The new book by Howard Richards with the help of Gavin Andersson. Preface by Evelin Lindner. Lake Oswego OR: Dignity Press, 2022. Available on Amazon and other sites as a print book and Kindle eBook.
Commentary by Michael Britton
This book is not the boring, unreadable stuff I would expect from economics. I only picked up this book, Howard Richard’s masterpiece, because it promised to address hopes for a better world, everyone’s rights to dignity and a decent livelihood , and the need we all have to do things that matter to others, to contribute what we can to feel good about ourselves and grateful for each other. As a retired psychotherapist, these are things that matter to me and, I think, to all of us. The book tackles big questions about economics itself that bear on our audacity to hope. Economists argue that we have the only possible approach to economics, but is that true? Could life be much better even if they say no? A book that answered these questions was a book I wanted to read.
Let me introduce you to some of the great discoveries that await you in this most surprising book. Howard began by demolishing the illusions that make economic life seem so complicated and intimidating that we’d rather do more than examine it, beginning by confronting the implicit bashing of you and me when we dare to want to understand how our economic world actually works. , the unspoken message: How could people like you and me understand economics? We are simply not up to the task. Economics is a science, like rocket science, and we shouldn’t expect to “understand”, ignorant as we are. It belongs in the hands of the professionals.
It turns out that economics is not a science. Economists live and work within a particular world and its economic system. They are initiates who think about what they notice in their world, think about how it works, and commit to supporting that world. In short, economics is the ideology of a given economic system. It justifies what is done, hides differences, promises success to insiders, and ignores big questions like: Is life really the way we want it to be? The field will dampen your interest with its equations long before you realize that none of these equations will get you there.
As for the economic system we live in in the United States, it is built on the point of discussion that a pure market economy (pure capitalism), when done correctly, will make everyone happy, which in the real world means everyone will have a decent wage and paying job. But not so. You will discover in this book that a pure market economy is not capable of producing full employment. Already. It doesn’t matter what you do with it. In this system, you face this reality by “realizing” that caring about the excluded is not helpful, necessary or worthwhile. It’s their fault if they don’t work. (Even though there can’t be enough jobs for everyone in this system.) Why not? Read the book, it’s as close to a thriller as economics can get.
Dealing with this unpleasant reality led to a second system, liberal national economies, as in the Swedish model. The people at the heart of these systems care that every last person has a decent life and every last person has a dignified life. And they think they have a method: combine high taxes with abundant redistribution and government services, and everyone will live well enough, the safety net economy. But it turned out that it works well for a while but can’t last long. Howard explains why, and it’s not about abstractions. In Sweden, it was a few companies like Volvo, which for a time brought the whole country to universal dignity. And then they couldn’t. And you can understand how it all worked!
By the time I got this far in the book, I had the exhilarating realization that I felt educated in economic reality for the first time in my life. I could understand how countries actually work, unobscured by this deluge of concepts, mechanisms and regulations that threaten to drown us out every time we ask questions about the economy. I wasn’t getting a pseudo-education, I was learning how things really work. And that’s when I realized that economics presented us with a million variables, all of which must be known and deeply understood if we are to understand anything, a message that leaves us confused, numb and unable to get away from the subject. quite fast. The economy as it is keeps us outside of what’s really going on, making us ignorant and stupid – that is, powerless. The economy is the business of the great, that is to say those who have power and those who work for them. It’s not democracy.
None of these existing models can deliver the life we all hope for, not on a lasting basis. And here, Howard – economist, historian and philosopher by dint of training and immense research and work – takes on its full meaning. At the base of every pattern of economic life we have is a broader understanding of who we are to each other, the roles we play in each other’s lives, and what that life is like together. This understanding is central to the social structure of a culture, the inter-human relational attitudes that give meaning, shape and direction to almost everything. The social structure underlying our world responds to “Who matters?” with ‘not everyone.’ And to ‘What matters?’ with a sense of life and what we humans love reduced to economic results, a rich sense of human liveliness absent from its horizons. In this part of the work, we are in the presence of true wisdom. The book doesn’t just guide us through economics, it’s an ascent to a transformative vision, transformative for readers and for the world as it is. And so the big shock: This world really can be different, just as in our hearts most of us yearn for it to be.
A clear, wise, knowledgeable and competent population should be the goal of economics and that is the goal of this book. It takes us to the edge of saving a world that we all want and can’t quite articulate or imagine due to our immersion in what is, and then takes us right into the way of to approach all economic life differently, as if the riches of human creativity and vivacity matter and the dignity of all lives matters, and all this is achievable, within our reach. So what is the way, you ask? For that, you have to read the book!
A clear, wise, knowledgeable and competent population should be the goal of economics and that is the goal of this book. It takes us to the edge of saving a world that we all want and can’t quite articulate or imagine due to our immersion in what is, and then takes us right into the way of to approach all economic life differently, as if the riches of human creativity and vivacity matter and the dignity of all lives matters, and all this is achievable, within our reach. So what is the way, you ask? For that this is the book to read!