Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism
Jim Stanford (Pluto Press)

The only factor that poses a genuine challenge to the current order is the willingness of human beings to reject the injustice and irrationality of this economy, and stand up for something better. Capitalism will not fall-rather, it must be pushed. Jim Stanford

ONE OF THE CENTRAL difficulties in most of the mainstream discussion about 'the economy' is that it confuses rather than enlightens and it is loaded with all manner of ideologically charged assumptions that many of us would probably not agree with - if we knew what these commentators and 'experts' were bloody well talking about. How many people feel enlightened by yet another dissertation on the state of the economy by the Governor of the Reserve Bank? How many of us bother to actually listen? What do the ups and downs of the stockmarket really have to do with us, even though they are reported every night on the six o'clock news bulletins?

What people really want to know is how the economy actually works - and how its affects them. So a book worth investigating is Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism by Canadian economist Jim Stanford. The book was first published in 2008 and a second edition was published last year with several new chapters on inequality race and discrimination and on the far-reaching consequences of the 2008-9 financial crisis.

The problem with most of the mainstream discussion on the economy in this country is that neo-classical theory is treated as if it was some kind of sacred text, irrefutable and uncontestable. There has been the 'stalinisation' of economic theory and commentary in this country,as elsewhere, where alternatives to capitalism are never discussed.

Stanford rejects the argument of the economic orthodoxy that it is purely non political. Instead he argues that behind all the verbiage and jargon lies the naked interests of the capitalist class. Economics, says Jim Stanford, is too important to be left to the 'orthodox' economists.

And so he discusses and dissects the capitalist economy from the ground up, beginning with a discussion of the basics (work, tools, and profit) to the complexity of globalisation, financial markets, and the causes behind the peaks and troughs of our crisis ridden capitalist system. He answers straightforward questions like as “Do workers need capitalists,” “Why does capitalism harm the environment,” and “What really happens on the stock market.”

 Along the way he cuts through the ideological camouflage that hides the machinery of the capitalist system.

I've seen Jim Stanford compared to Paul Krugman and Joseph Stigliz but he is to the left of both economists. While he discusses the possibility of the reassertion of the Keynesian 'managed economy' his discussion of socialism replacing capitalism suggests that this is where his loyalties lie. But this book, first and foremost, is about explaining how the system works and why - and that is a crucial first step in transforming the system.


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