Laura Flanders:Throw out the growth curve. Embrace the doughnut. What the world needs now is planetary, not flat-plane economics. That is the message of a new book by self-described renegade economist, Kate Raworth. For too long our mind's eye map of our economy has been all wrong, she says. Simplistic on its face, wrongheaded in what it tries to depict, and altogether not helpful to a reality-based world with limited human and planetary resources. Lucky for us, Kate's got a fix, seven ways to think like a 21st century economist, and as befits her concern with images and maps, she has sketched out a new picture, not an ever-rising takeoff line or even a humpbacked cosmic curve. It's concentric circles, hence the title of her book, Doughnut Economics. Raworth's an advisory member at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute and teaches in its masters program for environmental change and management. She's in the United States on a book tour. The book's just out from Chelsea Green Press. Welcome to the program, Kate. Great to have you.
Kate Raworth:My pleasure.
Laura Flanders:So, tell the story of how our map of the economy got so poorly diagrammed and what GIs had to do with it.
Kate Raworth:Well, poor old Simon Kuznets back in the 1930s, the American government asked him to come up with a measure of national income, which he did. And he said when he first produced it, "Don't mistake this for the welfare of the nation." His caveat got put aside because once there was a single number of what the economy was worth and you could compare it to other countries and look at it year and year, we got hooked on growth.
Laura Flanders:And you had that nice little upward going on.
Kate Raworth:That's right. So, this curve. The picture of what economic success looks like in our minds is this ever rising line that just goes up, up, up, up. Endless growth.
Laura Flanders:And what's the problem with that picture?
Kate Raworth:The problem with that picture is if you think about nature, 3.8 billion years of experimentation, nothing in nature from your children's feet to the Amazon forest, nothing grows forever. Things in nature, they grow, healthy phase, but then they mature and come to thrive. What I find extraordinary is that when I studied economics at university and I'll bet anyone studying now, the question as to whether an economy comes to a maturity point and then thrives, it's not asked. What if the economy can't grow forever? What would it look like to create an economy that didn't try to grow forever, but that it thrived? I think these are questions we need to start asking.
Laura Flanders:So, what does it matter if we have a wrong image, and hasn't it been corrected and debunked and challenged?
Kate Raworth:So imagery, what I've learned is imagery is incredibly powerful, and if you open an economics textbook it's full of words, it's full of way too many equations, and often there's a little picture on the side as if just a mere illustration, but any neuroscientist will tell you that over half of the nerve fibers in your brain are serving your visual cortex, and any image goes into the back of your brain and it sit there. It lingers like economic graffiti long after the words and equations have faded. So, we really should pay a lot of attention to the pictures that we use to draw what the economy is and what it's for and who we are and how it works.