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Value vs. Price: Bringing Humanity Back to Economics – Interview with Nicoleta Acatrinei

Dr. Nicoleta Acatrinei is the Global Chair of sustainable banking and finance in the group of 100 global women leaders (G100). Nicoleta brings her unique perspectives as a woman in a male-dominated field, a faith-based person in a secular field, and a global person who has lived in many different societies and cultures. Combining her love for mathematics and philosophy, Nicoleta pursued the study of economics. The word “economics” derives from the Latin oeconomia and Greek oikonomía, originally meaning the management of a household. Nicoleta wants to return to this definition by understanding how society values things.

Nicoleta challenges the notion of homo economicus – a rational person who is selfish, lazy, a maximizer, and needs instant gratification – one who pursues wealth for his/her own self-interest. She states, “people are not all selfish. They are not all maximizers. They’re not lazy; they love to work. I wanted to offer a counter perspective which would be more realistic and closer to the real behavior of people in the workplace.” Classic economics mainly aims to understand the mathematics of price and money. As Warren Buffet famously quipped, “price is what you pay, value is what you get.” Nicoleta’s faith and values complicate this narrative. Ultimately, she shows that faith offers a better evaluation of human nature than economics. Religion is very clear that people need to be in control of money, not controlled by it. Money is a means for something; it is a tool that does not have intrinsic value. Humans give it value. Nicoleta is careful to always ask about the value of things, rather than their price. Our language highlights the difference between the two. At heart, Nicoleta aims to bring human value back into economics and finance.

Nicoleta’s financial decisions are deeply rooted in her Eastern Orthodox Christian faith. Further, her research has shown that many others, either directly or indirectly, are similarly influenced by the community around them including faith. She states, “in my research I give visibility to invisible phenomena.” Faith-based people learn how their religion sees value versus price. For example, the Torah (Old Testament) contains many mitzvot (Jewish commandments) about money, sustainability, and value. Nicoleta aims to harness the deep knowledge of philosophy and religion on finance to uphold the value of the human being in society. She is motivated by the fact that the conversations we have today will impact generations to come. She asks, “what kind of human being do we want to see on this planet in 200 years? What kind of society do we want to see?” She wants to see a human-centric society and neither a money-centric nor an AI-centric world. These are all tools to create a better society. Her research takes an anthropological viewpoint on the intersection of altruism, finance, and work, aiming to bring the human back into the picture of economics.

She is a global role model. She states, “when you work on these problems at a global scale, you realize that the problems you find in your work are the same that somebody else found and they might have already found solutions or something that could inspire you.”

For an unabridged version of our conversation which goes into more depth on the concepts we discussed, download it here: Dr. Nicoleta Acatrinei Interview Transcript. You can also watch the interview in our YouTube channel by clicking on this link or the photo bellow:

Dr. Mayla R. Boguslav

Is a dedicated post-doctoral mathematician who specializes in biomedical research at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Currently a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Michael Kirby’s lab, she is keenly interested in both collaborating with and studying DSRI (Data Science Research Initiative). She is also learning about and working with Veterinary health records.

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