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The Economics of Enough

The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Economics of Enough
    Book Description:

    The world's leading economies are facing not just one but many crises. The financial meltdown may not be over, climate change threatens major global disruption, economic inequality has reached extremes not seen for a century, and government and business are widely distrusted. At the same time, many people regret the consumerism and social corrosion of modern life. What these crises have in common, Diane Coyle argues, is a reckless disregard for the future--especially in the way the economy is run. How can we achieve the financial growth we need today without sacrificing a decent future for our children, our societies, and our planet? How can we realize what Coyle calls "the Economics of Enough"?

    Running the economy for tomorrow as well as today will require a wide range of policy changes. The top priority must be ensuring that we get a true picture of long-term economic prospects, with the development of official statistics on national wealth in its broadest sense, including natural and human resources. Saving and investment will need to be encouraged over current consumption. Above all, governments will need to engage citizens in a process of debate about the difficult choices that lie ahead and rebuild a shared commitment to the future of our societies.

    Creating a sustainable economy--having enough to be happy without cheating the future--won't be easy. ButThe Economics of Enoughstarts a profoundly important conversation about how we can begin--and the first steps we need to take.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3811-0
    Subjects: Business, Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-18)

    In mid-September 2007 my sister phoned me to ask whether she should withdraw her savings from the bank and put the money somewhere else—and if so, where would be safe. She was with Northern Rock, and there was an old-fashioned run on the bank. It was unable to meet customers’ demand for withdrawals and had to ask the Bank of England to lend it the cash. The television news showed lines of anxious depositors hoping to take out all their funds. It was the first full-fledged bank run in living memory in the United Kingdom. I told her that...


    • ONE Happiness
      (pp. 21-54)

      An image of happiness will prompt a warm glow of emotion, a recognisable mental or even physical reaction. If a picture of a dollar bill or credit card, or of the earning or spending of money, stimulated any emotional reaction it would most likely be a negative one.

      For many centuries, philosophers have considered the nature of happiness. During the past hundred years, psychologists have accumulated experimental results about the reality rather than the theory of happiness. In just the past decade or so, economists have muscled into the happiness debate.

      What on earth can economics contribute and why is...

    • TWO Nature
      (pp. 55-84)

      Whenever the economy is in a recession, a wave of books and feature articles will discover the joys of a simpler, less acquisitive lifestyle. This recession has been no exception. Except that, compared with the downturn of the early 1990s, there is a much greater emphasis now on the green benefits of buying less and making do instead. Downshifting made its first appearance in the early 1990s, but the “Downshifting Manifesto” that appeared in the United States in 2008 had the title, “Slow Down and Green Up.” For those out of a job or short of cash, this really is...

    • THREE Posterity
      (pp. 85-113)

      Serious environmental challenges are only one aspect of the widespread sense that the economic and social framework of our world is in crisis. The other dramatic and immediate crisis of recent times has been the financial crisis, the near disintegration of the global banking system, which started slowly in 2007 and reached a crescendo with the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008 and its impact on financial transactions around the world. The literal failure of the financial system, and the deep and long recession it triggered, offered a dramatic demonstration of the unsustainability of the way...

    • FOUR Fairness
      (pp. 114-144)

      Do people have an innate sense of fairness? Or are we intrinsically selfish and bound to come into conflict with each other? In the past philosophers have disagreed. Thomas Hobbes was famously pessimistic, holding that our self-interest was bound to lead to a “war of all against all” in the absence of a strong state to enforce peace. Jean-Jacques Rousseau disagreed with this dark vision, set out a few decades earlier by Hobbes inLeviathan. Rousseau agreed that humans have a drive to self-preservation but also held (inDiscourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality among Men) that a...

    • FIVE Trust
      (pp. 145-178)

      On Wednesday 10 September 2008, Lehman Brothers was worth about $5 billion on the New York Stock Exchange. Its shares had lost three quarters of their value during the year, so that valuation was already much lower than the $60 billion it had been worth in early 2007. By the end of the week, it was worth just $100 million or so to its shareholders and owed more than $600 billion. A weekend rescue attempt by the authorities failed, and the bank, founded in 1850, went bust.

      Its demise sent shares in other banks tumbling as well. More bankruptcies were...


    • SIX Measurement
      (pp. 181-208)

      The first half of this book has set out the central challenge of our times: economic growth is essential but the way it has been achieved for the past generation cannot continue. To argue, as has become fashionable, that Western economies should just stop growing is delusional. There is no quick fix to the challenge.

      Growth offers material benefits and also, increasingly in the world’s richest economies, offers people more potential to develop their capabilities and shape their lives in enjoyable and meaningful ways. Social welfare, to use the technical language of economics, is without doubt improved by economic growth....

    • SEVEN Values
      (pp. 209-238)

      The theme of the previous chapter was the need to measure better what we value. This chapter is about identifying what we value, in the context of an economy whose structure has been changing in fundamental ways, because better measurements in themselves won’t improve social welfare. What’s the right weight for policymakers to put on different indicators? How should they assess the metrics? One answer, the one many people would have given until recently, is that this challenge is best left to markets. Markets automatically reflect information widely dispersed through the economy and also the preferences of countless individuals, and...

    • EIGHT Institutions
      (pp. 239-264)

      The recent anniversary of the November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall brought back emotional memories for Europeans of my generation. Like many children growing up in the Cold War 1960s, I had nuclear nightmares: grey landscapes of ash and devastation with no one else left alive, and the ticking of Geiger counters counting out the rest of eternity. The postwar division of Europe dominated the cultural landscape too. Literature and the arts were shaped by it, as much as politics and diplomacy. The whole of 1989 had brought a succession of dramatic and exciting events east of the Iron...


    • NINE The Manifesto of Enough
      (pp. 267-298)

      The first part of this book set out the dimensions of the multiple challenges currently facing the leading industrial economies. It’s mainly in the context of climate change that the wider public have become aware of looming crisis, and even in that context there is little sign of tremendous public appetite for changing behavior. But alongside the potential impact of climate change, we face a debt crisis, a result of untenable social security arrangements in aging societies as well as the impact of bailing out the banks that caused the financial crisis; a strong sense of unfairness caused by inequality...

    (pp. 299-300)
  8. NOTES
    (pp. 301-312)
    (pp. 313-326)
    (pp. 327-328)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 329-346)