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Mindful Economics: How the US Economy Works,…

Mindful Economics: How the US Economy Works, Why it Matters, and How it… (2007)

by Joel Magnuson

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Wow! What a great book! The author first gives a great introduction to economics, specifically capitalism, as that's the system that's currently screwing everything up here in the States.

After the economic primer (which I found interesting even though I had taken several classes in economics as an undergrad, so some of this was review) Magnuson outlines how capitalism in the US has lead to financial instability, economic inequality, and runaway growth. He argues that these aren't random products of capitalism, but the very byproduct of true, successful capitalism.

Finally, Magnuson wraps up the book with some ideas for how we can change the system. I like how his ideas for change (mostly: small, family owned businesses and cooperatives) are quite practical, and he doesn't make any grandiose claims about being able to overturn capitalism in a short period of time. He acknowledges that it's going to be a long haul, but he provides some great tools for getting there.

I found this book to be particularly awesome because I've known for quite a long time that capitalism just isn't working, but reading this book really helped me see exactly why that is, and really made it all crystal clear.

My only beef with this book is the short chapter on sustainable energy. Magnuson seems to think that wind and solar are absolutely the answer to the problem, without recognizing that solar is largely inefficient, and the semiconductor industry is a huge industry (hello capitalism) and makes use of awful chemicals (I work with them all the time, as I do research in semiconductors). The wind industry isn't so much better, I worked for GE in their wind department and their motives were certainly not to make the Earth a greener place, it was to make a profit. GE is currently the largest supplier of wind turbines in the US. For a better look into renewable energy, I highly recommend reading Heat. ( )
  lemontwist | Dec 28, 2009 |
I appreciated this volume as an economic overview and history; I've learned a great deal about how markets and our economic institutions work which I wasn't familiar with before. I'm not sure how much blind faith to put in Magnuson's obviously strongly leftist account, but it's hard for me to disagree with his overarching message that corporations are fundamentally amoral and that an economy built on endless growth is unsustainable. I'm less convinced by his prescription that we should build an alternative economy based on co-ops and small partnerships, formed voluntarily alongside the corporate economy, which will somehow grow to displace the way economics happens today. It's also hard for me to envision how his ideal outcome would encourage much genuine innovation or technological progress. I'm not convinced that an ecologically sustainable economy is by definition zero-growth in economic terms ... can't value be created in other ways besides consuming resources? Magnuson got me interested in reading something from Robert Reich next to get a still-liberal perspective that finds a place for corporations to do what they are good at (generate wealth).
  stephenshaver | Feb 16, 2009 |
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Magnuson (economics, Portland State Univ. & Portland Community Coll.) presents an intriguing perspective on the U.S. economy by describing the American capitalist system and its key institutions and economic issues, covering the most important consequences of the system and, finally, offering alternatives.… (more)

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Seven Stories Press

2 editions of this book were published by Seven Stories Press.

Editions: 1583228470, 1583229922

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