The Wealth of Nature

by: EJ on 06/10/2011

 John Michael Greer writes with unsurpassed clarity about the predicaments of energy and economy mankind faces. And he does it with a wonderfully kind, genial, and wise spirit. This is the must-read book for anyone who wishes to make through the coming turbulence.--James Howard Kunstler, Author of The Long Emergency and other books


John Michael Greer, author of the recently released The Wealth of  Nature: Economics as If Survival Mattered, is our featured author this month in our new book club.  The Wealth of Nature discusses nature-centered economics for the age of peak oil.  John Michael Greer writes about placing public welfare above corporate interests, prioritizing local sustainable solutions and building economies at an appropriate scale. 

Building on the paradigm breaking work of E.F. Schumacher, Greer takes Adam Smith and contemporary economic theorists to task. His goal is to revision the ways that human societies deal with the production and distribution of goods and services. 


From the Introduction:

"The wild swings in energy costs, the even wilder cycles of economic boom and bust and the sharp impacts of all this volatility on the social and political fabric of the world’s industrial nations have their source in the disastrous mismatch between an economic and technological system geared to exponential growth and the hard limits of a finite planet.3 The consequences to our descendants will be even more extreme. Still, it may be possible to mitigate the worst of those consequences, and make life considerably easier for generations to come, by revisioning the ways that human societies deal with the production and distribution of goods and services. The crisis of the present makes such a revisioning necessary, but it also provides a window of opportunity in which such a revision might just be able to find its way from theory into practice.

This book is meant to further that hard but necessary process. I am not a professional economist, and the cult of expertise that pervades modern culture may make it seem presumptuous for someone without an economics degree to suggest a redefinition of contemporary economics. It may seem even more presumptuous in that several movements toward an ecologically sane economics have risen since Schumacher’s time; economists such as Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Kenneth Boulding, Herman Daly and Robert Costanza have presented densely reasoned works of economic theory arguing for the inclusion of the value of “natural capital” — in Schumacher’s terms, primary goods — in economic calculations, and challenging the simplistic ways that conventional economic thought brushes aside environmental destruction and resource depletion as nonissues.

Still, it may be worth noting that Adam Smith did not have an economics degree, and his pathbreaking study of economics lacked any trace of the intricate mathematical formulations that today’s economists too often consider essential to their craft. Smith worked instead on the level of fundamental ideas; Schumacher, whose writings are just as sparse in their use of calculations, did the same; so, in its own way, does this book. Like Smith’s and Schumacher’s works, too, this book is not addressed to economists. Rather, its goal is to communicate the failure of modern economics, and potential solutions to the crises driven by that failure, to the audience that has the final say in matters of public policy: the public itself.

The predicament into which industrial civilization has backed itself at the end of the age of cheap energy, the subject of my previous books The Long Descent and The Ecotechnic Future, has a crucial economic dimension, and The Wealth of Nature is intended to help make sense of that dimension by applying E.F. Schumacher’s Copernican revolution in economic thought to the crisis of our time. If the ideas suggested here inspire others to rethink the foundations of contemporary economics, and set aside some of the mistaken ideas that have so consistently blocked a sane response to the largely unacknowledged roots of our current troubles, this book will have done its work."

To celebrate the launch of John Michael Greer's third book with New Society Publishers, we are offering participants in our book club a special bundle deal.  Sign up here and look for details under the "welcome" topic. 






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