Do you know the difference between love and prostitution? Or even better, the difference between love and prostitution as it relates to economics?
In Economics For A Civilized Society, Paul and Greg Davidson examine that question, among others you might not have expected in a book on how our economic system should work. But there is actually a direct correlation between love and prostitution and the sort of cost-benefit analysis mindset that fuels the way we've been convinced over recent decades to look at and think about the economy. The authors write that in a free market vision, "prostitution is a valuable service that some people are willing to pay for, while love is not for sale and therefore is worthless." They observe that "this philosophy of market valuations provides the basis for all values in conservative economics."
Love won't pay the bills. Yet would you want a society without it?
Davidson & Davidson discuss the tension between ideas of self-interest and civic values as the driving forces behind the American economy. Those ideas also fuel examinations of differences in the political realm, where conservatives pursue prosperity through self-interested individuals acting in a free market system versus liberals who have sought out justice and compassion in the society at any cost.
"The last 25 years of American economic history," write the authors, "have been unduly shaped by the barbaric conservative policy of planned recession." This insidious policy of planned recession, argue the authors, demands that the government fight inflation by intentionally depressing the economy. This, in turn, causes workers to fear losing their jobs and to forgo demanding wage increases. The authors go on to say that America is "governed by a generation of political leaders and electorates that have forgotten (or never learned) the tragic history of the Great Depression and its barbaric impact on most of the families in America." If conservatives were truly aware of the effects of what their legislation and economic policies mean for working families, they would work to avoid recessions instead of deliberating causing them. Davidson & Davidson remind us of the more humane policies that came out of the Roosevelt Era, when the country was full of people who didn't have enough food nor places to sleep in spite of the economy's sufficient resources. In this era, labor unions grew rapidly along with many of today's regulatory agencies and significant amendments such as the income tax -- the very things that today's conservatives want to dismantle.
To understand economics is the power to drastically change the world in which we live. Given that understanding, Economics for a Civilized Society makes the point that civilized economic policies require a joint effort to unify under a common dialect of purpose and responsibility to establish a new economic paradigm. The authors provide an explanation of not only how our system can be navigated and improved, but also a way to understand how it operates. The book takes a large focus on how to develop policies and actively seek out implementation that will improve society, and provide and promote civilized solutions to major economics plights.
Brittany is currently serving as a Roosevelt Institute Summer Academy Fellow with the Communications team in the New York office and a student at Harding University.