The Alternative

How to Build a Just Economy


By Nick Romeo

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$41.00 CAD

Winners Take All meets Nickel and Dimed in this provocative debunking of accepted wisdom, providing the pathway to a sustainable, survivable 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. Journalist Nick Romeo has spent years covering the world’s most innovative economic and policy ideas for The New Yorker. Romeo 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, Romeo explores:
  • The successful business owners organizing their companies as purpose trusts (as Patagonia recently did) to fulfill a higher mission, such as sharing profits with workers or protecting the environment
  • The growing deployment of new models by venture capital funds to promote wealth creation for the poorest Americans and address climate change.
  • How Oslo’s climate budgeting program is achieving the emission reduction targets the rest of the world continues to miss, creating a model that will soon be emulated by governments around the world
  • How Portugal strengths democratic culture by letting citizens make crucial budget decisions
  • The way worker ownership and cooperatives foster innovation, share wealth, and improve the quality of jobs, offering an increasingly popular model superior to the traditional corporation
  • The public-sector marketplace that offers decent work and real protections to gig workers in California
  • The job guarantee program in southern Austria that offers high-quality meaningful jobs to every citizen
Many books have exposed what’s not working in our current system. Romeo reveals something even more essential: the 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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  • “TINA (There is no alternative) has been the most powerful weapon deployed against its critics by neoliberal free-market economists in the last few decades. In this informative and courageous book, Nick Romeo shows there is an alternative—or, rather, many alternatives—to the currently dominant neoliberal 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, professor of economics, University of London, and author of Edible Economics
  • "Romeo’s diligently researched and admirably principled new book...“The Alternative” present diverse solutions to the problems of paltry wages, rampant unemployment, unstable housing and exploitative labor practices....“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."
    Washington Post
  • “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
  • “Carefully researched, beautifully written, engaging stories, filled with wisdom about building economic justice. Easy reading that results in hard thinking about how economics can be a force for good.”
    Joseph R. Blasi, professor and director, Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing, Rutgers University
  • “There is an alternative to capitalism as we know it. Romeo vividly describes the options, giving 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 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, professor of business administration, University of Michigan
  • “Profound and engaging, a terrific book that deserves to be widely read. 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 Alternative gives us the ways and means for creating a just economy.”
    Clair Brown, professor of economics emerita, University of California, Berkeley
  • “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
  • “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
  • “Journalist Romeo debuts with an invigorating investigation of how governments across the globe are implementing creative and practical fixes…This is an eye-opening handbook for a better world.”
    Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “[It] makes a terrific complement to Matthew Desmond’s Poverty, by America for readers looking for practical solutions…Eschewing both “revolution [and] resignation.”

On Sale
Jan 16, 2024
Page Count
384 pages

Nick Romeo

About the Author

Nick Romeo  covers policy and ideas for The New Yorker and teaches in the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. He has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The MIT Technology Review, and many other venues.


Learn more about this author

Featured Post

Featured Post

Can We Build an Alternative Economy? A Conversation with Nick Romeo and Simon Johnson