For Immediate Release: Dec. 1, 2011

Contact: Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911


‘It’s the economy, stupid’ –

or is it the stupid economy?


What’s the Economy for, Anyway? offers a better model


If there’s one thing Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party agree on, it’s that the economy is a mess.

Americans are working longer hours for lower pay, fewer benefits, less time for loved ones and no vacation. We’re postponing retirement or ditching it altogether. We’re told the best thing we can do for the economy is to work, borrow, spend and consume. Corporations keep raking in record profits; the one percent keep getting richer. You’re working for the economy – it’s not working for you.

How did we get into this mess? How do we get out of it?

John De Graaf and Dave Batker provide fresh and convincing answers in What’s the Economy For, Anyway? Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness (Bloomsbury Press, $25). 

This one-of-a-kind economics book is not only a fun read, it makes a compelling case for new economic goals, measures, and policies, and provides solutions at the scale of the problem. 

Vicki Robin, co-author of the best-seller Your Money or Your Life says it “informs, entertains, and inspires while it explains the ‘dismal science’ so ordinary people like you and me can see what a bill of goods we’ve been sold about the economy.” In a New York Journal of Books review, Columbia University economist David Spiro says: “This book makes eminent sense. It ought to be required reading.”

De Graaf, a writer and filmmaker, and Batker, an economist and environmentalist, take on our wrong-headed obsession with growth at all costs. They show how our chief economic measure, Gross Domestic Product, is an outdated tool. It counts cigarettes and lung cancer costs as positive. It recorded the sale of toxic mortgages that sank banks and picked taxpayers’ pockets as an economic boon. It does not count the value of nature, of good health, of friends and family or that most important measure of success, happiness.

WETFA? began as a film. De Graaf, producer of the PBS documentary Affluenza and a director of Take Back Your Time and The Happiness Initiative, and Batker, executive director of Earth Economics (perhaps the only economist who has worked for both the World Bank and Greenpeace) are funny, insightful and much-sought-after public speakers. They teamed up to make a 40-minute film that could be described as Econ 101 meets Jon Stewart. The film has been viewed online thousands of times, and on DVD has proved particularly popular in college classrooms, so they expanded its ideas into a book.

Listed by Publishers’ Weekly as one of this fall’s best business and economics books, it presents cogent answers to provocative questions:

  • Which Republican president believed Americans deserve three months of paid vacation?
  • When did U.S. corporations set a record high for profits – while claiming to be broke?
  • Where is progress measured by Gross National Happiness?
  • What country fits the income profile of a place 80 percent of Americans would like to live?
  • How do we get out of this mess?

 As new goals for our economy, the authors point to the credo of Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service: the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest run.

They offer a concise list of actions for rebuilding the middle class. These include promoting employment and competetivness by allowing employees to choose how long they work each week (already the law in  the Netherlands and Germany); taxing Wall Street’s financial transactions; shifting subsidies from polluting industries to renewable resources and from unhealthy to healthy foods; increasing Social Security benefits; and counting natural capital – air, water, land, wildlife – as valuable as bricks-and-mortar infrastructure. They clearly explain how these ideas would not only be beneficial for nearly every American, but cost-efficient and good for business.

“It’s time for a solidarity economy, one that recognizes we’re all in this together,” they write. “You could call it capitalism with a human face.” What’s the Economy For, Anyway? succeeds brilliantly at putting a human face on the most pressing issue of our time.


  • William Howard Taft, in 1910.
  • In the fourth quarter of 2010, with unemployment near 10%, corporate profits hit a record $1.68 trillion.
  • Bhutan, whose GNH counts work-life balance, environmental sustainability and good governance.
  • Sweden, where the richest 20 percent hold 35% of wealth. (In the U.S., they hold 80%.)
  • You’ll have to read the book.


 For more information, see the online press kit here.

For review copies, contact Peter Miller, (646) 307-5579.

For interviews with the authors, contact Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911.