Friday
Feb122010

Review: The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel

I've been busy with some family medical challenges (more on that later) but I recently made time to read and review Raj Patel's new book, The Value of Nothing, for The Globe and Mail. The review describes The Value of Nothing as a "challenging and important book" with a few caveats.

Patel's ability to synthesize ideas with first hand reporting and current affairs is excellent. The Value of Nothing addresses an epic set of themes, some of which happen to overlap with my own book, The Price of a Bargain. Patel's approach is fairly different – his is a book of ideas with some reporting, whereas mine is a book founded on reporting with some ideas – and I enjoyed learning more about topics and notions that I follow closely. As I write:

"Patel argues that our problem isn't just the size of our stimulus package, but a deep misapprehension about the relationship between society and economy that dates back well before the great crash of 2008. And, more to the point, it is our propensity to over-value destructive things – such as financial derivatives and crude oil – and under-value truly valuable things – such as sustainable food production, our global climate and other so-called externalities that market society has often neglected. This results not only in bad outcomes, but “indelible inequalities in power.” In other words, if today's quest to regain yesterday's growth fails under the stress of 21st-century challenges, it likely won't be Wall Street paying the price."

But there are some ideological ticks.

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Monday
Jan112010

Live from Los Angeles!

I'm hoping to get some new writing done soon, but in the meantime here is a well done interview by Swati Pandey at Zócalo Public Square in Los Angeles that gets at some of the bigger themes that I address in my book.

There's a lot to say these days about the state of things. As I note in this interview, the reason we are not seeing a real economic recovery (with better jobs and other future prospects) is because economic growth in a shopping-dominated economy in the 21st century is ultimately destabilizing. On many different fronts – economic, environmental, political – we are testing the limits of our world, one that is highly dependent on growth, consumption, cheap resources, and optimized global trade. LA's deep dependence on shipping and logistics, for example, reflects this trend: America's empire is foundering not for lack of technological or military might, but because it is increasingly trapped within its own economic model, one that is closely tied to globalization (which has its own troubles) and China's growing power.

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Wednesday
Dec162009

The cost of a Christmas bargain? Just the economy as we know it

An interview with Gordon Laird by Bert Archer excerpted from The Globe and Mail, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009 

Calgary writer Gordon Laird's just-published book The Price of a Bargain is the result of a decade's research into the interconnectedness of all things in our global economy, from the supply of fossil fuels to the ornaments on a family's Christmas tree.

The past couple of decades have seen prices for consumer goods tumble, the result of what Mr. Laird calls "bargaineers" - companies, such as Wal-Mart, that engineer unprecedentedly cheap prices through low-cost manufacture, shipping and distribution, sending carbon emissions through the roof and wages through the floor.

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Wednesday
Nov252009

Black Friday Forever: Can Shopping Save America?

Black Friday is a huge event in American life. Roughly one of every two American citizens – an estimated 172 million people – went shopping on Thanksgiving holiday weekend last year. Facing the greatest economic crisis in living memory, shoppers charged gates and malls across the country in 2008. Things turned ugly, and a Wal-Mart contract worker was trampled to death in Long Island...

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Wednesday
Nov252009

Early reviews

Reviews of The Price of a Bargain have been so far encouraging and usually pretty generous. It took me the better part of 10 years to complete the book, so yes, it is nice that it is getting noticed. Most recently, in Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail: "Gordon Laird's important and timely book lays bare the planet's foolhardy hunger for getting a deal"...

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