Reviewed by Diana Hwang
In a time when nearly 8 percent of the United States population remains unemployed, Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill challenge the mainstream idea that perpetual economic growth is desirable. In their new book, Enough is Enough, the authors, both on staff at the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, propose that such growth is not possible and is already causing more problems than it solves in wealthy nations.
Using an intellectual yet down-to-earth approach, Dietz and O’Neill describe an important economic principle: a steady state economy is one that balances economic growth and changes with environmental resources. The authors present refreshing ideas about how to sustain a steady state economy that meets the demands of a growing population without squandering the environment’s finite resources.
Written for non-economists, Enough is Enough is not only an educational read, but a surprisingly pleasurable one, as well. The authors combine their personal stories with well-researched data to turn what would otherwise be a very dry subject into one that resonates with economists and laymen alike.
Balancing their practical suggestions on transitioning our country into a steady state economy, the authors realistically acknowledge that the solutions will not be easy in the face of hurdles ranging from complex government policies and large financial institutions to simply changing the way we think and live. The authors contend that, at its best, a steady state economy paves the way for better economic equality throughout society, which pays off for everyone in the long term by eliminating many of the problems we face in the current system. More importantly, a natural by-product of the steady state economy is a shift in the way we measure quality of life away from the production and consumption of material goods and toward increased concern for less tangible benefits such as personal health and well-being.
Dietz and O’Neill propose that countries should measure their economies and societal development not only by gross domestic product (GDP) but also through gross national happiness. They discuss a new economic measurement called the Happy Planet Index (HPI) developed by the New Economics Foundation. Whereas GDP measures market transactions based on money, HPI calculates the conversion of resources into happiness. Frenetic economic growth, the authors note, causes increased use of energy and other resources, with drastic impacts on the eco-system. Yet, they point out, survey findings show that people are not necessarily more happy or satisfied with their lives as their incomes grow. Rather, satisfaction is linked with health, job security and relationships with family, friends and community.
In today’s tough economy, the book poses an admirable challenge to the mainstream, must-have economic thinking and provides a guide to shift into a have-enough mindset that values the earth’s resources as well as health and happiness.
Enough is Enough can be ordered online through Amazon.com and at local bookstores, February 2013.