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What's the Economy for, Anyway?

In this film produced by John de Graaf of AFFLUENZA> fame, ecological economist Dave Batker presents a humorous, edgy, factual, timely and highly-visual monologue about the American economy today, challenging the ways we measure economic success--especially the Gross Domestic Product--and offering an answer to the question: What's the Economy for, Anyway?

Using Gifford Pinchot's idea that the economy's purpose is 'the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest run,' Batker compares the performance of the U.S. economy with that of other industrial countries in terms of providing a high quality of life, fairness and ecological sustainability, concluding that when you do the numbers, we come out near the bottom in nearly every category.

Batker shines a humorous light on such economic buzzwords as 'productivity,' and 'consumer sovereignty,' while offering ideas for 'capitalism with a human face,' a new economic paradigm that meets the real needs of people and the planet.

'Visionary...Now more than ever, it seems, we need to think about the economy, not as a force of nature but as something made by (and hopefully for) people...[What's the Economy for, Anyway?] does not just critique, it also imagines solutions--solutions that are working for millions of people in other countries...The film gives me the sense that we could control our economic and ecological destinies to a degree we never imagined.' New Labor Forum

'This is the news that everyone needs: you don't have to live in exactly the world you grew up in. What's the Economy for, Anyway? shows that there are other possibilities, and they're well worth considering. It's completely great!' Bill McKibben, visiting professor at Middlebury College, Author of Deep Economy and The End of Nature

'What's the Economy for, Anyway? is the best documentary I have ever seen. I marvel at how the producers were able to take such a complicated subject and present it in such a compelling and funny way. Watch and be inspired about how best to restore the American Dream.' Monique Tilford, Your Money or Your Life and former Director, Center for a New American Dream

'GDP has long been an inadequate measure of how the American economy fares. While many follow the GDP, few know its origins or the implications of using such a simple measure to try and capture what's important to the quality of our lives. What's the Economy for, Anyway? takes on the critical question: how should we measure the success of the American economy? Readily accessible and immensely informative, this film will transform how many students and teachers alike think about the American economy.' Jody Heymann, MD, PhD, Director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy

'What's the Economy for, Anyway? is an extremely accessible analysis of the current economic crisis that is perfect for classroom use. What is unique about the film is that it looks at the causes from a variety of perspectives. It is short enough that it can easily be viewed in one class session, but its segmented format makes the film especially versatile. You can stop at each section break for class discussion and mini lectures to help connect the material to current course content. The segment feature also makes it possible to show only a few of the clips that are most relevant to your class needs. In addition to the economy, the film easily connects to a variety of topics including sustainability, time use, globalization, culture, resource management and more. The presentation style is witty and poignant offering valuable insights for both the novice and expert in these fields.' Melinda Messineo, Associate Professor of Sociology, Ball State University

'An irreverent and engaging film that will show you just [how] gross our measures of Gross Domestic Product really are. It's well designed for classroom use as well as a general audience. Send a copy to your favorite (and unfavorite) economists and to everyone you know who would like to make our economy a better place to live.' Nancy Folbre, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Author, The Invisible Heart

'What's the Economy for, Anyway? asks a deep question that we all should be asking. This film provides us with insight and extensive data about how our economy got to where it is today. Why is the gap between rich and poor higher than ever? How is it that citizens in other countries have better healthcare than we do and pay less? What happened to our social safety net? Be prepared to want to watch the film a second time and take notes. You may look at our economy in a whole new way from here on.' Joan Blades, co-Founder, and and co-Author, The Motherhood Manifesto

'Will resonate with anyone who recognizes that a new day is dawning in America. The fundamental message of valuing human capital, social capital and natural capital in addition to traditional capital both on our corporate balance sheets and in our personal lives is incredibly important and even more timely.

Every US leader in government, the private sector, organized labor, the professions, and academia would benefit from viewing, showing and further distributing this remarkable film. For that matter, this easily understood film should be seen by all American citizens who care about the future and quality of their lives and the lives of generations of Americans to come.' Richard A. Lippin, MD, Former Corporate Medical Director of the ARCO Chemical Company and Founder of the International Arts-Medicine Association (IAMA)

'What's the Economy for, Anyway? was made with compassion for its audience. It's a terrific length that invites discussion, rather than wearing viewers down. There are dozens of films out about the current economic and ecological crisis that operate on the assumption that if we pile on more bad news, people will become engaged. They are wrong. But WTEFA? presents facts, entertains, explains and engages us rather than sinks us. Somehow in 40 delightful minutes it offers a holistic and timely critique of our market worshipping model of economic growth and its supreme cost to our planet and the quality of our lives. It's a must-view tool for teach-ins, classrooms and community screenings. WTEFA? reminds us that the purpose of our economy is to serve people, not for people to serve the economy. The economy is subordinate to our human aspirations to celebrate life, be together with one another, and care for our families, neighbors and all of creation.' Chuck Collins, Senior Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies, co-Founder, United for a Fair Economy and Author, The Moral Measure of the Economy

'An entertaining and humorous account of the ways in which the U.S. economy doesn't necessarily work to make our lives better. This film should cause people to think about the economy in a very different way.' Dean Baker, economist and co-Director of The Center for Economic and Policy Research, Author, Plunder and Blunder

'Smart and funny, right up the alley of today's students. I recommend it as an introduction to any discussion of the use of time and a balanced life.' Cathy O'Keefe, Professor of Leisure and Therapeutic Recreation, University of South Alabama

'Gripping...Watching Batker's film, I learned a lot. Is the US really the only Western country that doesn't have a law guaranteeing paid vacation time? Yes. Is the US really one of four nations in the world that has no federally mandated paid maternity leave? Yes. Are Americans more likely to be depressed and/or suicidal than Europeans? Yes.' Kathy Newman, Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, Working-Class Perspectives

'Important, complex economic and social realities demystified! What's the Economy for, Anyway? presents them in clear, simple language with plenty of humor. After a screening at my church, everyone stayed to talk for over an hour, well longer than either my expectation, or the film's running time! The evening precipitated just the kind of community conversation I had hoped for.' Reverend Carla Pryne, Episcopal priest, Church of the Ascension, Seattle

'Nothing about the economy seems to make sense these days, and it's time for all of us to pay more attention. What's the Economy for, Anyway? tells us to think twice about the myths that take on the aura of fact just because they get repeated over and over again. Our economy isn't just numbers and charts and complicated formulas. It's how we create and spend money and it shapes our quality of life. The choices we personally make with our money - and the choices our government officials make with our money - reflect the values and priorities we have. What's the Economy for, Anyway? takes 40 minutes of your time. It might change the way you live for the next 40 years.' Gael Tarleton, research scientist, University of Washington and Seattle Port Commissioner

'The Whidbey Institute at Chinook just recently showed the film, What's the Economy for, Anyway? as the capstone for our six week Lyceum series, 'What's it Worth?: Environmental Economics and Puget Sound.' ...I would recommend this film as a discussion centerpiece to a wide range of groups--environmental, academic, community, activist, spiritual--for its ease of explanation and facility to instruct and grow questions.' Ruth Pittard, Director, The Whidbey Institute

'I showed What's the Economy for, Anyway? as part of a film series. The film drew out the best in the audience. There were questions, comments, and suggestions for practical action. I have no doubt that the film would be a great springboard for discussion in any group interested in examining our economic system in a probing way. It deals with very serious material in a lighthearted fashion. It seems to me that this contributes to the quality of the discussion, nudging it away from confrontation and toward exploration.' Johnny Palka, Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of Washington

'Important, complex economic and social realities are demystified in What's the Economy for, Anyway?. Ecological economist Dave Batker presents these challenges to the current way of life in the U.S. in clear, simple language with plenty of humor. This timely documentary is edgy, factual and even poignant...Academic and public libraries will want to purchase to encourage viewers to reflect on our values and priorities as a nation, community, and individuals.' Susan Awe, Parish Memorial Library for Business and Economics, University of New Mexico, Educational Media Reviews Online

'There couldn't be a more timely and critical topic to address than our national--and, indeed, the world's--economy. This quirky yet effective program does so in an easily understood manner...Utilizing a delightful variety of vintage films/stills, crisp and to-the-point contemporary video, expert interviews, effective graphics, and entertaining campy inserts, the film packs a great deal of information into a relatively short presentation.' Dwain Thomas, formerly Lake Park High School, School Library Journal

'Raises thought-provoking concerns' Library Journal

'Thanks to a subversively amusing style that will likely make the topic more palatable...This winning primer on the economy is recommended.' Video Librarian

'What's clearly explained in the clever segments of this feature length documentary is how the quality of life does not fit in the working dynamics of the economy...Do you want more time for family, friends, community, healthful activity, plain ol' free time? Where does all the time go? The time watching What's the Economy for, Anyway? is time well spent regardless of how it registers with GDP.' Chuck Jaffee, The Union


Main credits

De Graaf, John (Producer)
De Graaf, John (Director)
De Graaf, John (Screenwriter)
Batker, David (Producer)

Other credits

Photographer/editor, David Fox; music, Michael Bade.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Democracy
American Studies
Citizenship and Civics
Labor and Work Issues
Social Justice
Social Psychology
Voluntary Simplicity


ecological economics, Dave Batker, GDP, society's well-being, workable alternatives, American economy, Gross Domestic Product, Gifford Pinchot, greatest good, greatest number, quality of life, fairness, ecological sustainability, productivity, consumer sovereignty, capitalism with a human face, new paradigm, real needs, financial crisis, health, happiness, security, time,"What's the Economy for, Anyway?",Bullfrog Films

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