Genre: Arts, History & Current Affairs
Published: 1 October 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury

The Dumb Economist

by William Leith

Child support, bills, tax, mortgage payments: William Leith is terrible with money. He’s been terrified by bailiffs, even threatened with prison, but his problem is not that he doesn’t understand money: more, he suspects, that he hates it for its power, and the mess it’s got us into.

He sees a money system based on interest as an operation of faith, with capitalism – and compulsory economic growth – a kind of religion. This system is now running out of control: people are working harder just to stand still, banks must conjure an ever greater money supply from thin air.

And so although he himself finds it almost impossible to stay on the right side of the stuff, Leith is fascinated by the concept of money – where it comes from, how it functions, what forces it exerts on society, and where it goes. Is there, he wonders, any way he can learn to live with money: to respect it, to control it – or at least, somehow, to be at peace with it?

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