Getting to Yes, And

Ha-Joon Chang: Edible Economics


Ha-Joon Chang

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Kelly gets a lesson in both food and economics from Professor Ha-Joon Chang when they discuss his new book “Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World.”

You have a great story about going to a Sichuan restaurant in London – and the menus has a number of chillies next to each dish to show you how hot the dish is and even though your friend ordered a dish with zero chillies, the dish had chillies in it. You then tie that to home and community caregiving.

“This illustrates when something is ubiquitous, we take it for granted. And when we take something for granted, we don't count it. In economics, the best example of that is unpaid household work – work that is done in families and communities, mostly by women. You know this: that work is actually quite substantial. Depending on how you estimate, people come up with figures like 30% of GDP, 40% of GDP. But it's not included in the GDP, because the GDP counts only things that are transactive in the market.””  

And you extend this idea to many of the low paying roles in our economies.

“During the pandemic the US Government designated people like medical doctors and nurses and the people working in old people's homes as the essential employees. In Britain, they are called key workers. And we call them that because they are so important to how the rest of us live day to day and we should thank them. But people then realized that almost everyone in that category, except for top medical doctors, are actually poorly paid. So that is because in the market it is $1, one vote - not one person, one vote.”

I have to say, this is a very smart way of getting people to care about economics.

“Economics is very often the dry boring stuff and and I understand why people don't necessarily want to read about it. So this is my trick: You know, I keep them hooked on food stories, and before they know it, I fit it into an economic story. So in a way, my full stories are a bit like the ice cream that some of your mothers might have offered when she was trying to encourage you to eat your vegetables.”

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