Wilfred Beckerman, an economics don at Oxford, has been accused of being a mordant enemy of the environment, and worse. In fact he is not against the environment; he is just unmercifully opposed to bad arguments for protecting the environment. This book is a trenchant dissection of many such arguments. But it is not merely a critique; it explores the circumstances under which businesses and households will undervalue environmental amenities in their behavior and the sort of actions that might be taken to correct these errors.
The book discusses, substantively, resource exhaustion, biodiversity, and global climate change, among other issues; and conceptually, sustainable development, the relationship between total welfare and economic welfare as approximated (imperfectly) by GNP, and why we should discount the future even though we love our grandchildren and their prospective grandchildren. It has the great merit of being elegantly written, with humor and historical perspective, even while taking on complex issues with careful reasoning.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Economic, Social, and Environmental From This Issue