Book reviews / Non fiction

Book review: The Value of Everything

This was a really thought provoking read, but also a bit hard because, well, economics. So while I understood a lot, as it was really well written, sometimes it was a bit tough.

The main argument is that we no longer have a debate about what ‘value’ means in the economy. Because of this, the economy has slowly started to become rent-seeking, maximising extracting wealth from people and companies, rather than making longterm investments. I loved the historical backdrop, throwing the words of Smith back into people who love Adam Smith but clearly haven’t read him.

It was also thought provoking in how it pointed out inherent tautologies and contradictions within the finance sector, but also within government. For example, government always being seen as only having expenditure, but when there are state-owned services, they are always accounted for within the sector rather than being attributed to government.

What I also found interesting was how government always takes the loss, rather than having a share in things they fund. So even though the government takes all the risk, say in funding Tesla, they don’t then get to share in the profits. I found this really compelling, and annoying.

But regardless of accounting, I did find the central argument compelling. If we don’t debate what has value, we get the problems we see within the economic sector: short-termism, stagnating wages, rent-extraction – rather than investment and rising quality of life. It also leaves companies being able to extract and pollute, and society having to deal with the ramifications.

Very interesting stuff and I wonder with countries like New Zealand trying to tip the scales back towards people, rather than companies and profits, we’ll see some debate in this area. There were a lot of things that really resonated with me because of work as well. Might pick up her other book (The Entrepreneurial State) as well, as that seems right up my alley.

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