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The Alternative: How To Build A Just Economy

Confronted by the terrifying trends of the early twenty-first century – widening inequality, environmental destruction, and the immiseration of millions of workers around the world – many economists and business leaders still preach dogmas that lack evidence and create political catastrophe: Private markets are always more efficient than public ones; investment capital flows efficiently to necessary projects; massive inequality is the unavoidable side effect of economic growth; people are selfish and will only behave well with the right incentives.
But a growing number of people – academic economists, business owners, policy entrepreneurs, and ordinary people – are rejecting these myths and reshaping economies around the world to reflect ethical and social values. Though they differ in approach, all share a vision of the economy as a place of moral action and accountability. Nick Romeo has spent years covering the world’s most innovative economic and policy ideas for The New Yorker. He takes us on an extraordinary journey through the unforgettable stories and successes of people working to build economies that are more equal, just, and livable. Combining original, in-depth reporting with expert analysis, the book reveals the essential structure of a system that could actually work for everyone. Margaret Thatcher was wrong: there is an alternative. This is what it looks like.


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Praise For The Alternative

"The Alternative is a brisk and sensible book that details bold and ingenious proposals in measured tones. Romeo...has the approachable style of a moderate but the bold convictions of a radical."
The Washington Post


“An enlightening, inspiring read… The Alternative brings together an appealing range of ways people across the west are imaginatively and determinedly contesting the givens in today’s capitalism. There is an ache for better – for more just ways of organising the way we work and adding more meaning to our lives. You can’t help but applaud Nick Romeo for showing the workable alternatives to capitalism and the moral driver behind them – everything from the way companies are incorporated to how employees are hired, paid and enabled to share in the value they create.”

The Guardian

"The New Yorker writer Nick Romeo scrutinizes the software humming behind capitalism’s facade: the academic field of economics... the book is a world tour of companies successfully bucking economic orthodoxies, from De Aanzet, a Dutch grocer that prices goods higher to account for externalities, to the U.S.-based Well-Paid Maids, which gives employees a living wage."

Harvard Business Review 

“Carefully researched, beautifully written, engaging stories, filled with wisdom about building economic justice. Easy reading that results in hard thinking about how economics can a force for good.”

Joseph R, Blasi, professor and director, Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing, Rutgers University

"TINA (There is no alternative) has been the mostpowerful weapon deployed against its critics by neo-liberal free-market economists in the last few decades. In this informative and courageous book, Nick Romeo shows that there is an alternative - or rather many alternatives - to the currently dominant neo-liberal economic system. In doing so, he liberates our economic imagination and puts a backbone into economics as a moral science. This is a very valuable field manual for those who want to change our economies for the better."

Ha-Joon Chang, SOAS University London, author of Economics: The User's Guide and Edible Economics 

“Nick Romeo’s The Alternative got my emotions boiling. After reading the history of how we’ve come to blindly accept that poverty and massive inequality are immutable fixtures of capitalism, I was left angry and disgusted. And yet I felt a strong rush of hope in seeing, through Romeo’s
deep research and vivid storytelling, that there are plenty of great solutions out there, and they’re already being put into practice. As this important book makes clear, we just need the moral courage and political imagination to make them mainstream.”

Rick Wartzman, author of Still Broke: Walmart’s Remarkable Transformation and the Limits of Socially Conscious Capitalism and The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America

“There is an alternative to capitalism as we know it. Nick Romeo vividly describes the options,ngiving reason for optimism about a more just and democratic economy beyond the bleak prison of shareholder capitalism. The Alternative reports from the front lines on bold experiments going on right now around the world: providing consumers information on the true costs of what they buy, enterprises that pay a sustainable living wage, job guarantees for all workers, gig employment platforms operated as a public utility, large-scale worker-owned cooperatives, perpetual purpose trusts, participatory government budgeting, expansive employee ownership.”
Jerry Davis, Gilbert & Ruth Whitaker Professor of Management and Sociology, University of Michigan

“Profound and engaging, a terrific book that deserves to be widely read. Nick Romeo zeroes in on the actual solutions undertaken by communities and businesses to end the crises of global warming and wealth inequality and provide good jobs for all with genuine living wages. The
gives us the ways and means for creating a just economy.”

Clair Brown, Professor of Economics Emerita, University of California, Berkeley

“Nick Romeo’s The Alternative breathes with hope and urgency about building a more equitable economy and society.  The hope, however, rests not on fanciful dreams but is grounded in living examples of people and organizations that are already demonstrating their viability. Whether these are cooperatives, perpetual purpose or employee-owned enterprises, land trusts, job guarantees, or companies with livable wages—these efforts are signals of what is possible.  I hope that by bringing  these 'alternatives' to the attention of wider audiences, Romeo’s book will inspire many more such efforts, helping to move them from the margins of our economy to
the mainstream.”

Marina Gorbis, executive director, Institute for the Future

"Journalist Romeo debuts with an invigorating investigation of how governments across the globe are implementing creative and practical fixes “to urgent economic problems, from decreasing wealth inequality to addressing the climate crisis and creating meaningful jobs.” Romeo offers an incisive history of how neoliberal economists have limited America’s legislative imagination since the 1970s by falsely asserting that the country’s institutions and fiscal policy were founded on “immutable” laws of economics, and consequently beyond large-scale reform. This is an eye-opening handbook for a better world."

Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"Makes a terrific complement to Matthew Desmond’s Poverty, by America for readers looking for practical solutions. Eschewing both 'revolution [and] resignation,' Romeo offers a powerful addition to an urgent debate."

Kirkus Review

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