cover image The Alternative: How to Build a Just Economy

The Alternative: How to Build a Just Economy

Nick Romeo. PublicAffairs, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5417-0159-5

Journalist Romeo debuts with an invigorating investigation of how governments across the globe are implementing creative and practical fixes “to urgent economic problems, from decreasing wealth inequality to addressing the climate crisis and creating meaningful jobs.” In Amsterdam, he explains, some businesses are opting into a “true price” program that incorporates “climate impact, water use, land use, and underpayment to workers” into products’ retail price. For example, a tomato picked by an underpaid worker and delivered with a diesel truck will carry an extra charge, incentivizing companies to institute more ethical practices to remain competitive. Romeo humanizes the policy talk with stories of people affected by the various programs, as when he describes how an out of work cobbler found employment doing carpentry and teaching German as part of a jobs guarantee program in Gramatneusiedl, Austria. Discussions of worker-owned cooperatives in the Basque country of Spain and participatory budgeting in Portugal will expand readers’ conception of what public policy can look like, and Romeo offers an incisive history of how neoliberal economists have limited America’s legislative imagination since the 1970s by falsely asserting that the country’s institutions and fiscal policy were founded on “immutable” laws of economics, and consequently beyond large-scale reform. This is an eye-opening handbook for a better world. (Jan.)