Q&A with Emanuel A. Frenkel

Why did you write Contentonomics?

Working as Chief International Economist for Bank of America, I visited many countries. I saw everywhere that people desire well-being and contentment, and a sense of reward, respect, and recognition from others in the community. We want to know that our accomplishments have meaning. As an economist familiar with self-help techniques, I realized that the combination of basic economics and motivation could be a powerful tool to inspire people to meet these desires while viewing the economic landscape with a tolerant eye. This conviction has been reinforced by interacting with students in my current position on the economics faculty at the University of California. The result, a greatly expanded version of my previous work, is Contentonomics.

What is the main idea in Contentonomics?

A sense of well-being can come by positively embracing our purposeful roles as productive producers and creative consumers in the community. The goal of economic endeavor is material well-being. The route to this material satisfaction is through the creation of personal value in the eyes of others. The appreciation of this value is our source of reward, respect, and recognition, and importantly our purchasing power. As others view us as providing value so we value ourselves and gain self-respect. With this understanding, we feel connected, and knowing this we are more likely to contribute to the community and to our own sense of personal value. Our efforts will be through work and effort, goal setting, a positive mental attitude, education of body and mind, and an understanding of essential economic laws.

Can you briefly describe Contentonomics?

It is three things:

First, a relaxed attitude toward others and the economic community. This attitude understands that we have created the economy to satisfy individual and collective human needs, even if we are unsettled by, and want to change, many things about it.

Second, seeing our work and the effort expended in working as our link to others in the economy, others who in turn are linked to us, all while we collectively provide usefulness and service for the benefit of the community. Also, knowing that work always can be improved “in the eyes of others”, and knowing that in the improvement of work, one achieves personal economic growth.

Thirdly, the ability to see that consumption of commodities, whether “necessities” or “frivolities” satisfy the most basic of human needs: the need to survive, to have entertainment and leisure, and most importantly, for many of us a sense of achievement. At the same time, realizing that what we consume satisfies our sense needs such as touch, sight, taste, and smell. In consumption we link to the community, to the world at large and the accumulated wisdom of the ages. Everyone consumes at some level, everyone wants something, even at the level of a simple life. I call this third aspect of Contentonomics, the ability to Consume with Passion.

Ultimately, Contentonomics opens the door to a contentment that comes from a feeling of connectedness to the world at large.

What would you like readers to discover in Contentonomics?

The economy is so much more than statistics, predictions about next year’s industrial output, and lofty theories of supply and demand. We, you and I and the community, are the economy. Each of us is an individual economy interacting with the world at large. The opportunities the economy gives us reflect our collective desire to succeed, and we are programmed with deep impulses that fully express themselves in our drive for contentment as producers and consumers.

I would like readers to consider that the desire to get ahead is normal, that the material world is a natural human expression of this notion that should be respected, and that almost all of the goods and services we produce help, protect, and enliven our days.

Who should read Contentonomics?

Anyone who wants to find inner peace and contentment with work, personal finances, economic status, and with the modern material world by using a personal growth action plan combined with a recipe for viewing the world of products and services with a tolerant and passionate eye. Also, young adults nurturing their careers, and people looking for a meaningful link between themselves and the community as they work to build and maintain economic lifestyles for themselves.

So it seems that in Contentonomics you look at our daily consumption of things in a novel way. How do you answer the question, so often heard, that consumption is wasteful, or worse, harms the environment?

When I was a student at U.C. Berkeley, denigrating the material world was all the rage. I would sit in coffee houses and hear many students discuss the ills of the economic system far into the night. Today, I ask myself, “What happened to all these people who are, hopefully, deep into their productive lives? Do they realize how much they depend upon and demand satisfaction from the use of things?” Even the most avid reformers need the help of the material world to carry out the reforms and bring public awareness.

Yes, many goods and services harm the environment and our health. But the vast majority of goods that we produce and consume answer to the needs of the moment, use the wisdom of the ages, allow us to survive, and fill our very basic and essential desires.

You begin Contentonomics by asking readers to place a relaxed gaze upon the material world. Why do you do this?

By immediately diving into a typical environment in which one is surrounded by everyday things, I tap into the notion that the existence of products has a deep history, is no accident, is our creation, reflects our humanity, gives pleasure and sustenance, and brightens daily life.

You seem to say in your book that as we live “Contentonomics”, we can derive a true feeling of happiness through work. What do you mean by this?

Our desire for recognition, respect, and reward runs deep. Work and productive endeavor are the stepping stones to the respect and reward that only others can give.

We work, using our skills, determination, personality, and time to create value for others to notice and appreciate. In response, others reward us. From the recognition of others, we develop our self-respect. Through our work, we belong to the community.

How would you respond to the negative feeling so many people have about today’s economy?

Today’s economic environment is tough. Yet the economy is a system. The economy is a system of producers and consumers made up of workers, managers, policy makers and elected officials all of whom must work together in the system and with the system if individual and community prosperity is to be won.

People will always have needs. The more one is aware of these needs and tries ways of fulfilling them, the less likely one will be touched in any permanent fashion by periods of economic doubt. The economy and our desire to create and use products will always exist.

Living Contentonomics cannot be a perfect solution for all economic problems, but it is a benchmark upon which we can hitch our star so that in times of economic pessimism, it offers a sound buffer against potential non-productive feelings of despondency.

In the last chapter of Contentonomics I describe the imaginary world of Lena in which the people live by the themes of the book. Here we can see what a world of Contentonomics might be like. My feeling is that most people would think that this world is nice indeed.

Pick up your copy of Contentonomics on Amazon today!

Copyright 2020 Contentonomics | All Rights Reserved | A Bit Over the Top Web Design