Searching for "economist" in Power Point clip art produces the following images: two cartoons of white men, one pointing to a graph and the other using a calculator; a pile of money; more graphs, all slanted upwards; and a man holding a dollar sign. If that is how people imagine economics, it needs to be decolonised. Economic theories are rooted in foreign realities and they need to be rethought for South Africa. Economics is often discussed in the abstract, as if it has no relationship to the confusing reality of everyday life. Arguments are illustrated with imaginary "widgets", rather than real goods and services. Proposals are tested against formal models to simulate economic trends. The desirability of the free-market equilibrium is preached, where supply equals demand and presumably everyone is that much happier. These bloodless theorems seem to describe a fantasy world. But they are an abstraction from a reality — just not South Africa’s. Requirements for socially efficient ma...

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