibility to higher virtues and interpersonal relationships.

Whatever human complexities temper the influence of money and power, the fact remains that a house left unattended will inevitably fall into disrepair before being swept away to its very foundations and replaced by something new. If our experience of modern architecture is any guide, that replacement is not always for the better.

Democracy has to evolve more quickly to maintain its ability to enrich and empower people and nations, and retooling our system of economic value, exchange and education – alongside adopting Second Track approaches to broaden and deepen decision-making – is perhaps the best way to ensure the best of our culture is retained, rather than lost, in the deluge.

BESS Volume 5 Number 1-2 is available online on Aalborg University’s Open Journal System and Global Access Partners’ website,