A few words about the author
(by the author)
Several people have asked me a
variation of the question: “Why should we take any notice of anything
The point being, I suppose, that I’m not distinguished in any
particular field; not as a writer, not as an economist, not even as a
journalist, though I’ve worked in journalism for over thirty years.
But the reader of course wants to know what qualifies the author to
break what might appear to be new ground in such an old subject as
economics. All I can say is I stumbled across something that set me off
on a line of thinking that most economists might consider too
simplistic. I studied economics in the days before it developed into a
complex pseudo-science, dominated by computer models that, as we have
recently seen, don’t work.
They don’t work because economics is concerned primarily with human
behavior, and we don’t always do the logical thing. We don’t always
react in a predictable way to events; circumstances change, we learn
and adapt, the world evolves. But there again, there are some
fundamental principles that never change, which is of course one of the
main points of my book.
My area of expertise, or the closest I come to such a thing, is the
interpretation of data and the illustration of such information in
graphic form, accompanied by words that preferably make some kind of
sense. And for three decades this ability earned me a good wage at
various British and US newspapers, from the Daily Telegraph and the
Independent to the Geographical magazine, Wall Street Journal, Economist and the Financial Times, the latter during
the boom years leading up to the crash.
When the continuing decline of the newspaper industry led to my
third redundancy, I quit the business altogether and moved with my
family to rural France, where I renovated an old farmhouse and
attempted, without much success, to make a living from painting. It
helped, I think, to
get away from the city, to live amongst the farmers and get a feel for
a kind of life that most people don’t really see anymore; a kind of
life where people go quietly about their business, oblivious to the
roar of the rat-race and the madness of the media. The kind of life, in
fact, that most of the world lived, until recently.
But really it doesn’t matter what I’ve done in my life. What matters to
the reader is this book. Does it make sense? And even if it does make
sense, will it make any difference to anything?
I’ve read a great deal over the years that must have contributed to
this book in some way; far too much to list or even to remember. A
couple of classics come to mind: The Affluent Society, by JK Galbraith,
and the somewhat more radical Small is Beautiful, by EF Schumacher.
I have made much use of the online databases of various organizations,
from the American Bureau of Labor Statistics to the World Bank: all
source material used for this book is as quoted in the text, or on the
charts. I have done my best to verify data and be as accurate as
possible, but it must be accepted that not all statistics are
particularly true. Some might even be damned lies.