Tuesday, 01 April 2014 00:00

Book Review: The Economics of the 1%; How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy

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This book sets out to unmask the ways in which mainstream neo-classical economics has been misrepresenting economic realities, ‘systematically marketing falsehoods’ – ‘fakeconomics’ as Weeks describes this. 

‘Fakeconomics’ has taken over, he argues, squeezing out alternative approaches to economics, including Marxist economics, in the process.  This has profound consequences, as the book goes on to demonstrate, convincing people that there can be no alternatives to neo-liberal policies that benefit the richest 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%.

Each chapter takes up and develops discussion around a particular theme – exploring the flaws within’ fakeconomic’ assumptions. So there are chapters unpacking the notions of markets, market worship and assumptions of perfect competition, along with chapters on finance and criminality, on myths associated with notions of supply and demand and on the notion of ‘free trade’. Marx Memorial Library readers may find the later chapters on lies about the role of governments, budget deficits, austerity policies and what Weeks describes as the great ‘Euro scam’ particularly relevant  in terms of their implications for current policy debates.

The book concludes with a final chapter on the economics of the 99%. Weeks makes the case for economics in a decent society where governments would be focussing upon maintaining full employment and tackling poverty and discrimination rather than promoting austerity policies that benefit the richest 1%.  This is not, he argues, ‘an antimarket polemic’ but for  markets to be ‘regulated through a democratic process for the collective good, not when they are left “free” to  concentrate riches in the hands of a few’.

Whilst the book challenges economic theories, the approach is very accessible. The style is punchy – and very humorous. Weeks is convinced that we have been indoctrinated into believing that the workings of the economy are too complex for any but experts (i.e. economists themselves) to understand. On the contrary, in his view, we can both understand and challenge their arguments.  Governments do not have to balance their budgets in the same way as households and austerity policies do more harm than good for the vast majority of the population. Higher wages and better working conditions do not necessarily mean fewer jobs and the unemployed are not to be blamed for their joblessness. Quoting Attlee, Weeks argues that ‘The price of so-called economic freedom for the few is too high if it is bought at the cost of idleness and misery for millions’.

 A thought provoking read, in summary, a book that should provoke  interest  and discussion amongst MML readers.

Additional Info

  • Authors: John Weeks
  • ISBN/ISSN: 978-0-85728-108-1
  • Publisher: Anthem Press
  • Publish Date: Wednesday, 22 July 2015
Read 5592 times Last modified on Wednesday, 22 July 2015 00:55
Marjorie Mayo

Marjorie Mayo is an Emeritus Professor at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is editor of Theory and Struggle and a member of the advisory panel of the Centre for Labour & Social Studies (CLASS)

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