Books by William Ashworth

Released: Jan. 9, 1995

Ashworth (The Late, Great Lakes, 1986) makes a plausible if not wholly credible case for the offbeat proposition that ecology and economics, in concert, could provide the best response to both the escalating cost of living and a decline in the quality of life. Noting that the natural and social sciences share a Greek root (oikos, meaning household), the author offers a series of short essays designed to show that environmentalism and for-profit enterprise have much in common. Indeed, he argues, whatever harms or is good for the biosphere injures or benefits the marketplace- -and vice versa. Along similarly pragmatic lines, Ashworth suggests that ravaging the planet and its resources is a fiscally irresponsible act akin to eating one's seed corn—or dipping into capital. To persuade the friends of earth and the friends of industry that their differences are not irreconcilable, Ashworth gets back to genuine basics. Cases in point include short takes on Econ 101 fundamentals like carrying capacity, fund flows, and the forces of supply and demand, whose relevance to the rain forests may come as news to diehard preservationists. By the same token, his low-key briefings on renewable resources and monocultures could prove thought-provoking for those who believe that protection of endangered species and old-growth timber invariably costs society too much in terms of jobs and economic growth. As for why ecologic theory is more congruent with economic theory than antithetical to it, Ashworth's explanations are unexceptionable. But theory is one thing, practice another. In failing to detail how the paradigmatic synthesis could be made to work, the author lacks the courage of his arresting convictions. It's not easy being green, and Ashworth's accommodation agenda may remind some readers of the possibly apocryphal tale about the UN functionary who opined that Arabs and Jews should sit down and settle their differences like good Christians. Read full book review >