I first heard the name Bill McKibben in a blog comment (which I can't find, now!). Before I had time to even google him, I heard his name again, and again, and again. Finally, I decided to find out who this author was and read something he had written. When a copy of McKibben’s "Deep Economy" became available just as Green Bean was starting her Bookworm challenge, I knew I had my book!
In "Deep Economy" (subtitled: "The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future"), McKibben turns common economic assumptions on their heads. He argues that growth is not necessarily a good thing. Less is more. Small is better than large. Money doesn’t buy happiness unless one truly needs more of it. Small farms can feed the world better than mega-farms.
The message I got from reading his book is that what is missing in modern society and what would make people happier is not more money, it’s more community, and, conversely, for the poor of the developing world, there is plenty of community, but not enough money. McKibben suggests that a better economic model than more growth is better growth. He champions communities which provide much of their own food, radio, electricity and entertainment. I found some of his ideas to be very compelling and if I were to read enough of him, he'd make me want to move to Vermont! He also makes the interesting point that what is good for the individual is not necessarily good for the community and vice versa. For example, the arrival of a Walmart to a small town may be good for individuals who are trying to stretch a paycheck, but it hurts the community by putting small local businesses out of business.
"Deep Economy" is very thoughtfully written. I felt it has a larger global perspective than some other books I’ve read recently and I appreciated McKibben’s awareness of the poor. I’m recommending it, but with a couple caveats. When I enjoy a book, I normally read it from cover to cover in one or two sessions. For some reason, "Deep Economy" was really easy to put down. It didn’t put me to sleep, it wasn’t boring, but it took me days to finish. Also, if you are going to read the book and are not an econ major, I’ll save you some frustration. Adam Smith was born in Scotland in the 1700's and he is considered to be the "father of economics." McKibben refers to Smith repeatedly without ever explaining who he is so I finally googled him. I give "Deep Economy" 3-½ stars out of 5. If I hadn't dropped out of the only Economics class I ever enrolled in at college, I'd probably give him more.
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