Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train: Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders, and a Plan to Stop Them All

Brian Czech, Author
Brian Czech, Author University of California Press $40 (210p) ISBN 978-0-520-22508-4
Paperback - 220 pages - 978-0-520-22514-5
Open Ebook - 220 pages - 978-1-283-27701-3
Open Ebook - 220 pages - 978-0-520-92560-1
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Economic growth is as American as apple pie and as popular as pizza. It has also, according to conservation biologist Czech, reached its limits and had led to ""economic bloat,"" doing irreversible harm to the environment and literally destroying the future for the next generations. The main culprits here are mainstream, ""neoclassical"" economists (and also the political and economic elite supporting them) who through arcane theorization insist there are no limits to growth. Czech does a marvelous job of skewering the assumptions behind this notion and of introducing and synthesizing the perspectives of the opposing field, ""environmental economics,"" which offers in the place of unbridled growth a ""steady state"" economy of low production and consumption and stable population. Moving through sometimes difficult ideas like ""substitutability,"" ""trophic levels"" and ""carrying capacity,"" Czech is always clear but never condescending, serious but not without humor. Agree with him or not, he is eminently clear. Yet it all falls apart when he discusses what might be done. Given the severity of the ecological crisis Czech finds us in, his recommendation that public opinion should shame conspicuous consumers among the rich into changing their ways is both vague and tepid. Missing are analyses of public policy options and considerations of political strategies that are as focused and nuanced as his critiques. Too bad, for when he's on his game--in the first part of the book--he's as good at popularizing economics as Carl Sagan was science. (Sept.)
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