Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Betterness by Umair Haque

Betterness by Umair Haque

This is a short Kindle book which discusses the need for a new paradigm in economics.  It argues that just as in mental health, where the emphasis for many professionals, has shifted from curing illness to promoting and exploring wellness, so economics needs to stop focusing on a limited ideal of success based on GDP.

The author convincingly argues that now that people in the West have moved away from an economy of just surviving, economics now needs to factor in important values such as fairness, satisfaction, health, the environment, etc., when measuring success.  

The bottom line should not be about production and growth and, as with the individual, there comes a point when more money or more profit does not equal more happiness.  He also argues that, as these factors become more and more important to individuals, so they will become more important to business and ultimately lead to more success.  

He argues that companies which have an ambition which is based outside of themselves and their own profits and shareholders have already started to see more success than those whose narrow focus is inwards.  

Whlst this was an interesting book, I'm not a business person so for me it painted a picture of how I woudl like to see the economy run rather offering any suggestions as to what I could do - other than only buy products from companies in line with my personal ethics and values.   It is possibly naive to think that business must become more ethical in the future and that ultimately it will lead to a fairer and more equitable planet.  However, I've also read the Rational Optimist and Better Angels of Our Nature and whilst at times the idea of ethical progress seems unlikely when history is viewed through a long lens it seems that things do continually get better for humanity if not for the planet, at least since the advent of agriculture, which was our fall from the Garden of Eden or as Jared Diamond puts it in Guns, Germs and Steel, the biggest mistake humanity made. 

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