The Economics of Belonging

I just finished an interesting new book by Martin Sandbu, economics writer for The Financial Times. The Economics of Belonging: A Radical Plan to Win Back the Left Behind and Achieve Prosperity for All was published pre-COVID 19 but is full of good ideas that would enhance our economic recovery from the pandemic and beyond. Sandbu seeks to understand the economic causes of the current backlash we’re seeing across developed economies. He argues that too many workers and too many communities now feel that they do not belong as part of a wider economy, and thus have chosen to opt out or protest in the streets, the ballot box, and beyond. He does not view cultural clashes as the key factors behind this backlash, and instead argues that economic disconnection is the driving force behind these sentiments. He is particularly focused on left-behind places and strategies for reintegrating them into the 21st century economy.

Finding ways to instill a sense of belonging are essential to moving people out of their current precarious economic circumstances and toward greater prosperity for all. His remedies are not necessarily new or radical, but perhaps unique coming from someone with a Financial Times affiliation. They include Universal Basic income (via a net wealth tax), an expansion of collective bargaining rights for unions and other worker organizations, big increases in spending on education and training, and a carbon taxation system. The Economics of Belonging is worth a read as it does an excellent job of both diagnosing our current crisis, and in providing a good compendium of potential solutions.