Over the past fifty years, the way we value what is 'good' and 'right' has changed dramatically. Behaviour that to our grandparents' generation might have seemed stupid, harmful or simply wicked now seems rational, natural, woven into the very logic of things. And, asserts Jonathan Aldred in this revelatory new book, it's economics that's to blame.
Licence to be Bad tells the story of how a group of economics theorists changed our world, and how a handful of key ideas seeped into our decision-making and, indeed, almost all aspects of our lives. If, now, we're happy to accept that there can be a market in anything, from queue-jumping to health and education, and to prisoners 'upgrading' to a better class of cell - though we may still draw the line at a market for babies - we have these theorists to thank.
From the logic of game theory, developed in the paranoid world of mathematical-military think tanks in the Cold War, which became the economists' paradigm of rational choice; to the emergence of 'free riding' - cooperation as irrational, because if you do it, no one else will - and the incentivising social engineering of Nudge, Aldred reveals the extraordinary hold of economics on our morals and values.
In short, economics has corrupted us. But if this hidden transformation is so recent, it can be reversed. Licence to be Bad shows us where to begin.