What I’m Reading: Ill Fares the Land

Ill Fares the Land

 

I swear, in my other life, I would have been an economist.

There’s nothing quite like reading about our nation’s economy, and then being able to draw hundreds of conclusions from only a few facts and numbers. Though I took a few economics classes in college, (and loved them, by the way) what I actually focused my studies on was art history, and I’m beginning to feel like the two aren’t so far apart. Ask me why I love art history, and I’ll tell you that it’s because you can look at a single artwork and learn about an entire world. Ask me why I love economics, and my answer will be the same. You can look at just one graph on a page, and learn countless things about the world. On one chart alone you can learn, for instance, that America lags behind the majority of the world’s developed countries in economic inequality and mental health. That’s a huge thing! Think about it: One tiny graph on a page told you something that epic. What’s more, the chart doesn’t end there! That graph, just by having a line and dots on a page, just asked you tons of questions. The graph asked you, “are inequality and mental health only correlated, or could there be a causal relationship?” It also asked you, “why is Canada doing so astronomically better than us?” All in one small graph! Think about it!

The point of this little rant of mine is really to say that I am finally returning to one of my favorite books for a second time. I first read Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land some time in college, and the issues raised by it have stuck with me since. I think this essay by Judt will show you why.

Right away he slaps you in the face and tells you to wake up. Something is wrong, he’s saying. And he reminds you right then, “The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition.” How’s that for brain food?

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