As you might expect from the title, this is a book that brings together the various strands of thinking that make up the rather nebulous field of `new economics', and presents them all in one place. It's a useful introduction to the uninitiated, and a re-cap for those who have been following the movement since the days of E F Schumacher.
In a nutshell, new economics is an approach that "values real, rather than illusory wealth, and puts people and planet first." It is concerned with the health of communities and individuals, with equality and opportunity - the things that make our lives worth living - rather than economic activity and growth for its own sake.
David Boyle and Andrew Simms have based the chapters of The New Economics: A Bigger Picture around some of the paradoxes of modern economics. `Why did China pay for the Iraq war?' explores the problem of how new money is created through debt mechanisms. `Why are Cuban mechanics the best in the world?' looks at our consumption of natural resources and the fact that traditional economics makes it more expensive to fix things than to replace them. `Why do fewer people vote when there is a Wal-Mart nearby?' investigates big business and the erosion of community, something Simms has covered before in his book Tescopoly. It's a structure that keeps the book accessible and interesting - a challenge for any economics writer.
Thankfully, there are solutions to these paradoxes, and each chapter explains the distinctively 'new economics' responses to them. They range from quite simple and obvious reforms like bankruptcy measures for countries or controlling tax havens, through to radical ideas like Tradeable Energy Quotas, the citizen's income, or the `Terra' global currency. And it isn't all theory either - plenty of these ideas are tried and tested and underway, from community land trusts to social return on investment schemes.
If there's a weakness to the book, it's the timing of it. Written in the latter half of 2008, right after the collapse of the financial system, the authors somewhat underestimate the resilience of global capitalism. But that's a minor inconvenience in what is a great declaration that there is an alternative. As the authors say, "the struggle for the soul of economics is gathering pace."
Global financial crises provide opportunities to question the viability of a society's operational economics, and the 2008-2009 recession is no exception. The myopic pursuit of the dollar (or euro, pound, renminbi or ruble) has left people exhausted, depressed and stressed. The cost of that quest is environmental and societal breakdowns. Perhaps the time has come to rethink the whole proposition, say David Boyle and Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation. Offering some alternative ideas for global capitalism, they demonstrate why money is a poor proxy for wealth, how happiness is more important than riches and how gross domestic product measures consequences that often are not in society's best interests. The authors provide workable, real-life solutions for rebalancing economic life. So how do you get off the monetary hamster wheel and find contentment? The answer is closer to home than you think: Contribute financially, emotionally and socially to your neighborhood and community. getAbstract recommends this prescription for better economic well-being to policy makers, corporate heads and politicians who are eager for an expanded, humanistic view of the economic future.
I bought this for my nephew who is studying A level economics. I am hoping that this book will help him see past the standard narrow economic texts to the bigger picture. I also got a copy for my other half who tells me it is fantastic. Someone please put this on the recess reading list for all our MP's (and everyone else in that building!).
Much of what is said is a practical and more socially just alternative to current neoliberal economics. The authors present a well argued case for progressive reform of the international political economy and press for the greening of international regulatory framework - both of which would provide for fairer outcomes for the Global South and for the disadvantaged within the developed capitalist countries. It is clearly written, avoiding jargon and I recommend it for those wishing to obtain an introduction to the political economy.
I devoured this book purchased after I grasped some info about what's wrong with the current centralized currency speculation system through another Boyle's book, "The little money book". In "The New Economics" I found practical ideas that matches my perspective of common well-being. The book is a brilliant Economy related book understandable also to non-economist. Now I feel like I have to do something and I have some ideas about what can be done.