Having just published her new book called Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth —a senior visiting research associate with Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute—is touring the world, appealing to people to break their global worship of growth; redesign money and finance; and to create economies that are regenerative and redistributive, and serve the interests of people worldwide, not just Audi drivers.
As Raworth readies her slides for the presentation, it feels like more ritualistic torture is on the way for devotees of economics. Scorned and roughed up for not warning beforehand about the 2008/9 financial crisis, and then lumped in with the backlash against "experts" in the recent UK Brexit vote, economists are being force-fed humility these days. Perhaps it's just a market correction towards the real calling for economists which John Maynard Keynes once envisaged as, "If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid."
Kate Raworth's flier for the May 11 event at the World Bank, promised that her game-changing analysis and inspiration for a new generation of economics thinkers will be "simple, playful, and eloquent."
Raworth starts off with her trademark pitch that "economics is the mother tongue of public policy" but when confronted with climate change, inequality, and the other arresting challenges of our present age, its hallowed ideas are centuries out of date and need to be junked. She uses the image of a doughnut to chart social and planetary boundaries consistent with achieving the SDGs and to depict where the "sweet spot" of progressive human prosperity lies. Threats to social justice and the planet's future lie outside the doughnut ring in pulsating red beams.
Developing countries made considerable gains during the 2000s, resulting in a large reduction in extreme poverty and a significant expansion of the middle class. More recently that progress has slowed—and the prognosis is for more of the same, given an environment of lackluster global trade, a lack of jobs coupled with skills mismatches, greater income inequality, unprecedented population aging in richer countries, and youth bulges in the poorer ones. As a result, developing countries are unlikely to close the development gap anytime soon.
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People think fast and often automatically, respond strongly to social incentives, and use mental models or specific worldviews to interpret information and perceptions. So, shouldn’t we be taking into account their thinking and behaviors while designing policies?
Inequality can be both good and bad for growth, depending on what inequality and whose growth. Unequal societies may be holding back one segment of the population while helping another. Similarly, high levels of inequality may be due to a variety of factors; some good, some bad for growth.
Our ability to collect and process complex information has the potential to transform how we manage our environmental footprint. But creating information and actually using it to drive change that benefits both people and the planet are two very different things.
Long one of the world’s most unequal countries, Brazil surprised pundits by recording a massive reduction in household income inequality in the last couple of decades. Between 1995 and 2012, the country’s Gini coefficient for household incomes fell by seven points, from 0.59 to 0.52. (For comparison, all of the inequality increase in the United States between 1967 and 2011 amounted to eight Gini points – according to this study.)
In the ongoing debate about the benefits of trade, we must not lose sight of a vital fact. Trade and global integration have raised incomes across the world, while dramatically cutting poverty and global inequality.
Within some countries, trade has contributed to rising inequality, but that unfortunate result ultimately reflects the need for stronger safety nets and better social and labor programs, not trade protection.