ECONOMICS: What Went Wrong, and Why, and Some Things to Do About It by George P. Brockway

ECONOMICS: What Went Wrong, and Why, and Some Things to Do About It

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Maverick economics, gracefully expounded in a series of fetchingly titled essays--most saliently, ""Labor: Where It All Begins."" Brockway is a retired publisher (employee-owned Norton), an avocational writer on economics (with a column in The New Leader), and a proclaimed disciple of idealist philosopher John William Miller. His basic contention is that economics isn't value free--""self-interest as the profit motive is frankly a form of selfishness or greed,"" mathematical models do not allow for the vagaries of historical time. Thus, economics is a matter of human relations--and ""there is no 'realistic' way of counting either our personal money or our national money."" The only universal factor is labor, not as a standard of value or a cmmodity, but as ""an end in itself."" (""Economic labor is what you do for money. There are many things you do for which money is no consideration."") Positing also a reciprocal relationship between individual and society, Brockway arrives at what he calls a Labor Theory of Right, whereby current labor and past labor (capital) are both entitled to participate in the proceeds, the former as much as the latter. ("" 'Owning capital,' Joan Robinson said, 'is not a productive activity.' "" ""Life is for the living,"" said Jefferson.) This combination of appeals to reason and to justice brings Brockway to policy recommendations--with the proviso that ""the consequences of inaction and of indirect action are no different in kind or degree from those of direct action. The consequences of failing to act directly are often appalling."" Hence strictures against neo-imperialism, as a threat to the industrialized old world as well as the less-developed nations (contra the wage-scale or sunrise/sunset theses), and prescriptions for corporate and banking reform. It's the point of view, though, and its elegantly plain, aphoristic presentation, that makes this rewarding.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row