August 19, 2012

Review - How Much Is Enough (Robert & Edward Skidelsky)

In recent years, economic growth has been regarded as a self-evident good, with political debate focussed on the best means to achieve it. But there are now signs that this shared assumption is weakening. Anger at 'greedy' bankers and their 'obscene' bonuses has given way to a deeper dissatisfaction with an economic system geared overwhelmingly to the accumulation of wealth. Huge income disparities and an ever-growing gap between the richest and the rest has brought us to one of those rare moments when the underlying assumptions of society, are changing.
In How Much is Enough? Robert and Edward Skidelsky argue that wealth is not an end in itself but a means to the achievement and maintenance of a 'good life', and that our economy should be organised to reflect this fact. The book includes a definition of the 'good life', discusses the relevance of 'Happiness Studies' and the environmental impact of our ever-growing need to consume. In doing so, it offers an escape from the trap of excessive specialization and a way to reinvigorate the idea of economics as a 'moral science'. It concludes by offering a radical new model for income redistribution - and a consideration of what human beings might really want from their lives.


Review
How much money do you need to lead a good life? What is the good life anyway? In their book How Much Is Enough? Robert and Edward Skidelsky try to get to the bottom of these and related questions.
In 1930 the great economist Keynes said that by 2030 most people would work only 15 hours a week, devoting the rest of their time to leisure. Obviously he was mistaken in his assumption, and the authors show why and how he went wrong with his idea.
There are many books dealing with economy and money, our desires and needs. Some grant a rather cursory glance at our needs and wants while others present an intricate picture of the mechanisms involved. This book is most definitely one of the latter, so don't expect a light and entertaining read on how we spend too much on stuff we don't really need. This one's deep, needs to sink in, get thoroughly digested!
This concise study literally has it all - from economic history to philosophy the reader can indulge in a many-layered work which ultimately makes one rethink our own perceptions of work, time and money. Might Keynes be proven right after all one day? Are the structural solutions offered feasible? Could society establish a basis for the good life we strive for? There are no ultimate answers to be found here, yet plenty of food for thought.
In short: A thought-provoking analysis showcasing the economic insatiability of our society!

4/5 Trees

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Penguin. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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