About the book

Rationing: it’s a word—and idea—that people seem to fear and hate in equal measure. Health care expert Henry Aaron has compared mentioning the possibility of rationing to “shouting an obscenity in church.” Yet societies ration food, water, medical care, and fuel all the time, with those who can pay the most getting the most. As Nobel Prize–winning economist Amartya Sen has said, the results can be “thoroughly unequal and nasty.”


In Any Way You Slice It, Stan Cox shows that rationing is not just a quaint practice restricted to World War II memoirs and stories of gas-station lines in the 1970s. Instead, he persuasively argues that rationing is a vital concept for our fragile present, an era of dwindling resources and environmental crises. Any Way You Slice It takes us on a fascinating search for alternative ways of apportioning life’s necessities, from the wartime goal of “fair shares for all” in the 1940s to present-day water rationing in a Mumbai slum, from the bread shops of Cairo to the struggle for fairness in American medicine and carbon rationing on Norfolk Island in the Pacific. All along the way, Cox asks: Can we limit consumption while assuring everyone a fair share?