Book Review – “What is the Economy For, Anyway?”

By | April 27, 2015

“What’s the Economy For, Anyway?” was wrote by co-authors John De Graaf and David K. Batker. Graaf has focused most of his works, both literature and film, on the issues we face in America such as overconsumption and overwork. Batker is an economist he is known for his work in improving lending requirements in private banks and also the World Bank. Not only did these two produce the book that is being reviewed they also made a film of the same title. Graaf and Batker were able to produce a highly detailed summary of the economy and economic issues and suggestions yet still be a readable and enjoyable novel.

In a brief summary, this book focuses on the shortfalls we have reached in America. We are no longer making our economy work for us, but rather we are working for our economy. As the authors produce example after example and compare our standings as Americans to those of similar countries. Both Batker and Graaf use this book to express aspects of the economy in America that could be improved upon with their suggested reforms. In “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?” on pages 6-7 the authors produce an extensive outline with a brief summary of each chapter that proves to be helpful as the reader and to use for frame of reference while working through the book.

One aspect of this novel that stuck out the most for me was their analysis of the GDP. The GDP is frequently used in every conversation or analysis of the economy we see. Our very own ECON 260 text book, “Growth and Interaction in World Economy – The Roots of Modernity” by Angus Maddison mentions the GDP by page 5 of the text! The Authors took the time to include a very large quote from Robert Kennedy from 1968 in which he spoke out about the use of the GNP (now known as the GDP) in economic analysis. My favorite quote form that very large passage is “It measures everything in short expect that which makes life worthwhile.” (Graaf and Batker, page 17). This next quote exemplifies that humor the authors have which helps make this book very readable and enjoyable…”And if you’d had an expensive divorce that morning, and your house burned down that evening, requiring legal fees, insurance claims, and more new purchases, you would have had a completely stellar GDP day! Congratulations!” Aspects of health care and leave time in comparison to other well developed countries were explored, many similar to what has been discussed thus far in our course.

The authors provided many insights to aspects of the economy we hear about frequently in the news and in our course. They made it clear that they could not begin to write out the solutions for our current economic issues but stressed the importance of our economy. As our economy will affect not only our quality of life but also the lives our children and future loved ones. Chapter 13 was my favorite, it showed that there is hope, hope for our future and for a better future for our children. However, this hope will require changes be made. It is important to recognize that we as American’s are not all going to agree to all of the changes, but it important to focus on the betterment of our nation and of the lives of those in our nation.

“What is the Economy For, Anyway” I would recommend to anyone to read. In fact, I wish I had read something like this in high school. The economy is complex but I believe we need to learn more about the economy that what we are spoon fed from the news. Unfortunately, I feel most of use learn about the economy only from that source up until we take a college course on the subject. This book is a relatable summary of the numerous aspects of the economy and the brief details of the history of the economy.



Graaf, John De, and David K. Batker. What’s the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness. New York: Bloomsbury, 2011. Print.

Maddison, Angus. Growth and Interaction in the World Economy: The Roots of Modernity. Washington, DC: AEI, 2005. Print.

“What’s the Economy For, Anyway? | Bullfrog Films: 1-800-543-3764: Environmental DVDs and Educational DVDs.” What’s the Economy For, Anyway? | Bullfrog Films: 1-800-543-3764: Environmental DVDs and Educational DVDs. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

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