The Economics of Abundance
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The Economics of Abundance

Affluent Consumption and the Global Economy

Brendan Sheehan

This book addresses the challenge posed by J.K. Galbraith over 50 years ago to make a constructive contribution to a different style of economic analysis – the economics of abundance. It identifies a system of abundance inhabited by the ‘people of plenty’ and illustrates that the driver of growth in this system is spending by affluent consumers. This timely book provides essential heterodox economic theory to explain this spending and explore its key drivers and constraints.
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Chapter 1: Abundance, Scarcity and Sufficiency

Brendan Sheehan


A. WHY SHOULD YOU READ THIS BOOK? In The Affluent Society John Kenneth Galbraith threw down a challenge to the economics profession. Surrounded by the generalised prosperity of North America in the 1950s Galbraith called on economists to face up to “the economics of affluence of the world in which we live” (Galbraith, 1998, p. 131). Galbraith’s challenge has sadly been ignored by economists for the last 50 years. This book seeks to contribute parts of the answer to the Galbraithian challenge. In other words it begins the task of constructing a different type of economics – the economics of abundance. Consequently this book puts aside the conventional wisdom of universal scarcity.1 The initial focus is on what people have, not what they lack. What is strikingly obvious is that what different people have is vastly unequal. The inequality of what different peoples have, and the different reasons why they want more, depends upon the economic system within the global economy they inhabit. This book divides the worldwide population and the global economy into three broad categories. First, there are the people of poverty who live in the economic system of scarcity. Second there is the system of sufficiency experienced by the people of adequacy who have access to enough products to have a passable existence. Last, but most important for this book, is the system of abundance experienced by the people of plenty. The people of plenty make up a minority of the global population but are the most affluent,...

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