Book Reviews: Moral Consequences of Economic Growth and Nickle and Dimed

Two books involving economics — one at a macro level and one at a micro level.

The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth by Benjamin Friedman is a new, long, scholarly book. It has been well reviewed for its economic history and lucid analysis of a host of issues relating to the Big Idea: economic growth is morally good. We all know that when someone’s economic well being improves they reap material benefits. What isn’t discussed as much is the moral benefits accrued to a society that promotes economic growth. There was a day when intellectuals saw the moral character of a nation as inversely related to its material progress. Not true. Though I’m in no position to scrutinize much of Friedman’s analysis, especially his historical examples, it did serve as a useful reminder that economic prosperity is good, that a rising sea lifts all, that trade liberalization and globalization are eventually good, and that there’s a role for public policy in all this, too.

Nickle and Dimed by Barbara Echrenreich is a more famous book and a few years old. Whereas Friedman painted broad strokes involving nations and centuries, Echrenreich treats us to a witty, hilarious, and depressing portrait of one woman’s tour through working class America: hers. She spends months trying to live on minimum wage, taking waitress jobs and Wal-Mart gigs. Even though she can never endure the psychological weight of the underclass — after all, she returns to her posh life at the end of her experiment — it is still an admirable feat. Not only is this a quick and fun read, it raises the consciousness of upper class readers like me and implicitly poses some meaty questions about the invisible population that waits on us in restaurants.

One Response to Book Reviews: Moral Consequences of Economic Growth and Nickle and Dimed

  1. Tim Taylor says:

    I’m glad you liked Nickle and Dimed. I think she is a really humorous writer who did her homework. (Unfortunately I don’t think she did in Bait and Switch but oh well…)


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