BOOKCASE: The New Economics: A Bigger Picture

• David Boyle and Andrew Simms
• Earthscan
• RRP $50

The sheer diversity and seriousness of the current global crises that face us – in credit, climate and energy – compel response that is both more effective and imaginative than propping up the miscreants and carrying on with business as usual.
The New Economics provides both an excellent critique of what’s gone wrong and useful blueprint for how to formulate an economic system that values real rather than illusory wealth and puts people and planet first. The authors use series of intriguing questions (Why did China finance the Iraq war? Why import and export the same number of chocolate waffles? Why do Britons work harder than mediaeval peasants?) as chapter headings to explore how and where the existing money-centred system has failed us.
Had the leaders of the big UK banks who claimed “nobody” had spotted the systemic risks of their behaviours peered from their ivory towers, the authors suggest, they might have been forced to ask why the system they oversee requires such huge indebtedness (at individual, corporate and country levels) just to chug on. Take the US – its national debt increases at the rate of US$1.4 billion every day and now stands at over US$10 trillion. It has to grow just to keep paying the interest. Sound familiar?
And behind this debt-fuelled need for growth lies the fundamental problem of global financial system that underpins our lives but is disconnected from them (something New Zealand exporters are all too aware of). Of the US$3 trillion day that races through it, some 90 percent is pure speculation – it has nothing whatsoever to do with facilitating the exchange of goods and services or making capital available to those creating productive businesses.
It doesn’t have to be this way and the authors outline the history and growth of alternative systems – ones that measure what matters (individual/community wellbeing, environmental health etc) rather than just the value of financial transactions; that don’t ignore the planet; that basically reject “money as the totemic centre of pseudoscience”.
This is not just book for economic buffs or for those brave souls already tilting at the obdurate windmills of established interest, it is for anyone interested in developing ways of life that are based on something more fulfilling than endless consumerism and burgeoning debt. Despite the title, it is also an accessible, even gripping, read. • Vicki Jayne

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