Book Review: Doughnut Economics

Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways To Think Like A 21st Century Economist, by Kate Raworth

This is a book that is not completely worthless, and that is probably the highest praise that I can give it. What is good and true about this book is not new, and what is new about this book is not good and true, which is a common problem with books that market themselves to progressives as progressive works. In order to read this book profitably one has to correct for the author’s tone and discount the author’s rhetoric and to appreciate the genuine insights of past generations of economists going back to the 18th century but including plenty of 20th century ones. Indeed, the biggest valid criticism that one finds of much of contemporary economic thinking is that people do not recognize the original meaning of economics as household management, and do not recognize that something is not good for the nation is not good unless it is good for individual and ordinary households, something which is good as far as it goes, though a great many leftist economists forget that economics is not good on the large scale unless it follows the principles that are sound for households as well. This sort of thing works both ways, and if there is anything progressive politics is bad at, that is acting according to sound principles of anything on any scale.

This book is about 250 pages long and it is divided into seven chapters. The author begins with a question about who wants to be an economist and ends (predictably) with a statement that we are all economists now, as if we have not always been so. In between are chapters where the author seeks to move the goalposts from GDP to the doughnut, failing to recognize that GDP is used as a goalpost because it is measurable, not because it is the most important thing (1). This is followed by a look at the big picture, which mostly involves the author’s attempts to claim for an embedded economy (2). After that the author seeks to nurture fallible human nature (3) and also argues in favor of a “dynamic complexity” (4). After that the author talks about the supposed desirability of redistribution (5), the shibboleth of regeneration (6), and the author’s claim to be agnostic about growth (7). The book ends with acknowledgements, a look at the data of the author’s doughnut, notes, a bibliography, image credits, and an index.

It is authors like this one that make thinking like a 21st century anything a byword and insult. What is especially regrettable about that is that there is nothing wrong about desiring and seeking the well-being of ordinary people, but this book finds itself caught in a trap between bad leftist politics on both ends, whether one involves contemporary environmentalism or class-envy based economics. The fact that the author and others of her ilk talk about those whose behavior is genuinely blameworthy only makes it more important to differentiate between having the right people to criticize on the one hand and having the right grounds of criticism on the other. The author manages to find an easy target but fails to hit that target in a way that serves the well-being of ordinary people. It is lamentable that it is far easier to write against the abuse of sound economical principles and to comment on what is immoral about the behavior of contemporary economic elites but so hard to take the beam out of one’s own eyes and overcome the limitations of one’s own bogus leftist ideologies before trying to make the world right. We can make the world no more right than we ourselves are, and this author fails on those grounds to present something that would lead to genuine improvement in the world.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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