The author


My name is Lorenzo Fioramonti and my first (pre)occupation is to be a loving husband and an affectionate father.  My wife Janine and my sons Damiano and Lukas fill my life with joy and lots of fun. In my spare time, I work as professor at the University of Pretoria (South Africa), where I happen to direct a wonderful team at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation. Our job is to stimulate new thinking in public affairs and policy making.

In my previous life, I worked for NGOs and newspapers, and consulted for governments and international institutions. I was lucky enough to be invited to join a number of research teams at various universities around the world. I still retain some of these affiliations, especially with the Centre for Social Investment of the University of Heidelberg,  the Hertie School of Governance and the United Nations University Comparative Regional Integration Studies.

I’m a member of the Alliance for Sustainability and Prosperity ( and the founder of the action research network for a Wellbeing Economy in Africa (

My view is that scholars must try their best to make a difference. Our daily life is too important to spend all our time dealing with piles of papers and dusty books. We need to get out there and make our voices heard. We owe it to ourselves. To our children. And to those who will come after us.



15 responses to “The author

  1. I usually Cc any comment to Thinking Allowed to the relevant contributor but, in the absence of an e-address I’ll drop it here. Cheers.

    to thinking allowed
    Dear Laurie,
    So it’s “shoot the messenger” time again? Having told us a few weeks ago that the market does not necessarily speak ex cathedra, so it can tell us nothing, we are now advised that, since one index cannot tell us everything, no number can tell us anything. The “inconvenient truth” for your friends at the New Left Review is that, historically, the quality of life in democracies where “the invisibly hand of the (free) market” provides strong feedback, is vastly superior to that in tyrannies where personal choice is replaced by the coercive organs of the state, and that countries with higher per capita* GDP can generally support better public services as well as a higher individual standard of living. If you think that working with data such as GDP is problematical, you should take a long, hard look at what happens when they are replaced by waffle, of the kind we’ve just endured on the programme, and even by arcane, moth-eaten fantasies like socialism. You’ll be bringing us fruitcakes like Stiglitz next! (no, he didn’t win the Nobel Prize for Economics because there’s no such thing :-))
    Sincerely, Iain
    *I mean “per caput” clearly, but this misuse of a legal term from probate seems to have become ubiquitous, despite “capita” being obviously plural.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I take all comments very seriously. Yet, I fail to understand your point. Is there a specific point you are making? Do you think GDP is a good indicator of economic performance or social progress? If so, can you provide some reasons?

  3. I can see why you found the note a tad cryptic. Having written to the programme a few times before, and being assured by the indefatigable Charlie Taylor that the Professor actually reads the stuff (what sins he committed in an earlier life, I can’t imagine). I forwarded the note to you as a formality but much of its content would have been lost. As was much of the programme on me, although I did try to follow up the ideas.
    To answer your point: most observers see GDP as a useful indicator of the state of the economy, although its interpretation, when it comes to policy, must be a matter of judgement. There has to be a good reason to reject this. Specifically, if it is irrelevant to social progress, you must be able to cite examples where a sharp fall in GDP has been accompanied by an improvement in living standards. Or where stagnant GDP has been concurrent with marked social progress? Otherwise, I would continue to maintain that no society can, in the long term, consume more than it produces and that growth is necessary for progress.
    An old fashioned liberal like myself would make two points: firstly, Seldon is justified in his assertion that capitalism does not need defending but celebrating, as nothing in history has produced such high and rising living standards for the masses and it has done so, moreover, without encroaching on civil liberty. Secondly, Popper established in 1945 that socialism is as untenable in theory as it was, by then, discredited in practice. The expression “left-wing intellectual” has been pretty much an oxymoron since then. At one point, around 40% of the world’s population languished under command economies and up to a hundred million have been slaughtered in attempts to coerce the masses down “the road to serfdom.” In Cuba, for example, it took the Rosario psychopath just four years of Marxist “theory of value” to reduce a prosperous island to penury (or paradise, if you will). The Soviets pumped over sixty billion dollars – five times what the Marshall Plan spent salvaging half of Europe from the ravages of WWII – into the fiscal black hole. Where are the command economies, with their contempt for the market and for GDP, now? We used to be able to compare standards on either side of Ulbricht’s “Antifascist Protection Rampart”? I guess we still have the Koreas.
    Back in October 2012, when Chávez was still mare or less alive, I discussed the re-emergence of the contrast between globalised and socialist economies in South America in the Madrid daily El País (this is from the International Herald Tribune translation):
    “An interesting fault line is developing in Latin America. Once there was just the Organization of American States (OAS), formed in1948. Then came Mercosur in 1991, an attempt to emulate the EU which has finally degenerated into farce with the kangaroo suspension of Paraguay, in order to admit Venezuela, despite Chávez’s refusal to implement most of the club’s supposed norms. Meanwhile, the latter’s UNASUR (2008) remains a ruinously expensive bureaucracy in search of any role other than to sneer at the US. Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico, who already account for 55% of the region’s exports, formed the Pacific Alliance last month, committed to free trade. Their liberal economic policies have given the South American members investment-grade currencies – and pariah status among the left-wing os barbados who seem to dominate elsewhere on the continent. Colombian Trade Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados has recently called for the purchase of dollars, in order to prevent an appreciating currency causing damage to exports, while Argentina’s Cristina de Kirchner has been reduced to sniffer-dogs at the airport, scavenging greenbacks. Not since the fall of the Berlin Wall have the liberal and socialist economic models been more starkly in competition. We live in exciting times!”
    Well, do you have a prognosis? Poor ol’ Uruguay has just complained that nobody is in control of the Argentine economy ( ). A couple of years ago, Colombia boasted that its GDP has overtaken that of Argentina, if the latter is valued using its black market “blue” dollar: the legacy of the doubling of the state sector under the de Kirchners. I can assure you that they will shortly find this far from “irrelevant” in Buenos Aires!
    As a grandpappy myself, I send my best wishes to your family.

    • Dear Iain, thanks for the clarification. I see your point now. First of all, I disagree that to show that GDP is a poor indicator of social progress we need to show a case in which GDP has plummeted and social progress has grown. The relationship between GDP and the economy is like that between calories and health. More calories don’t tell us anything about somebody’s health. Equally plummeting calories would not necessarily be an indication of improving health. It all depends. And, lo and behold, it depends on the things we don’t measure (or measure only partially in the national accounts). This is why GDP is misleading. No doctor would ever tell you that a calories-intense diet is the best to achieve good health. Although a minimum level of calories is necessary, there are many ways of getting them. A vegetables- rich diet is usually better than one based exclusively on meat. The same applies to an economy. There are some sectors in the economy that can give us better ‘growth’ but often these sectors are neglected or completely excluded from GDP. Conversely, sectors that are very detrimental (especially those based on natural resource extraction) are fully accounted for in GDP as a ‘plus’, without considering the cost of the damage they produce. What we therefore need is a nutritionist approach to economic development: measuring the things that help strengthen society and ensure long-term healthy development.
      What you say about capitalism vs. socialism is irrelevant here. Socialist countries and their metrics of material product were even worse than GDP and nobody is defending them. So, my critique of GDP has nothing to do with that. Best wishes back to you and your family!

  4. Thank you for your comment. I apologise for the earlier confusion.

    At the risk of breaking one of the cardinal rules of forensics – using analogy to argue rather than limiting it to illustration – I believe likening GDP to calorific intake breaks down since the capacity of any single body usefully to absorb nutrition is limited. Back in the 1950s, we had a health minister called Enoch Powell who endeared himself to no one by pointing out that any government which claimed not to be rationing care would be lying. He identified education as another area in which demand was, to all intents, unlimited. Incidentally, he was also ahead of his time as an economist and resigned over the prevailing Keynesian claptrap which did, indeed, prove ruinous and culminated in the “lost decade” of the 1970s. I’d add much of the 1960’s and was somewhat dismayed on receiving a communication from my MP, a Teutonic Bolshevik called Gisela, assuring me that a future Labour government – if you’ll excuse the oxymoron – intended to relive them. I have pointed out to her in the past that her flagship interference in the free-market – price-controls – didn’t work when Diocletian imposed them in 301AD and were an unmitigated disaster the last time her party tried them. Sigh! However many counterexamples you cite, some people refuse to “learn from history.”

    As a physicist by training, I continue to regard the counterexample as crucial. When not writing the definitive account of socialism, Karl Popper reminded us that no amount of positive correlation can prove a theory. That is why a scientist’s first instinct is to poke a crowbar into a likely crack and heave. I will continue to find the conjecture that prosperity is necessary for social progress plausible until I’m shown otherwise.

    I’m sure you’re fully familiar with the mathematical concept of “necessary” and “sufficient” conditions and I suspect that we would agree that growing GDP is not enough for progress. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez was long a poster-boy for the New Left Review (apparently, launching a bloody coup against a democratic government is only a crime if your name is Pinochet) and even I wondered what could possibly go wrong. An OPEC country with agricultural surpluses, productive industry, average crime, sound electricity supply, well maintained infrastructure, etc. – what could possibly go wrong? The country had its fare share of corruption and social problems but nothing that its oil revenues couldn’t take care of. Then the price went up six fold! Every prospect pleases and only socialism is vile: . And if pollution is hard to quantify, how about human life? A million is merely a statistic? Chávez once asked for a minute’s silence in memory of child-molesting FARC “narco” Devia Silva (AKA Reyes) but never expressed a shred of remorse over the carnage on his own streets. Indeed, his government stopped bothering to publish figures ten years ago.

    Extraction, manufacturing, and industrial agriculture all alter the environment but we can’t do without them. I suggest that the more affluent the society, the better placed it is to limit the damage. Pollution is generally indicative of primitive practices, often linked to poverty. Colombia has emerged from the third world and is moving to limit pollution from coal: . On the other hand, if you complain in Venezuela that the refinery next door has exploded and killed your children, you’ll be arrested as a coupmonger!

    Ah well, last weeks Thinking Allowed was a commemoration of Laurie’s friend Stewart Hall and something called “cultural studies.” From what I can gather, this involves glozing Marxist propaganda from the most innocent of sources. Everything is part of a conspiracy to brainwash the nation. The paranoia on display made Joe McCarthy look like Pollyanna! I couldn’t resist a guffaw when somebody mentioned the “Marxist view of television.” As Popper would be the first to point out, the idea that the toiling victims of capitalism might one day be downloading 3D movies from computers on a distant continent featured not at all in his infallible model of the future. But then some people remain unconvinced, however many counterexamples you present!

    Best, Iain

  5. Thanks for the good writeup. It actually used to be a entertainment account it.
    Glance advanced to far introduced agreeable from you! However, how could we keep up a correspondence?

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