Another review of 1988 Edition of ‘Economics for a Round Earth’.

By Diana Massam, Secretary, Environmental Communicators’ Orgnanisation (UK)
In ‘Economics for a Round Earth’, Charles Pierce challenges previously accepted economic ideals and methods of management, as fundamentally flawed and outdated. He proposes drastic changes, but stresses that these can only be achieved as a series of progressive trends. Current economic models are shown as incapable of tackling the real demands which modern life poses on the world community and its resources. It is no longer possible to aim at economic growth in the form of rising consumption or and increase in the ‘throughput rate’ of wealth. Pierce sets out to define a new concept of economics which will mean that humans can be supported and sustained by world resources instead of aiming at ever increasing consumption and disposal of those resources. In referring to this concept as Round Earth economics, Pierce creates a symbol to represent his fundamental principle. Instead of Flat Earth economics, where the pool of world resources is seen as a bottomless pit, the reality of a Round Earth necessitates economic activity as a cyclical process, including renewal and conservation of resources.

Pierce addresses the many economic problems which the world now faces, such as the ever increasing search for untapped resources, third world debt and the population crisis. He analyses the nature of such problems and depicts them as symptoms of a flawed economic system. [Because of this, the many topics covered intermingle].

It becomes clear that the essential change needed is in the form of people’s attitudes and expectations, which, in the ‘developed’ world are unrealistic. We are all geared towards consumption on an upward spiral but need to alter our perception of what wealth really means. This is a huge problem to address, but Pierce constantly stresses that there are no easy solutions, and that he proposes ideas, not remedies.

He redefines the concept of economic growth as dependent on the maintenance of sustainable resources. Economic well being is best served by environmental conservation and enhancement and is not at odds with such ideas, as old fashioned economics teaches us. Capitalism and Communism are portrayed as economic systems with the same basic flaws – both portray the ideal as increased production and consumption instead of sustainable use of finite resources.

The idea that an increase in consumer demand is the best way to stimulate the economy becomes a fallacy when Pierce’s Round Earth economics are accepted. He states that a larger percentage of wealth or profit should be used for reinvestment rather than wage increases, as the best means of economic stimulation. Full employment can be achieved, at the expense of ever increasing living standards.

It is clear that Pierce does not seek to provide a step by step solution to economic problems, but presents a series of basic ideals on which to base practical developments. The answers to some of the problems described seem daunting and sometimes unachievable, but it must be remembered that we are used to thinking from a ‘Flat Earth’ standpoint.

The last section of the book provides an expression of philosophy which puts the economic ideas into an ideological context, and therefore the whole book into perspective. Pierce portrays the negative core of religion as equating with the destructive ideals of current economics, and states that all religion should be abandoned. However, perhaps the ideals which lie behind Round Earth economics are the basis for a new perception of religion for today.

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