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   The New Economics
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
15 Feb 2010

Economics as if people matter

New Economics makes fascinating reading. It is must read book for anyone dismayed by the way market economics has driven us to the wall. Authors David Boyle and Andrew Simms begin by arguing that the financial markets are the epicentre of a massive system, the main purpose of which is to make its key players unimaginably rich. Further, it forgives the powerful their mistakes, and cushions them against hard times, but exhausts the rest of us and punishes and corrodes the lives of the poorer two thirds of the world.

It compares sheer diversity of the immediate crises - in credit, climate and energy - to ecological, human and spiritual crises. According to the authors, these are not usually understood as economic problems, but that is exactly what they are: a byproduct of faulty measurement and misleading values pedaled by ill-directed economic system. New economics is an approach that 'values real, rather than illusory wealth, and puts people and planet first.' It puts individuals, equality and opportunity ahead of economic activity and growth.

The book considers economics as a problem and begins each of the ten chapters with an intriguing question and dissects it to the last, which invariably boils down to the fact that economics is breaking society to maximise profit. It is evident all across - urbanization is growing, roads are choked, small shops are closing, people are stressed, marriages are failing and poverty is on the rise. The planet can't take it; the human psyche can't take it; but economics seems to insist that we do it anyway. We all know that life is about more than wealth, but our economy doesn't seem to recognize it.

David Boyle and Andrew Simms have based the chapters of book on most unassuming questions like 'Why did China pay for the Iraq war?' and 'Why do fewer people vote when there is a Wal-Mart nearby?' That new money is created through debt mechanisms and big business leads to erosion of community makes for compelling response to the leading questions. Interestingly, each chapter connects the reader to 'other books of the genre', not as reference but as additional reading material that makes New Economics an amazingly rich experience.

The book list 20 steps to build a better economy and showcases Great Barrington in western Massachusetts, a small American town, which has bucked the trend. It has a high street full of locally owned shops and a thriving network of local banks. It has access to a range of local food, which is fresh and healthy. Great Barrington has its own currency, Berkshares, nearly $2 million of which has been issued in and around the town to keep the wheels of the local economy turning, and to maximize the way that it engages local people, food and resources where possible.

David Boyle and Andrew Simms list plenty of tried and tested new economics solutions, each worthy of emulation. The financial crises may not have toppled the ivory tower of old economics, but it certainly has given a jolt to its foundation that only New Economics can strengthen. Without doubt, it is an immensely readable book that has a visionary appeal.

New Economics by David Boyle and Andrew Simms, Earthscan, UK, 192 pages, $16.99


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
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Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

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