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Economics for everyone

Ivana Pelisek and Denis Vidmar | Interrobang | News | January 11th, 2010

The Social Science Speakers Series wrapped up in late November with a presentation, “Beyond the Crisis: Why we need a different ‘storyline' about the economy” by Jim Stanford, an economist for the Canadian Auto Workers union, who is also a columnist for the Globe and Mail, and the author of the newly published book Economics for Everyone: A short guide to the economics of capitalism.

Beginning the presentation with a joke, Stanford said an economist is an individual who is good with numbers but doesn't have the personality to be an accountant. He continued by describing realities of the economy and how, in today's schools, we study everything that one doesn't need to know about economics.

Stanford gave his insights to the current recession we are battling. He explained that if you want to understand economics today, don't turn to the economic updates on news channels. Instead, the focus should be on our work ethics, our needs, wants, and how, together as a community make the world go round. The economy is the sum of the work we collectively do, Stanford said.

With his new book, Economics for Everyone, Stanford has a goal to demystify and reclaim economics. He wants to relate ideas to daily life, and avoid jargon, graphs, and math.

One of the first steps is de-mystifying the current crisis. Stanford elaborated that there should not be a crisis. We can all work today as well as ever; in fact, we can work better with the improvements of technology, skills, and productivity. He said that we should ignore the financial “mumbo-jumbo” and focus our attention on real work.

The crisis the world is experiencing will occur again in the future if we do not change our ways, by the stock brokers and the markets.

Stanford described the world of finances to the audience, explaining that since the early 1980s policy emphasized financial activity over real production, which allowed for employment and real production to be kept under tight control. The idea behind it was the control of inflation, when in true reality the goal was to control the workers.

It was around this time that the world was introduced to a system of neo-liberalism, where the financial sector had complete freedom — meaning deregulation, speculation, globalization, tax subsidies, and more. Simply put, it gave the markets the freedom to do whatever needed for maximization of profit. This idea of no rules in the financial sector allowed the housing market in the United States to collapse because banks were giving out mortgages on the basis of “no income, no job” to anyone and everyone that walked through the door.

Stanford stressed the importance of knowing the difference between “real economy versus paper economy.” The real economy is the work we all do to meet our material needs and wants, while the paper economy is the financial sector that plays a different unique role where it is not directly productive and the trades are in paper assets rather than something real and concrete.

Stanford's book, Economics for Everyone, is a hit since everyone today is trying to understand the financial crisis that is affecting so many. The book is available online at, where you can also get a sneak preview of a few chapters. Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, calls Stanford “a rare breed: the teacher who changed your life. He has written a book — both pragmatic and idealistic — with the power to change the world.”

The Social Science Speaker Series presented by the School of Language and Liberal Studies will continue with presentations in the winter semester. If you have managed to miss some of the presentations, they are available on YouTube on the channel “Fanshawe Tube.”
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