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“Stanford is that rare breed: the teacher who changed your life. He has written a book—both pragmatic and idealistic—with the power to change the world.”
Economics is too important to be left to the economists. This brilliantly concise and readable book provides non-specialist readers with all the information they need to understand how capitalism works (and how it doesn't).
Jim Stanford's book is an antidote to the abstract and ideological way that economics is normally taught and reported. Key concepts such as finance, competition and wage labour are explored, and their importance to everyday life is revealed.
Illustrated with humorous and educational cartoons by Tony Biddle, this book will appeal to those working for a fairer world, and students of social sciences who need to engage with economics.
About the Author:
Jim Stanford is economist for the Canadian Auto Workers union, and economics columnist for the Globe and Mail newspaper
Introduction: Why Study Economics?
• Part One: Preliminaries
• 1. The Economy and Economics *
• 3. Economic History
• 4. The Politics of Economics
• Part Two: The Basics of Capitalism: Work, Tools, and Profit
• 5. Work, Production, and Value
• 6. Working with Tools *
7. Companies, Owners, and Profit
• 8. Workers and Bosses
• 9. Reproduction (for Economists!) *
10. Closing the Little Circle
• Part Three: Capitalism as a System
• 11. Competition
• 12. Investment and Growth
• 13. Employment and Unemployment
• 14. Dividing the Pie
Jim Stanford, who is economist for the Canadian Auto Workers union, has produced a useful introduction to the economics of capitalism. He shows us capitalism's basics: work, tools and profit; how it works (or doesn't) as a system; its complexity; and various challenges to capitalism. He shows up capitalism's inherent failings and proposes policies that would be in the interests of the working class, the vast majority of the population in industrial countries.
He points out, "Most modern jobs and careers fall into the category of wage labour - whether they are in private companies or public agencies, blue-collar or white-collar. The stereotype of a 'worker' as someone who performs menial tasks on an assembly line is badly outdated. Workers today perform a wide variety of functions, many of them requiring advanced skills. But they are still workers, so long as they perform that work for somebody else, in return for a wage or salary. Scientists in a research laboratory; surgeons in a large hospital; engineers in a construction firm - these are all workers (although culturally, they may not like to define themselves as such). They perform their labour in return for a salary, and they do not own or significantly control the organization which they work for."
He shows that the capitalist class is just two per cent of the population, and note, "Many of these rich individuals work; but the key distinction here is that they don't have to work, since they own enough business wealth to support themselves very comfortably without working."
He praises Cuba: "Socialist Cuba - where average health outcomes are superior to those in the US - manages to do more, given its GDP, to improve human welfare than any other country in the world. . Cuba's admirable social achievements (its education, health, and cultural indicators outrank most developing countries, and even many developed countries) demonstrate the potential of socialism to leverage the maximum possible well-being from a given amount of material production."
He also points out how employers gain from the free movement of labour: "employers are permitted to re-create abundant supplies of cheap, desperate labour by exploiting vulnerable immigrants . Capitalists may encourage these migrations when they face uncomfortably tight labour market conditions in particular countries (in which case immigration is a convenient way to keep a lid on wages)."
As he observes, "Migrants are treated as temporary, second-class citizens, often forced to return to their country of origin when their jobs are finished, and subjected to social and legal abuses in the interim. Their migration can also harm the countries they leave - especially since it is usually the best-educated, most capable people who are allowed to migrate to better-paying opportunities in other countries."