REVIEW

Sanyajit Das has redressed the lack of attention he received with A Banquet of Consequences with this 'reloaded' version

  • A Banquet of Consequences - Reloaded, by Sanyajit Das. Penguin, $34.99.

Sanyajit Das, a former banker based in Sydney, complains in his preface that the original version of this book (2015) "did not receive the coverage or interest that it perhaps deserved".

To redress that perceived imbalance, Das has included in the re-loaded re-write 150 pages of "new insights and analysis".

If anything, the intervening years have made Das even more mordantly pessimistic about our prospects, as: "The end of the world bacchanal gave way to Lord of the Flies". "The problem is that societies are irreconcilably divided over essential issues."

The six years between editions also enables Das to factor into his assessments the Trump Presidency, Brexit, the rise of populist nationalism, and the economic, social and health dimensions of the covid pandemic.

Those developments might be added to Das' prior - and continuing - concerns about growing inequality, the climate emergency, flawed economic models and resources scarcity.

Rather than a banquet of consequences, we might perhaps expect a famine or a penury of them. "We'll all be rooned, said Hanrahan ...".

Readers seeking more detailed accounts of how Australia might recover from 2020 could be directed to John Edwards' Re-Construction or Ross Garnaut's Re-Set. As for Das, his approach is much broader, encompassing all the world as well as Australia, social and medical issues in addition to economic challenges.

The scope of his judgments extends in the new material, especially in relation to pandemics and climate change.

There, as in the more strictly economic sections, Das' book contains jeremiads rather than bromides.

He in not shy about reaching a categorical judgment, nor about criticising fellow economists whose work he finds wanting (including Thomas Piketty).

Happily, a few of the bleak conclusions may now require revision, such as, "There is no guarantee that an effective vaccine will be found".

Even if it were, Das warns of more viruses to come. In addition, he includes a detailed appraisal of the stresses and strains we have imposed on water supplies, through monocultures and our meat production industries, and in supply of raw earth minerals.

Das' writing is consistently crisp and clear. He excoriates "cakeism" (the heaving the eating too syndrome) and "fakebooking" (making up alternative facts), while he sprinkles in erudite literary references.

Das does canvass options for improvement, but within the frame of deep pessimism about policy settings and makers.

This story A reloaded banquet of mostly sage predictions first appeared on The Canberra Times.