Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity by Douglas Rushkoff
It is obvious that the economic system we have now is not working as well as it might for most. The US is an incredibly wealthy and prosperous nation that is filled with people struggling to get by today and who are uncertain about the future. In this book, Douglas Rushkoff, a professor at Queens College, CUNY, explains why. He summarizes the problem succinctly in this sentence: “People who work for a living are suffering under a system designed to favor those who make their money with money.” (Page 138) This isn’t a new insight. Karl Marx made it in the 19th Century. Rana Foroohar showed how it applied to today’s world in Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business.
Rushkoff proposes a new business model that focuses on sustaining value rather than on extracting value. This, too, has been suggested before. (See The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century; Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, and Capital in the Twenty-First Century.) Digital currencies and peer to peer trading facilitated by digital technology could be a part of this. (See The History of Money.)
As with many books on this subject, there are valid insights about the problems of our current economic system. The perpetual growth it demands is unsustainable. A system that prioritizes extraction of wealth rather than creation of value is ultimately destined to collapse. I’ve yet to read a book on this subject that I thought provided an achievable way out of the problem, though, this one included. Top down solutions require a far more functional (and possibly dictatorial) government than we have, and bottom up solutions rely on a seemingly impossible mass enlightenment of people who suddenly and miraculously decide it is now time to act for the common good. Call me cynical, but I doubt that’s going to happen.