A radical, ecologically minded proposal to meet the future challenges of an increasingly productive but still unsustainable economy.
Debate about the global economy tends to splinter into those who champion growth and those who advocate environmental sustainability. However, debut author Bentz argues that continued prosperity and technological innovation are compatible with diminished consumption. The chief problem, as the author articulates it, is that an economic paradigm premised upon perennial overconsumption eventually leads to the depletion of resources, pollution, an uneven distribution of wealth, and even unemployment as increased productivity and automation eliminate jobs. The solution is a form of resource rationing—a globally imposed lower growth rate that takes into account the current high-production capacity, relatively high overall employment, and a system that assigns value to both capital accumulation and resource scarcity. The book comprises four parts: overconsumption, unemployment, distribution, and external costs. Our economy both produces and consumes too much and is less efficient and robust when assessed from the perspective of a proper metric (Bentz furnishes a notable critique of GDP as a barometer). Unemployment can be addressed by replacing a capitalcentric economy with one that focuses on labor; one of the best and most original contributions of the book is the discussion of dual time-based currencies that allow for a more efficient delivery of work for basic goods. Also, a fairer distribution of goods directed by the government needn’t be inefficient: “We can conclude that although a centrally planned economy is not a good idea, the universal distribution of a few essential commodities such as food, shelter, and healthcare can make an otherwise free market economy much more efficient.” Bentz’s solutions are aggressively reformist but also offered in a spirit of conciliation; he argues that the goal is not to eliminate capitalism but to chasten its worst excesses. The writing is mercifully lucid considering the technical subject matter, though the running reliance upon Hamlet’s famous Act III monologue—Bentz keeps reformulating the speech to illustrate his principal points—is unhelpful and contrived. Overall, though, the book is a rarity: a legitimately fresh but also politically moderate position that reorients the very terms of the conversation.
An original take on the economics of resource conservation.