“Economics as a Truly Social Science”
A review of
The Economics of Enough:
How to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters.
By Diane Coyle
Review by Matthew Kaul.
At few points in American history has the intersection of politics and economics featured so centrally in the news, in our discussions, in the ways we live our lives day to day. Internationally, we watch as the Greek debt crisis spirals down and down, drawing Portugal, Spain, Italy along with it, and threatening the very existence of the European Union. Domestically, we listen to pundits repeat platitudes and slogans ad naseum as the divided federal government carries itself ever closer to default while the unemployment rate, when it’s not stagnating, continues to rise. Locally, we’ve been reminded of the possibility of protest and civil disobedience as political acts (a possibility much more easily forgotten in American than in most of the rest of the world), as protests engulfed a capital (Indianapolis) that some state legislators had fled. In all these events, in the continual lingering of a crisis that doesn’t seem to quit, we see just how deeply the economy is politicized, and likewise we come to recognize the economic costs of poor political decision-making.
If you’re like me, you frequently throw up your hands in despair over the mess in which we find ourselves—a global mess provoked in the first place by the egregious greed and recklessness of a few. Add to that concerns over global warming and our abuse of the environment, a population in the West that’s aging and hasn’t properly planned for the financial costs of that aging (even as the developing world’s population explodes at an equally unsustainable rate), wars that seem never to end, etc. The sheer scope of and complex connections between these problems begs for some assuring voice of reason to simply explain to us what is going on. How can we hope to understand something as complex as contemporary political economy? If we can, how should we do so?