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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor to Shumacher, 17 Aug 2012
Paul Milne - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wealth of Nature (Paperback)
I've been a reader of Greer's "Archdruid Report" for a few years now - the blog where he first aired and hashed out most if not all the ideas in this book, so let's say I wasn't surprised at anything I read here.

What Greer has done is to synthesise his thinking in the blog and make clear the connections with Adam Smith, E.F. Schumacher and other economists and peak oil thinkers.

In a nutshell, the argument is that the "economy" is actually 3 economies: the primary economy, the goods and services that nature produces and which underpins the other two economies, is ordinarily left out of economic thinking and planning. The secondary economy at the goods and services that are created by humans using the raw materials provided by nature. And the tertiary economy is financial goods and services, money which makes money. This is arguably the least important economy in so far as actually enabling humans to live and achieve a civilized quality of life, and yet it is given precedence over the other two economies.

This leads to the dysfunctional state of affairs that we enjoy today, bringing in global climate change and peak oil along the way.

In addition to well-argued analysis, understandable by any intelligent layman, Greer also posits some interesting ways forward to help correct the current imbalance. From changing the tax regime (to tax primary goods and services, ie. nature's products at the point they come into the human economy stream, and to tax financial transactions, but to take tax off secondary economy goods and services - no more income tax, sales tax, etc), to punishing corporate criminality in the same way as we do personal criminality (i.e. not just fine companies, but metaphorically lock them up by sequestering all their income, and even "execute" them in the case of capital crimes), to taking personal responsibility for reducing our own consumption of energy, this book is fizzing with energy and ideas about the way forward.

Highly recommended for anyone who cares about the future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, 23 Oct 2011
This review is from: Wealth of Nature (Paperback)
A welcome recognition of the need for realism in economic thinking such as the fact that laws of physics such as those related to entropy have the final say.
Although the 2005 peak oil is questionable, the underlying argument is well worth heeding.
Perhaps a later work can give due consideration to economic rent such as with land value taxation.
Reading this book gets you thinking again about your assumptions and conclusions. Given the state of the world that is not a bad thing!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone interested in what is going wrong with our economy, 27 April 2012
Anne Patterson (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wealth of Nature (Paperback)
A very accessible, well-written book about what is fundamentally wrong with our economics and the economy of the modern world. It is non-technical and jargon-free. It explains why we have got into the situation we are in with 'hallucinatory' money having become by far the largest section of the economies of developed countries and how this is becoming disastrously out-of-step with the realities of the resources available from the physical world, in particular the availability of fossil-fuels. He charts the road ahead in a contracting economy after the 'age of abundance' which has effectively come to an end and makes some very sound suggestions for measures that could be taken by governments, communities and individuals to cope with the difficult times we are in and the even more difficult times that lie ahead. Buy this book and buy an extra copy and send it to your MP - this book could help make a difference to our future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small is Beautiful: The 40 year update, 7 Jan 2013
This review is from: Wealth of Nature (Paperback)
"The Wealth of Nature" is another tour de force by John Michael Greer, the independent scholar and Archdruid who authored books on everything from the Hermetic kabbalah to peak oil. This particular book is similar in many ways to "The Long Descent", which is probably Greer's most important work (unless you like kabbalah!).

"The Wealth of Nature" is explicitly inspired by E. F. Schumacher's "Small is beautiful". Like his mentor, Greer calls for a radical "greening" of economics, making a sharp distinction between three different economies. The primary economy is Nature itself, with all its energy sources, including the non-renewable ones. The secondary economy consists of the actual goods and services produced and consumed, while money (so seemingly all-important) are relegated to the tertiary economy.

While the book is too short to present a fully-fledged "economic theory", it's clear that Greer sees the economic crises of modern civilization to be ultimately driven by a disconnect between the three sectors, especially between the primary and the tertiary economy. The system uses up or squanders enormous quantities of non-renewable energy sources, oil in particular, all the while the money economy becomes both more parasitical and more illusory. Attempts to solve the crisis by flooding the economy with cheap credit might make sense if energy is still abundant, but in a post-peak world, it simply makes matters worse.

Greer doesn't believe that our economic system is viable, and predicts its gradual decline and collapse as people will be forced to revert to more self-reliant lifestyles, family-based production of basic foodstuffs and much lower salaries. Governments and corporations would have to give up many complex, machine- and energy-dependent systems. Goodbye, Internet! As the decline continues, both industry and agriculture will become more dependent on human labour. Wars, famines and hyper-inflation are the unfortunate waves of the future.

The author doesn't believe that our current predicament can be solved by alternative sources of energy. Renewable sources such as wind and solar power simply cannot generate enough energy to replace oil, coal and gas. Besides, it takes huge investments - and a lot of oil - to build a gigantic power grid for alternative energy, something our faltering economies probably cannot afford in the first place. For similar reasons, nuclear power (including fusion) aren't viable options in the long run either. The bottom line is: we have squandered the fossil fuels in just 300 years, and now have to live out the consequences.

Just like Schumacher, Greer seems to vacillate between a kind of pseudo-socialist solutions, and more forthrightly "Green" ones. At one point, he calls for tighter regulation of the national economy by the government, including the "killing" of dangerous, cheating corporations. Greer believes that such a program is perfectly feasible in a crisis situation, being implemented by "emergency coalitions" and "charismatic governments". He points to Putin's fight with the oligarchs as an example of what happens if the state decides to play hardball with the business community. The state wins. I was somewhat surprised by this section, since Greer in other contexts rather talk about grassroots democracy (or at least some kind of Jeffersonian democracy) and resilient local communities.

As already mentioned, Greer has a tendency to repeat the same points in his books, but for those who want to dwell more than causally on the points raised by peak oil, "The Wealth of Nature" is a good complement to "The Long Descent".
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Wealth of Nature
Wealth of Nature by John Michael Greer (Paperback - 16 Jun 2011)
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