A treatise explores a different way of looking at economics.
A CPA with varied work experience, Smith (The Nature of Good Government, 2012, etc.) sets a lofty goal for this short work: to define and explain “organic economics” (the author’s own term) versus the more traditional “financial” economics. This he does in text that presents more of a philosophical argument than a clear-cut contrast of one economic method to the other. Organic economics, writes Smith, treats a resource as having “no value unless it can be used to accomplish an objective, and the measurement of value resides in the objective.” Perhaps the most striking example of this is the reliance in financial economics on money as a resource, whereas in organic economics, the resource can literally be “anything that can be used to accomplish an objective,” including food, time, and private property, according to the author. Several solid examples are used in the book to illustrate this concept. One such example cites a couple whose objective is to live the good life on their farm; they can do so because they have a wealth of natural resources, such as their land, crops, and animals, even though they have very little money. If it weren’t for these concrete cases, the content would seem more than a bit arcane. Some of the ideas are abstract and the text sometimes rambles. In reality, it is challenging to discern the primary purpose of the somewhat esoteric book: is it to observe the weaknesses of traditional economics? (The book refers to “diseases of economic structures.”) Or is it to propose organic economics as a replacement for financial economics? (In the book’s Summary section, organic economics is described as merely “a different point of view.”) In addition, a work of this kind seems to cry out for reference notes and a bibliography, both of which are notably absent. Still, the book is not without merit; it does at least dramatize several of the shortcomings of modern economic theory.
Occasionally wise, intriguing, and even thought-provoking, this economics book remains generally uneven and amorphous.