Book Review: A World that Works: Building Blocks to a Just and Sustainable Society
The Bootstrap Press, 1997
New York, NY
355 pages, $19.50 paperback
This compilation of alternative economic thought and practice from India to Indiana is a reviving book for anyone struggling to get a breath of common sense on the Good Ship Global Growth. More than two dozen useful and sometimes acerbic essays take the hot air out of western industrial myths and bring economic development back down to Earth, where healthy ecosystems and human communities meet.
A World That Works: Building Blocks for a Just and Sustainable Society is a product of The Other Economic Summit (TOES), a loose international network of independent but cooperating individuals and groups. Since 1984, TOES has held its own policy conferences at the same times and places as the annual economic summits of the G-7 leading industrialized nations. TOES brings together all those not invited to the G-7's power lunches. So does this book.
Ghandian economist Romesh Diwan shares stories of how some Indian communities have regained their rights to common land and built sustainable economic and social wealth by honoring “Enoughness.” Mahatma Ghandi explained “Enoughness” as the truth that “nature is compassionate and provides enough for the needs of all, but not for the greed of even one.”
Richard Grossman, of the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy, explains how US citizens gave up their sovereignty over corporations as courts turned artificial entities into “natural persons.” He suggests that it's time for people to be accountable to future generations and take back their sovereignty.
Other essays describe how and why local currencies and micro-credit can build community and self-reliance; how global agreements – from GATT to climate treaties – end up undercutting local health and welfare; and how people are fending creatively for themselves, like the street-children who run a radio station in Port Au Prince.
The diversity of subjects and writers makes this book a good overview of the breadth and depth of practical alternatives and contra-corporate thought in the world. With a little patience for the occasional yawn over a few academic and activist-insider phrasings, readers will enjoy this shot of commonsense economics.
Reviewed by Patty Cantrell, an independent journalist and alternative economist based in Ava, Missouri.
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