Past Meetup

The Value of Nothing -- Author Raj Patal @ Powell's

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Sorry about the short notice but this guy is brilliant so thought I'd open up the invitation to others. Since he's likely to be popular best to be there before 7pm to get a seat.

The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy (

About the Author
Raj Patel, the author of Stuffed and Starved (, is an activist and academic who has been hailed as a visionary for his prescience about the food crisis. Raj has worked for the World Bank and the World Trade Organization and has protested against them on four continents. He is currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for African Studies, an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a fellow at the Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First (

Economics is about choices, but who gets to make them? In The Value of Nothing (Picador), Raj Patel shows how free-market fundamentalism has distorted how consumers value their world. "[A] shrewd and absorbing discussion," hails Publishers Weekly.

Credit has crunched, debt has turned toxic, the gears of the world economy have ground to a halt. It’s now clear that the market doesn’t only get it wrong about sub-prime mortgages, it gets it wrong about everything.

We need to ask again one of the most fundamental questions a society ever addresses, and one to which very few people know or understand the answer: why do things cost what they do?

Radical, original, nimbly argued, The Value of Nothing uses some fundamental but forgotten economics and some cutting edge neuroeconomics to show how the price we pay for everything from food, to handbags, to fridges, to entertainment, is systematically distorted. After reading this book, the question 'How much?' will never just be about the price on the sticker.

A deeply though-provoking book about the dramatic changes we must make to save the planet from financial madness. -- Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine

Opening with Oscar Wilde's observation that nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing, Patel shows how our faith in prices as a way of valuing the world is misplaced. He reveals the hidden ecological and social costs of a hamburger (as much as $200), and asks how we came to have markets in the first place.

Both the corporate capture of government and our current financial crisis, Patel argues, are a result of our democratically bankrupt political system. If part one asks how we can rebalance society and limit markets, part two answers by showing how social organizations, in America and around the globe, are finding new ways to describe the world's worth. If we don't want the market to price every aspect of our lives, we need to learn how such organizations have discovered democratic ways in which people, and not simply governments, can play a crucial role in deciding how we might share our world and its resources in common.

This short, timely and inspiring book reveals that our current crisis is not simply the result of too much of the wrong kind of economics. While we need to rethink our economic model, Patel argues that the larger failure beneath the food, climate and economic crises is a political one. If economics is about choices, Patel writes, it isn't often said who gets to make them. The Value of Nothing offers a fresh and accessible way to think about economics and the choices we will all need to make in order to create a sustainable economy and society.

With great lucidity and confidence in a dazzling array of fields, Patel reveals how we inflate the cost of things we can (and often should) live without, while assigning absolutely no value to the resources we all need to survive. This is a deeply thought-provoking book about the dramatic changes we must make to save the planet from financial madness--argued with so much humor and humanity that the enormous tasks ahead feel both doable and desirable.

This is Raj Patel's great gift: he makes even the most radical ideas seem not only reasonable, but inevitable. A brilliant book. --Naomi Klein, author The Shock Doctrine

Attendees (1)

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