Two books involving economics — one macro and one more 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 idea that 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 seems to me to serve as powerfully laid out argument 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 facilitating all this, too.
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich is a more famous book by now. Whereas Friedman painted broad strokes about nations over centuries, Ehrenreich zooms in with a funny and yet more often depressing portrait of one woman’s tour through working class America: her own. She spends months trying to live on minimum wage, taking waitress jobs, and Wal-Mart cashier gigs. Even though she can never endure the psychological weight of the underclass — she returns to her posh life at the end of her experiment — it is still an eye opening experiment. It raises the consciousness of upper class readers like me about the less fortunate.