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What's the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It's Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness Hardcover – November 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Offer[s] dozens of examples and practical solutions to help us choose another way forward” ―Boston Globe

“A stimulating approach to the economy, which puts people and their needs ahead of money-based indicators of growth and performance. … An entertaining presentation of important ideas and information about how lives could be improved.” ―Kirkus

“This book is an excellent contribution to our national discourse” ―Booklist

“De Graaf and Batker pose a provocative question: what is the economy for if not to maximize the well-being of the citizenry? ... [Their] criticisms--of big business, taxation, American universities, Obama's response to the financial meltdown--are lucid; what comes as a pleasant surprise is that their solutions are no less clear and actionable.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Yes, What's the Economy For, Anyway? is tremendously exciting, thought-provoking, and essential to thinking about our survival. But for me, it's just plain fun to read! I've always been the hedonist of the Simplicity movement, so I know when something is truly enjoyable. And this book is. Read and enjoy!” ―Cecile Andrews, author of Slow Is Beautiful, and Circle of Simplicity

What's the Economy For, Anyway? begs the question: "What were we thinking?!" This landmark book is destined to become the anthem of the nascent global movement to create sufficiency within the natural limits of the planet and provide a high quality of life. The rallying cry of the early twentieth century holds true today: Bread and Roses--a living wage and time to smell the roses. We've been acting like a rock star trashing a hotel room, but this hotel is planet Earth and the guest rules are non-negotiable. This dazzling book brews up a brilliant remedy for the life-threatening hangover from the economic binge that's destroying the planet and making most people very unhappy. It's visionary and practical, LOL funny, and it resonates with perfect pitch as only the deepest truths can do.” ―Kenny Ausubel, Co-CEO and founder, Bioneers

“This book raises many fundamental questions that are rarely asked. Why should be people be unemployed when there is work to be done? Why do economists tend to view income as being more valuable than vacations and other forms of leisure? Our view of the economy tends to be far too narrow. What's the Economy For, Anyway? will help broaden our perspective.” ―Dean Baker, co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

“Forget the bloviating ‘experts' urging us to punish the poor and middle classes for the failures of Wall Street and the gluttonous rich. This book strips bare the myths of ‘free market' economics and shows us what our economy really needs to do: create the most happiness for the most people for the longest time. It's a refreshing blast of truth in these confusing and divided times.” ―Peter Barnes, co-founder of CREDO and author of Capitalism 3.0

“This book convincingly documents that what people want from our economic system is more time, more equality, more well-being, and better health. People want an economy that is not an obstacle to social relations, one that does not produce more insecurity , one that allows life in a better and sustainable natural environment. In short, people want an economy made for people.” ―Stefan Bartolini, Università degli Studi di Siena, author of Manifesto for Happiness

“By focusing on economic growth, we get misery in the USA. But the authors suggest another world is possible, one that would be better for all. We will all do better for following their advice to build a house of health and achieving the good life that lasts forever.” ―Stephen Bezruchka, MD, University of Washington School of Public Health

“As an advocate for mothers, families and dignity at work, I believe this book asks precisely the right question. We can live our lives and structure our economy in a manner that honors our core values. Read this prescription for full employment, healthy communities and happy family lives!” ―Joan Blades, author of The Custom-Fit Workplace and co-founder of MomsRising

“If you read one book on the economy this year – and you should – make it What's the Economy For, Anyway?. You'll gain a clear understanding of what's gone wrong, and what we have to do to fix it.” ―Ann Crittenden, author of If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything and The Price of Motherhood

“In clear, accessible language, de Graaf and Batker return to what we once called the ‘political economy.' With a focus on already existing programs, initiatives, and laws, they lay out a compelling case for an old notion: an economy is more than just a number; an aggregation of buying and selling activity. An economy is a compendium of our relationships with our bodies, with our neighbors, and with our planet.” ―David Crockett, Associate Professor of Marketing, Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

“Economics professors are good at answering ‘how to' questions, but not so good with ‘what for?' or ‘so what?' questions. This clearly and simply-written book strikes a powerful blow for economic sanity by asking the main ‘what for?' questions, and giving cogent and specific answers. A wonderful voter's guide on economic issues for the 2012 election and beyond!” ―Herman E. Daly, professor emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland

“The economy should be for us, but it's not. This smart, lively, and lovable book explains how we could move it in a happier and more sustainable direction.” ―Nancy Folbre, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, author of The Invisible Heart

“At a time when a lot of insane ideas are in danger of being enacted in Washington DC, including a frenzy of bills to fleece the middle-class and further pamper our economic elite, this book asks the most fundamental question of all: what in hell is the economy for, if not for a good and sustainable quality of life for all? And it offers some fresh ideas for economic progress based on common sense and the common good. Read, absorb, and take action!” ―Jim Hightower, former Texas Agriculture Commissioner and author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow

“America is stuck, both politically and economically, and looking for the way forward. The path begins here, with John de Graaf and David Batker's brilliant What's the Economy For, Anyway? They ask the right questions and supply answers that should cause all Americans to rethink our nation's priorities, values and institutions. This book is the beginning of an American revolution that will result in a better American Way for the 21st century.” ―Steven Hill, author of Europe's Promise

“You get what you measure. De Graaf and Batker demonstrate clearly and powerfully that getting an economy that works for us begins with getting clear on we really want.” ―David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth and When Corporations Rule the World

What's the Economy for, Anyway? gives us a freeing, compelling new way to think about economic life. Drink up the possibility in this great book--a perfect tonic for tough times!” ―Frances Moore Lappé, author of EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want, and Diet for a Small Planet

“With our economy tattered and listing, it's an excellent moment to ask basic questions: what should we be aiming for as a society, and what's necessary to get there? Happily, other parts of the world provide many of the answers, as John de Graaf and David Batker show in this extremely valuable volume.” ―Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“This urgently-needed book--covering a range of ageless issues--asks one of the most fundamental questions surrounding the evolution of human societies and personal life: what should an economy most significantly do? To these authors, the answer for the United States is more clearly than ever not about facilitating more work days and more buying power. Rather, it is about creating more freedom and more time for its citizens to live their lives with basic security, balance, and richness. De Graaf and Batker seek to restore common sense and vision, and to provide worthy practical guidelines for changes in the U. S. socioeconomic system. Together they offer new and vital hope as hopelessness seems sadly on the rise.” ―David Mick, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, University of Virginia

What's the Economy for, Anyway? informs, entertains and inspires while it explains the ‘dismal science' so ordinary people like you and me can see what a "bill of goods" we've been sold about the economy. We've given allegiance to a false financial god that promised us prosperity, delivered for a while and then told us not to worry, to keep the faith as debt piled up, people lost their homes, the average work week ballooned far beyond forty hours (if you have a job), and the basics of the social safety net were threatened. This book not only shows what's happened in broad terms, it offers specific, humane, common sense policies!” ―Vicki Robin, coauthor, Your Money or Your Life

“Since the financial collapse of 2007, snake-oil peddlers have diverted the economic conversation into misguided answers and the wrong questions. Charlatans, beware! De Graaf and Batker have produced a powerful antidote. Their combined expertise on issues of happiness, time use, ecology and economic alternatives permeates the pages of this breezily-written, inspiring, and common-sense account of what really yields true economic well-being.” ―Juliet B. Schor, author of True Wealth, Born to Buy and The Overworked American

“I loved What's the Economy For, Anyway? It's a truly important and accessible book that says some very profound things about our life in America today. It deserves a big audience. It's terrific, really!” ―Haskell Wexler, Academy Award-winning cinematographer (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Bound for Glory) and film director

About the Author

John de Graaf is the national coordinator of Take Back Your Time, an organization challenging time poverty and overwork in the U.S. and Canada (see www.timeday.org) and a frequent speaker on issues of overwork and over-consumption in America. John is the co-author of the best-selling Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. David Batker is a fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. He is the director of Earth Economics, a firm which provides ecologically-oriented economic analysis.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; 1st edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608195104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608195107
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,343,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Authors de Graaf and Batker take an unconventional look at how we tie ourselves into knots of anxiety over concepts that add little value to our lives. Their new book What's the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It's Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness dovetails with current Occupy efforts--this is a time to question not only where we are, but how we got here and de Graaf and Batker are up to the challenge--they address themes of consumption, economics and the pursuit of happiness in an America boosting over 14 million unemployed with vast wealth being held by 1% of the population.

What's the Economy For, Anyway? Why It's Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness gives a broad ranging perspective on the history behind Gross National Product and Gross Domestic Product as economic measures, themes of global development and the steady decrease in quality of life ratings for American citizens.

A well-researched tome which pulls insights from economists like Jeremy Bentham, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Nobel Prize-winning Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen as well as politicians Senator Robert F. Kennedy and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who contribute policy suggestions that seem essential alongside necessary changes recognized by such strongholds of capitalism as the World Bank. Mix in a bit of John Muir and Michael Moore and here is a cuppa thought brewed from our very own daily grind. de Graaf and Batker's "What's the Economy For Anyway?" has been named "Best Business Book for Fall 2011" by Publishers Weekly. de Graaf also was a featured speaker at Bioneers this year.

de Graaf and Batker establish an outline for the solution to America' economic woes by way of a pamphlet written by Gifford Pinchot in 1905.
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Format: Hardcover
A "must read" for the election year. This book makes a convincing case for retiring America's use of the GDP. While many European countries can demonstrate economic growth and stability, their people can also boast the highest quality of life and the greatest levels of happiness (health care for all, employment with sustainable wages, top level education.) By comparison the Unites States, which has a high GDP, is economically unstable and the quality of life for the average American has declined dramatically over the past 30 years (high infant mortality, low education achievement, and declining life expectancy). Among the many recommendations in the book, the authors believe that it is time to replace the GDP with a new set of measures - ones that will allow us to do the most good, for the most people for the longest period of time. We can put the lessons from the Great Depression, modern Europe, our recent financial collapse and measures like Gross National Happiness to good use as a basis for beginning this process
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Format: Hardcover
Everybody from all political persuasions will gain something valuable from this amazingly lucid, thoughtful, humanistic book. The information contained provides both terrific historical perspective and is also completely on topic for our current situation. Impossible to recommend highly enough!!
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Format: Hardcover
Thoughtful, though-provoking, and eminently readable, this book is a must-read for anyone who's ever wondered: is there more to life than growth? Examines how using GDP as our sole measure of prosperity is a tool more suited to an earlier era, which incorporates negatives (such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill) as economic positives, while being incapable of measuring the real economic realities of the people of this country. Batker and De Graaf explore the concept that the economy is more than a force or an end unto itself, but rather has a purpose - supporting and sustaining the well-being of real people. Essentially, we're measuring the wrong things, and consequently chasing an unsustainable goal of ever-greater growth that's impoverishing each American in a very real way. This isn't a call to abandon seeking wealth, but simply to redefine our relationship with money and the economy, and create more sustainable, fairer partnerships between business, the workplace, and individual Americans.

Helen, financialintegrity(dot)org
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Format: Hardcover
Great book! This is without doubt a must read for EVERY economist and every person interested in economic dynamics and/or why our current economic system is failing us, and future generations. Excellent analysis of the current situation and the way forward solution. Great praise to these authors for their insight and pragmatic, realistic perspective. This book should be mandatory reading for every national leader and economic adviser. Indeed it should be required as part of every high school/university curriculum, especially within the context of creating an informed public necessary for true democracy. Enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
Review of DeGraaf's and Batker's "What's the economy for, anyway" by Paul F. Ross

Borrowing from the eighteenth century philosopher Jeremy Bentham's thought and the school of philosophy known as "utilitarianism," DeGraaf and Batker arbitrarily set the goal of the world's economies as doing the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest run. Given that framework, they then examine the economic history of the world with particular focus on the United States from 1900 to the present time. The authors clearly see themselves as economists and place their ideas in this context,

DeGraaf, John, and Batker, David K. What's the economy for, anyway: Why it's time to stop chasing growth and start pursuing happiness 2011, Bloomsbury Press, New York NY, x + 292 pages

overlooking the detail, for example, that history sees Bentham as a philosopher and jurist with an interest in economics. The authors' intellectual framework has the unhappy effect of allowing little input to the authors' thoughts from the behavioral and management sciences extending beyond economics, but their views are, nevertheless, most stimulating and well worth the read. Those who believe the economic and social goals of the United States have been properly managed from the time of President Ronald Reagan forward need to be warned that this work will be a very uncomfortable read. Those who believe that modern economies as we view them are poorly measured and overlook many important goals will be delighted with this read, wondering "Where have these ideas been hiding!
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