Saturday, January 01, 2011

An Optimistic Book for a Happy New Year

So this year, my resolution is to express a practical optimism. Not just a wishful thinking, positive attitude kind of thing, but an authentic optimism that is actually well-founded in recent experience, with reasonable expectations for the near future.
With that in mind, I've been reading a book that Bernie took out from the public library. Note that public libraries are a very effective expression of practical optimism! Also note that our local public library, the Greater Victoria Public Library, (yes, only in Victoria is it necessary to look up the public library in the phone book under not L or P nor even V, but G) is doing a crackerjack good job, and will even be keeping all branches open on Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 pm from January 2 to April 17. Check out the article written by Tom Hawthorn for the Globe and Mail on December 10 -- an article that praises this library in particular.
As for the book I've been reading, it's Raj Patel's book The Value of Nothing. The subtitle goes on to add: Why everything costs so much more than we think. You can read about it at Patel's website, or do a search on his name and the title to find some videos and reviews.
The Value of Nothing is a great book to read, and then give a copy to any snotty person you know who keeps annoying you with opinions about economic policies and the free market system. It doesn't really matter what that snotty person's annoying opinions are. My own opinion about the free market system is that it isn't an organized system, it's not free by any of several definitions discussed by Patel, and it bears little resemblance to the markets where I sold produce, wool, and books for over fifteen years. Yet I am now hoping to go forth and be less snotty myself when others wish to share their opinions about economics in informal discussions. And I owe that spirit of good-mannered cooperation to Raj Patel's book.
Patel has done his homework here, and has referenced several historical and contemporary economists. Reading this book makes me feel smarter, not dumber. There are just enough footnotes to explain some details without whipsawing the reader back and forth in bewilderment.
It's no surprise that Patel can tie the price of a cup of coffee and a Big Mac to global climate change and democracy. And that's without any cheap slogans or party rhetoric. Read it -- or his bestseller Stuffed and Starved -- and form your own opinions.

1 comment:

  1. To assist with practical optimism, you may wish to invest in "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. I suspect that you have always lived your life by many of the principles expressed here, but it may be useful to have them reinforced and validated. A very practical guide to becoming more optimistic, happy, and so on. I'm quite enjoying it.