Economics for Life: An Economist Reflects on the Meaning of Life, Money and What Really Matters

Ian Harper


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Winner of the 2011 ‘Christian Book of the Year Award’

‘If Ian Harper had been American instead of an Australian, and if he been a professor at the University of Chicago instead of the Melbourne Business School, Economics for Life would have been a hit on The New York Times bestseller list.’

John Roskam, Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs.

Also available in eBook format (eISBN: 9781617505270). To find out how to order online, visit our eBook page. You can also follow these direct links:


In Economics for Life, Professor Ian Harper, the former head of the Australian Fair Pay commission, shares insights gained from his professional career as an economist during an exciting period of world history.

‘Some people worry about economics and economists. They shake their heads in exasperation. Fittingly, some economists shake their heads at the rest of society. Why can’t other people see the good sense in economics and what economists have to say? I have written this book with these two groups of readers in mind.’

He demonstrates why economics is a good servant but a bad master. While he suggests that, ‘It is surely good that millions of human beings have been delivered from grinding poverty by economic systems variously based on market principles’, he also observes, that ‘The creation and acquisition of wealth has become, for many people, the sole purpose of their existence and the sole criterion of value in their lives.’

Professor Harper shares not only what he has learned as one of Australia’s best known economists, but also something of the values which undergird his worldview.

Reflecting on what he describes as ‘the dark side of the market’ he argues that markets have the potential to undermine community life. ‘By exalting individual preferences and achievement, markets can corrode a sense of responsibility for or belonging to one’s community, fueling social alienation.’

Dr Frank Milne, Bank of Montreal Professor of Economics and Finance at Queen’s University, Ontario, writes that in Economics for Life, ‘Ian Harper shows that economics provides a very useful framework to understand and explore earthly affairs, whereas Christianity addresses deep spiritual and moral issues. This book should be read by all those fashionable critics of religion and economics so that they may expand their intellectual horizons.’

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