Economic Development News & Insight


Review: “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?”

/ September 1, 2012 /

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The Great Recession and current economic instability have raised many questions about how to revive the economy and create jobs. For some, however, economic recovery is not about a rebound. It’s about a rebuild (or perhaps a Great Reset) and rethinking the very purpose and structure of the economy, much like the Great Depression gave rise to new goals, metrics and policies for the 20th century economy.

What's the Economy For, Anyway?In “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness” John de Graaf (a writer, documentary filmmaker and co-author of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic) and David Batker (an economist and executive director of Earth Economics) ask the question of what the American economy and economic policies might look like if it was organized around quality of life, social justice, sustainability and happiness rather than GDP growth.

According to de Graaf and Batker, America’s economy needs new goals and measurement tools to meet the realities of the 21st century. Looking at examples from around the world, the authors examine potential new metrics (like the new Key National Indicator System from the USA, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, or tools like those used in Bhutan to measure Gross National Happiness) as well as policies and approaches to dealing economic and social issues (like the flexicurity approach to labour market flexibility and social security used in Denmark, or the implementation of kurzarbeit and codetermination in Germany).

While focused on America’s economic challenges and opportunities, “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness” is certainly worth a read for the wealth of case studies presented and its accessible, often entertaining, approach. With their big picture focus, de Graaf and Batker also provide some interesting insights into the relationships between the economy and a wide range of environmental and social concerns. Pick up a copy of “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?” and take a look at de Graaf and Batker’s series of videos on the same topic here.

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