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Über dieses Buch

The purpose of this book is to call for a wholesale rethinking of the way that markets treat both the labour and natural resources on which we all depend. It reveals how economic analysis justifies self-defeating policies that encourage wanton use of the environment and callous abuse of the least advantaged labourers. From Adam Smith to the present day, economic theory has short-changed the workers most crucial to the functioning of human life and offered skewed views of scarcity and extraction. Perelman will show how this approach has produced a discipline in which its followers' models and representations of the world around them are so removed from reality that continuing to abide by them would jeopardize both human capabilities and nature itself.




Walking along a city street, I look up at a gleaming office building filled with busy people. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of them are manning computers, telephones, fax machines, or copiers or maybe just shuffling paper—work that is coming to occupy the majority of employees in advanced market economies. Many seem to be working at a frantic pace. For many of these people, prosperity must seem almost like a birthright. Others, working long hours trying to get ahead, also expect at the very least a middle-class lifestyle.
Michael Perelman

1. Adam Smith and the Farm Worker Paradox

My question—why those whose work is most necessary typically earn the least—has a noble pedigree. Almost two and a half centuries ago, Adam Smith, often considered to be the patron saint of economics, also puzzled over the unfortunate fate of farm workers. In fact, this very question seems to have provoked him to formulate the centerpiece of his economic theory—the division of labor.
Michael Perelman

2. Resources

Interesting questions typically unleash a chain reaction of further questions. So it is with the questions associated with the farm worker paradox. The typical attempt at resolving this paradox falls back on explanations of the relative productivity of various groups of workers, but this approach begs deeper questions about productivity.
Michael Perelman

3. Value

Economics consists of two distinct layers of theory. The most superficial one comprises self-evident propositions that are virtually unquestionable. Within this context, economics teaches that an individual prefers more to less; that lower prices encourage consumption and discourage an individual firm from increasing production. All of these propositions would seem to represent common sense rather than some scientific insight.
Michael Perelman

4. Patience

The study of economics runs in two opposing directions. On one hand, it is an attempt to understand how the economy works. On the other hand, it is a justification of the market society.
Michael Perelman

5. Environmental Efficiency

According to the iron logic of economics, markets supposedly avoid the Tragedy of the Commons by assigning higher prices to relatively scarce commodities. This form of rationing encourages people to find ways of economizing on scarce resources.
Michael Perelman

6. Back to the Farm Worker Paradox

In the early days of economics, or political economy as it was then called, the farm worker paradox hardly appeared paradoxical. The vast majority of economists, prior to and in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, advocated a world in which all but a select few people would work as many hours as possible for a subsistence wage. Women, children as young as three, religious orders, and convicts all appeared as cheap sources of labor power (Perelman 2000a).
Michael Perelman

7. A New Direction

I hope that I have shown how markets promote behavior that is environmentally destructive, yet no modern society has developed the appropriate means for a rational organization of society. Economists and people with a more environmental orientation first seriously debated about market efficiency in the early twentieth century (O’Neill 1996).
Michael Perelman


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