Doughnut Economics

Thu, 18 May 2017

I came across Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics - 7 ways to think like a 21st century economist (UK) (US) in a Guardian review last month, and have now finished it.

I’d recommend it to just about anyone as a very readable overview of the economic challenges facing the world, why economics has struggled and will increasingly struggle with these challenges, and how our thinking can adapt to tackle these challenges.

The book’s central idea is that economic activity should neither be minimised or maximised - there is a sweet territory (the doughnut) below which society will not sustain and above which the planet will not sustain.  At present we suffer risks on both sides.


(Source: Kate Raworth and Christian Guthier/The Lancet Planetary Health via the Guardian)

The seven changes in thinking that the book proposes are:

  1. Change the goal - from GDP to the Doughnut (genuine sustainability)

  2. See the big picture - from a stand-alone market to an embedded economy

  3. Nurture human nature - from rational economic man to socially adaptable humans

  4. Get savvy with systems - from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity

  5. Design to distribute - from ‘growth will even it up again’ to distributive by design

  6. Create to regenerate - from ‘growth will clean it up again’ to regenerative by design

  7. Be agnostic about growth - from growth addicted to the right level and kind of growth

Obviously none of these are crazy, and most people would fundamentally agree with them, but Raworth does a great job of talking through the implications of these assumptions.

The book was full of interesting history of how economics came to be the way it is, how many of the standard assumptions have been acknowledged as questionable even by their original authors, and why they've continued to be held - this is helpful to understand if we want to change our thinking.

Overall I really enjoyed the book, and found it very reasonable, acknowledging the many uncertainties and willing to criticise views on the left as well as the right.  I can see it appealing to many of my friends with more conservative as well as those with more progressive views, so highly recommended.

Doughnut Economics - 7 ways to think like a 21st century economist can be found on Amazon (UK) (US) and no doubt many other bookshops.