Summary of "For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future"

 

Summary of

For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future

By Herman E. Daly & John B. Cobb Jr. with contributions by Clifford W. Cobb

Summary written by T.A. O'Lonergan, Conflict Research Consortium


Citation: For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future, Herman E. Daly & John B. Cobb Jr. with contributions by Clifford W. Cobb, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), 476pp.


For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future is required reading for ARSC 5020/7020 as taught by Professors Michael Glantz and Jim Wescoat. This work will be of interest to those who seek an alternative to market approaches to policy-making. The co-authors have divided the book into four parts. The first part examines economics as an academic discipline and addresses the fallacy of misplaced concreteness in economics and other disciplines. Thus, the authors emphasize the abstract nature of: the market, measuring economic success, and the abstractions involved in the economic conception of land. The authors challenge the two assumptions which support the economic theory of human nature: first, that human wants are insatiable and, second, the law-like status of the principle of diminishing marginal utility.

Part Two outlines the shift which must occur if the economy is to be redirected along the lines suggested by the authors. Daly and Cobb propose that economic theory move from being an academic discipline to thought in service of community. They propose a shift in the economic view of human nature from an atomistic one to a contextual one which will require a move from cosmopolitanism to multiple smaller communities which themselves form larger communities.

The third part addresses policies which would support community in the United States. The authors examine policies concerning: free trade, population, land use, agriculture, industry, labour and income. They propose that the United States move away from a policy which strives toward world domination toward a policy which would result in true national security. The final part offers possible approaches to achieving the goals advocated. First, the authors offer possible steps toward a redirection of the economy and second, they present what they assert to be a religious vision. The authors believe that a realignment toward focus upon the biosphere and away from focus upon the environment as multiple resources for human use is supported by their Christian theist belief system. They do not address the negative environmental impact that has historically been justified by practitioners of monotheist religions or how their belief system (a monotheist one) hopes to avoid these historical difficulties.

For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future offers suggestions for the de-emphasis of economics and the emphasis of community and the environment. While the authors offer Christian theology in support of their suggestions, the offer is not necessary for the arguments in the book to be compelling.