on 11 January 2013
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH is a standout choice in understanding why steady state economics is the answer to our current dilemmas. Why? It's the elegant simplicity and regularity of its presentation. First, engaging anecdotes set the stage. 2) Undeniable data and simple graphs make the reason for change clear. 3)This is followed by a no-nonsense listing of what needs to be done.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH's crystal clear how and why make it a book for anyone, and an excellent text for students of any age preparing to design the future. Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill have handed us the prescription we need to cure the ills of our overused planet and to secure a perpetual, humane future for its life. There is no illegible scrawl in the prescription. The directions are precisely laid out--even the troublesome imperatives, like population stability. The authors introduce each chapter with engaging anecdotes, and illustrate data with simple graphs. A striking conclusion expresses the need to recognize which nations need economic development to attain a good life for their people, which countries should maintain their steady state, and those that need to plan and execute substantial degrowth. The benefits of a no-growth economy are beautifully summarized near the end, along with extensive notes on sources of information and a usefully detailed index. It should be required reading, not just for students.
Buried in the authors' reasoning, which tells us why we must take this medicine, are concepts we can all expand on--the need for technical development that is rationally selective, the need for legal ethics that do not allow the obfuscation of truth, and the need to deny business ethics that trample integrity in pursuit of the bottom line.
Dietz and O'Neill's pills may seem difficult to swallow, but you will find they go down easily, for their necessity is made quite clear. We all want the same thing. We want human genius and the awesome beauty and diversity of life on Earth to survive the long-run--with health, ever-growing enlightenment, and joy in living for all. They outline a good plan for how to achieve that.
on 10 January 2013
The cartoons alone (by Polyp) are worth the price of this remarkable book - which in its mere 206 pages provides possibly the best and most relevant big picture understanding of the economy anywhere. That's a lot of punch for such a short book, but Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill accomplish this by being simultaneously smart economists AND smart communicators. Although the topic is daunting - ultimately: the trajectory of civilization; and our opportunity to act NOW to create the best future possible for those we love - Enough Is Enough is both easy enough to read AND smart enough to challenge the assumptions, thinking, and actions of ANY economist.
Several features are responsible for this rare confluence - easy enough AND smart enough - and they warrant calling out: each chapter (1) is headed by a laser-sharp, on-topic cartoon; (2) is explicitly titled in a logical, step-by-step progression; (3) begins with a short but poignant quote by a notable person; and additionally, the book (4) uses plenty of everyday anecdotes and analogies that contribute immeasurably to its accessibility and clarity; (5) has collected some of the most telling graphs of our times; and (6) represents, as the authors acknowledge, the collected wisdom of lots and lots of the greatest thinkers in this field; and (7) the authors really want us to understand this complex, multi-disciplinary subject, and that meant they were willing to work really hard so we wouldn't have to.
As we read the book, I suspect they want us to save our energy for the next phase, the action phase. Fair enough! It's our turn to read Enough Is Enough; to encourage our family, friends, colleagues, and policy makers to, also; and to take the wisdom of Enough Is Enough out into the world to create the best future we can.
on 10 January 2013
Enough is Enough is a detailed yet accessible guide that offers a vision for a just, sustainable and equitable future for the whole planet as suitable for the economist looking for alternative views as the layman looking for deeper understanding of the current problems and how to extricate ourselves.
In a world driven by always wanting more Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neil introduce and elucidate the potentially revolutionary concept of 'enough'. This is a real addition to the literature on how humanity can progress and indeed what constitutes progress. It forces us to consider complex issues such as what constitutes a good life and what is 'sufficient'. These are questions that have been ignored by traditional economics but this book tackles in an interesting and accessible way.
The book clearly outlines the triple crunch of economic disaster, ecological collapse and population expansion that we currently face and, in contrast to many books, offers practical and tested ideas of how to move away from these destructive behaviours and adopt the policies of a Steady State Economy. This truly is a hopeful and inspiring book. Read it and the world will never quite look the same again.
on 8 February 2013
Everyone should read this book. Ambitious though it may be It gives a clear direction for a better future for the whole world. The analysis of our present woes is precise and pulls no punches. In my opinion it's the only way forward for all of us, rich and poor. We're facing the abyss and if we don't change direction we're all going to fall.
on 26 February 2013
Last month I attended the launch of Enough is Enough by Dietz and O'Neill, founding members of CASSE, the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady-State Economy.
Everyone should read this book. The authors quote Kenneth Boulding, "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever is either a madman or an economist," and go on to explain in detail why this is true. Of course this story has been told many times before, in An Inconvenient Truth and The Age of Stupid among many others. An Inconvenient Truth tucked its recommendations for action away among the closing credits while The Age of Stupid was a festival of hand-wringing over what went wrong. Where Enough is Enough scores is that after describing the present situation it constantly asks "What could we do differently?" and "Where do we go from here?" Most of the answers are very sensible, although I do take issue with their idea of lowering productivity to provide more jobs. Why not increase productivity and provide more leisure? But that's a debate for another time.
The key issue, of course, is to get enough people to realise that we need fundamental change and to support that change. Maybe we'll get to that tipping point, but the problem is that too many people have too much to lose if they step away from the present system.
The book is full of cartoons and many of them cheapen its image. They give the impression that the cause of all the world's problems is cynical and corrupt capitalists. It isn't nearly as simple as that. There are signs that some business leaders are beginning to get the message, and pitting one section of the community against another is not only no solution, it's a waste of the very limited time we have to get things under control.
There's much to be done. Enough is Enough is a useful route map.
on 11 March 2013
I recently finished Enough is Enough, and found the arguments contained in it very compelling. This is a book about the fundamentals of economics, but, as the book explains, it is quite a different approach to mainsstream economics taught in universities. And you don't need to be an economist to follow the reasoning. This is based on reasoning from the basic facts of life - 1 planet, a growing population, increasing signs of resource depletion and ecosystem disruption - and from there lays out the basic principles that any economic system should follow. In short, that is a steady state economy, that doesn't need growth to function.
It is well referenced, with plenty of tips for further reading, and with each chapter is an introduction that relates the big ideas to everyday life. It is an easy read - much like an introduction to some very big ideas, but is sure to inspire further thoughts and interest. It is in all of our interests that as many people as possible read this book.
on 26 June 2014
This is the most useful and thought provoking book that I’ve read in a long time.
In the sixties, I read E. F. Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’ and wondered why nobody else was preaching the same gospel that there must be limits to growth because of the finite limits of our planet.
Since then, in spite of the moderate growth of the Green Party, most politicians have ignored these limits and focused their policies on Growth as a doctrine as if there are no limits.
Even Schumacher’s own charity, previously named The Schumacher Centre for Technology & Development and which coined the phrase ‘appropriate technology’ has been renamed ‘Practical Action’ and is now just one of many charities encouraging small scale technological solutions to world development problems.
This book shows that Schumacher’s work was not in vain and following recent financial crises, others are looking for a different way to do economics, as set out in several recent books by economist, Herman Daly and ongoing current work by CASSE (the Centre for Advancement of the Steady State Economy).
This book suggests ways forward from the current economic crisis to a steady state economy world- wide and indicates possible steps towards that end. The book is not pessimistic but forward looking and does not shy from the big issues affecting our world economy today including: Over-Production, Control of Population, World Inequality, Financial Debt, Incorrect Aims focused on Growth, Unemployment, and World Trade.
It shows how, starting from here, we can achieve a fair and equal society, world-wide by changing public attitudes step by step.
Based in Oregon, USA and Leeds, UK the authors are practical economists working today and trying to change attitudes today.
on 21 March 2014
I must post a disclaimer here in the name of honesty. I am, at the time of writing this review, an employee of the company which owns the publishers of this book. I was not asked to review the book by anyone at work, and I work in a different division. So make of that what you will. I aim, as ever, to present purely my own view, but if you think that that compromises my integrity and independence, you are welcome to think that.
So, what's the book about? You might get a clue from the subtitle, 'Building a sustainable economy of finite resources'. This is a book of economics. Yet not the kind of economics you might be familiar with from a formal education the matter. This is a manifesto for a radical rethink in how economics could work.
The premise is this: the world and its resources are finite.
That's it. That's the foundational idea on which the whole book is based. If you don't buy the premise, then don't buy the book; it won't make sense to you in the least bit. If, however, you have a modicum of education and understanding, then you ought to recognise that the truth of the statement.
What next? Well, think about it. What are the consequences of a world of finite resources? I'm sure you can think of some consequences, but what Dietz and O'Neill do (OK, it seems to be mostly Dietz's voice, this much is admitted in the text and evident by the poor spelling that typifies the writing of Americans) is guide us through the idea of unending economic growth where that growth is fuelled by the consumption of the earth's resources. If the resources are finite, then surely economic growth must also be finite?
The authors do a thought experiment, whereby it is assumed that economic growth isn't finite; it carries on. What would happen with finite resources and never ending growth? These are the questions posed which lead on to the idea that a different economic model is needed. One that is not based on the idea of more and more, but on the basis of "enough".
From here, the book embarks upon something of a manifesto. What might a new economics look like? One of the ideas that really struck me in this passage was that we measure what we care about and that we care about what we measure. If you read the business and finance news, as accountants like me often do, then one cannot escape from the idea that economic growth is a good thing. It's one of the key economic measures that we live by. Increase in gross domestic product (GDP) is good, decrease in GDP is bad; that's the mantra.
It's a view of economics that is deeply conservative; one which values the pound more than person. I, for example, am far more interesting in the unemployment rate. If it goes up, who's been losing their jobs and why? If it comes down, does this mean that those who have been jobless are now in full time jobs paying a reasonable wage? Of course, economic growth and unemployment are not divorced from one another. But what is the driver and what is the indicator?
The strategies to achieve the desired economy comes under several headings, each with their own chapter: Enough Throughput, Enough People, Enough Inequality, Enough Debt, Enough Miscalculation, Enough Unemployment, Enough Business as Usual.
Each of the chapters is neatly structured, with an outline of the problem as it stands, an attempt to answer "What could we do instead?" and concluding with "Where do we go from here?"
Potentially, one of the most controversial of these is 'Enough People' - which looks at the idea of trying to stabilise the global population. Though not mentioned by name, one could not help but spot the shadow of Malthus lurking in the corner here. I must admit I found this chapter to be rather too idealistic in terms of the practicalities of slowing down the birth rates in countries which are both poor and have high birth rates. It seems a little like ivory tower thinking from the privileged West.
Enough Inequality covers similar ground (and includes some of the same data) as The Spirit Level. As it's only a chapter, it is less thorough, though the practical suggestions do include setting maximum pay differentials - something I don't recall from The Spirit Level.
My take on it is that it's a highly ambitious step in the right direction. Towards the end of the book, the authors state that the proposals are mutually supporting, in that working through one will help with the implementation of the others. The image they used was something akin to the front of the Parthenon, though I couldn't help but think of it as a house of cards. If they are mutually supporting, then the failure to implement one would impede the progress on the others.
The most reasonable suggestion is on using different economic measures, and I would wholly endorse starting there. The ambition for full employment is vital and one which I am not convinced recent governments have pursued adequately; though some are worse than others. The fly in the ointment here is that talk about having everyone in meaningful jobs, which implies that those who are currently in meaningless jobs must transition, which is something easier said than done. In my view, such a transition would not be painless and would result in an increase in unemployment in the short to medium term; something that should be provisioned for, but which seemed to be largely overlooked in the text.
There are a few other downsides in the writing. Not least very early on they make reference to adding revenue to a balance sheet (p15), a statement so financially illiterate I know many people who would give up reading at that point. Dietz also expresses a frustration with the economics he learnt during his formal education in such a way that one might question whether he understood it.
Those, however, are minor points which should not be used to discard the whole project. One interesting overlap that I wasn't expecting to be so blatant was the overlap with christianity. The foreword, written by Herman Daly, explicitly references the provision of manna in the desert and the idea of "daily bread" in the Lord's prayer. The section on reforming the monetary system also echoed Philip Goodchild's Theology of Money, though the treatment here is a lot more accessible.
One could choose to treat this as pie-in-the-sky thinking, but the basic premise is one that needs attention paid and demands a change to current economic thinking. Whether this is the perfect solution, one may hold an opinion in favour or against. My opinion is that it's better to try than to not. The proposed solutions may need alteration and trying to get buy-in from the economic right-wing will be hard to get, but let's give it a go.
on 25 June 2015
Explains everything you need to know about sustainable development without that needless never-ending blah blah that academic books seem to think necessary. Easy to understand, easy to read. Best purchase in a while!
on 29 January 2013
This book is especially topical following the recent agonising in the UK media over the lack of economic growth in the UK and Europe.
It explains why economic growth (as measured by Gross Domestic Product, GDP), cannot continue to rise indefinitely because it is becoming limited by physical resources. The recent shale gas bonanza in the USA has extended the availability of cheap energy for a few more years, but the logic is inescapable and even there the limit will be reached before long. When the limit is reached (and perhaps it already has been for the UK and Europe), politicians and governments will no longer be able rely on economic growth to reduce poverty and unemployment.
The book goes on to propose measures that can be taken by individual countries and by international co-operation to run steady-state economies. As a scientist, I am not able to evaluate the measures proposed but I am happy to know that serious economic research is being done for the future and that a steady state world may be not only be achievable but may be better.