Wellbeing Economics

Harper’s Magazine, February 2014


I’m a little late with this issue of Harper’s Magazine, but here goes another magazine review week:

Okay, readers, what trumps economics in your personal life, in your family’s? Well, I’m not here to play guessing games, so let me tell you my answer: the wellbeing that comes from good, sound economics – in my checking account and personal investments, in my family’s, in the state and nation’s and, these days, in the world’s equivalents.

We don’t get encouragement in those veins very often today; we are, as Thomas Frank writes in this issue, scared numb by those who want to be our political daddies. And as Jeff Madrick writes in similar fashion. If you don’t believe this is a sticking point in macroeconomics, read Jeff Madrick’s roundtable discussion with several graybeards of the western world.

With whom do the naysayers and talking heads, the ones who seem often to hold us hostage to unreasoned arguments, have in common on the social level? Stalkers, as Sam Knight writes in his report, “A God More Powerful Than I.” Here, in one man’s unfortunate life, we see stalking and its eco-political equivalents played out as mental disease, as obsessive compulsion.

This idea is carried forward in David Means’ skillful story, “The Mighty Shannon,” the story of a married couple, each involved in affairs they can’t untangle, even with the help of marriage counseling. It’s only in their later years, their child grown, that they are able to sit back and watch the river flow, to laugh at their foibles.

This seems to be pandemic these days; we look to only the moment (instant gratification isn’t fast enough), to the minutiae of life. Does this come from  a couple of generations of us living and reliving our formative years? Perhaps. Maybe, then, it’s time for even the graybeards among us to watch the river flow.



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