reviewed by Hugh Marchand
"In The Value Crisis, Andrew Welch voices the concern – and examines the causes - that many of us have but cannot articulate as well as he does: that human values everywhere are decaying at an alarming rate. And yet, collectively, we seem helpless or resistant to doing anything about it. Why? He adroitly sidesteps the blame games played by competing ideologies and economic interests and suggests instead a more fundamental cause – that we are witnessing the growing dominance of number-based value systems to the detriment of age-old human value systems. Human value systems deal with quality of life, while number-based systems value quantity, and implicit in that is the possibility (and danger) of unchecked growth.
This is an elegant thesis that is launched through a series of simple questions that any uneasy person might ask. An example: “Why does it cost more to repair things than to replace them?” Reviewing all the questions piques our curiosity. We want to know what it is that underlies this list of seemingly unrelated inquiries.
The author does not disappoint us; this is no stodgy economics text book, and anyone who suffers from math phobia has nothing to fear from this book. The language is plain and jargon-free; technical terms where needed for understanding, are reduced to simple expressions. Given the seriousness of the present situation as the author presents it, and the implications for the future, this is a surprisingly upbeat read.
The impact of undue reliance of number-based value systems is examined in detail in topics as wide-ranging as decision-making, international banking and currency, the unregulated power of corporations, and the erosion of our democratic institutions. Welch brings to the discussion his interests and expertise in the arts, environmental and social issues, and his solid grounding in education, business and mathematics. Throughout the piece his linking of personal anecdotes to the study of the larger issues provides remarkable clarity to what he has to say.
His objective is also clear, as evidenced by www.TheValueCrisis.com and the associated open blog: To inspire discussions for a new way of considering the multiple challenges facing us.
The thrust of Andrew Welch’s book is to bring awareness of the coming and seemingly inevitable catastrophe. His call to action is realistic and not devoid of optimism: We cannot prevent what is coming, he states, but we can “ease the transition” and he cites examples of what can be done. His speculation that a catastrophe may sweep away many elements of number-based value systems and improve the quality of life for many, is based on plausible economic theory. This is a thought-provoking book that you should read, act upon, and share."
Thank you for that, Hugh Marchand. My next major initiative is to offer book club sets to book clubs and libraries. Book clubs are the perfect forum to find readers eager to discuss these ideas. Having an author that is willing to attend their discussion night is even better!