Licence to be Bad: How Economics Corrupted Us

Jonathan Aldred / Current Affairs / Non-Fiction

Book cover

UK Publisher


Date Published

June 6th, 2019


German (Klett-Cotta-Verlag)

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, from free-riding to Nudge, seeped into our decision-making and, indeed, almost all aspects of our lives. Aldred reveals the extraordinary hold of economics on our morals and values. 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.


Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of modern economics, where behaving badly is not just normal but definitely smart and even virtuous. In this highly enlightening and hugely entertaining book, Jonathan Aldred guides us through these badlands. A must-read.

- Ha Joon Chang, author of 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

An entertaining, wide-ranging and often challenging argument. Aldred writes exceptionally well.

- Paul Johnson, Literary Review

We have arrived at the vile heart of the matter: in the phrase used by Jonathan Aldred for the title of his critique of how the subject has evolved since the 1950s, economics has provided a Licence To Be Bad.

- Paul Collier, TLS

Aldred’s book offers a useful challenge to the Right, urging it to take a long hard look at the way governments and markets work. It is a call for us all to put aside our prejudices - some of which have been invented for us, decades ago - and ask, is this what we need? Is it even what we really want?

- Tim Stanley, Sunday Telegraph

An important and timely book.

- Robert Skidelsky

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