Robert Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the UK's University of Warwick and the Skidelsky and entitled How Much is Enough?: Money. Robert Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick. His biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes received. How much money we need to live it comes at the end of the argument, not at the beginning.” [Preface] . See Robert Skidelsky, Keynes: The Return of the Master, 2nd edn. Arrow, Dasgupta et al () [pdf]. Are We.
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The rationale and tenets of the Skidelsky book. At the outset of the first session, Robert Skidelsky stressed that the manuscript is very much a. A provocative and timely call for a moral approach to economics, drawing on philosophers, political theorists, writers, and economists from Aristotle to. Robert Skidelsky is best known for his three-volume biography of No political system can avoid bias, however much it proclaims its neutrality.
This would include:. English Choose a language for shopping. The Mises Review 18, No. He failed to foresee how his modern devotees would glorify greed, waste money on things they never use and accumulate more money than they can ever spend. I liked the concept of basic goods, though, and found the critique of happiness accounting valid. It is written by two philosophers, so it didn't suffer from the usual problems I find with popular-consumption econ books though perhaps a philosopher reading it would find an analogous set of problems!
Rather we aim to bias social arrangements in favor of the good life — to make it easier for people to organize their own exits from the rat race, for instance by discovering for themselves ways of life in which money-making is not central. No political system can avoid bias, however much it proclaims its neutrality. The authors, in dulcet tones, act as if they were offering mild suggestions designed to help people to a better life; but the reality is otherwise.
In their preferred scheme of things, advertising would be strongly restricted. A lot of consumption is wasteful in the sense people buy products about whose qualities they are ignorant or misinformed: The policies suggested above … are paternalist, but non-coercive.
They are designed to edge societies towards the good life, not force it down their throats. In line with Schor's suggestion, though, it will not be entirely up to people themselves whether they accept guidance from the warnings.
Under the Skidelsky plan, people will be subject to a substantial consumption tax: In a dynamic economy, the prohibition or taxation of particular goods is ineffectual as well as arbitrary, since individuals determined to show off their wealth can always find alternative ways of doing so. However, this objection does not apply to a general consumption tax.
What would people, deprived — non-coercively of course — of part of their income and of access to information that would enable them to spend what remains do with the time that exiting from the rat race has made available to them? Our authors have a suggestion to offer: In a world of "enoughness,". Even today more and more people find a natural outlet for their generous and adventurous instincts in voluntary service at home and abroad. In sum, because people spend too much money on consumer goods, they do not lead good lives.
Instead, they should serve the world's poor in order to attain lives of fulfillment. Evidently, the authors have arrived at, however unintentionally, an antithesis to the rational selfishness of Ayn Rand. Why do the Skidelskys object to the way people choose to spend their own money? In their view, present-day consumers ignore ancient wisdom, both Western and Eastern.
The way to a good life, premodern philosophy taught, does not lie in a quest for money for its own sake. Rather, money is just a tool, and we must be satisfied with "enough" material goods, rather than constantly strive to amass more of them. As Aristotle said,. Craftsmanship also suffers. Use-values have … a controlling end: To pursue them beyond this point is senseless.
Money, by contrast, has no controlling end. As a blank, all-purpose instrument, its uses are as multifarious as human desire itself, and as limitless. Let us suppose that Aristotle is entirely right that the unlimited pursuit of money will not result in happiness: Whether he is in fact correct is no doubt an important question, but it is not necessary to address it here in order to respond to what the Skidelskys have to say. Aristotle's point about money does not imply that people should not strive after a large assortment of material goods.
In general, I'm dissatisfied with the arguments which support their conclusions, but could also support basic incomes with no additions for specific groups and expenditure based taxes preferably flat rate. But one could do much better, especially by reading McCloskey's Bourgeois Virtues! Jul 01, Dave Main rated it it was ok. Pretty uneven, and not particularly useful.
It offered an interesting history of the evolution of thought behind the accumulation of wealth, or, why we collectively decided to continue to pursue more and more money and stuff instead of choosing leisure as an alternative. But what was missing for me, anyway was any semblance of explanation of how to get to the life they propose.
If we decide to collectively exchange wealth for more leisure, what would the economy look like? Would it still be ca Pretty uneven, and not particularly useful. Would it still be capable of supporting the number of people it does today? It didn't say. Plus, sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of the book was an awkward diatribe against Climate Change Alarmists.
Not that the authors deny anthropomorphic climate change; they just think that it's obvious that we'll fix it with an unidentified technological solution when the problem becomes more severe. Because that's always what we've done in the past when faced with impending global catastrophe. View 2 comments. REALLY GOOD— This is a remarkable work of economics, history, and philosophy in one, easy to understand yet offering a refreshing and complex polemic against our money-grubbing-and-hoarding nature.
The book came at the opportune moment for me, actually, when I have been thinking long and hard about wealth, greed, the good life, and leisure. It's refreshing and enlightening to follow Skidelskys' attempt at reviving the ancient notion of eudaimonia which, they argue quite convincingly, is more obj REALLY GOOD— This is a remarkable work of economics, history, and philosophy in one, easy to understand yet offering a refreshing and complex polemic against our money-grubbing-and-hoarding nature.
It's refreshing and enlightening to follow Skidelskys' attempt at reviving the ancient notion of eudaimonia which, they argue quite convincingly, is more objective than our puny notion of happiness, which is often reduced to a subjective state of pleasure, a buzz and along with it "sufficiency" or "enoughness," as well as their distinctions informed by ancient wisdom between want and need, necessities and luxuries, use value and exchange value, and tolerance and neutrality which is a concept derived from economic liberalism.
Their argument that contemporary ethical discourse is dominated by utility and therefore ethical values must be smuggled in through the back door in the guise of utility is so spot on and, looking back at my aversion to ethics classes in college, this is one of the main reasons why I was really not into the topic, though I couldn't articulate it then. Totally recommended. Mar 09, Keith Akers rated it liked it. This is a quirky, uneven book, but with enough good ideas to make it worth reading.
What I liked was their exploration of why Keynes and everyone else who thought that abundance would bring a decline of work, have failed. I also liked their discussion of the basic income, which they recommend. There are no limits to growth, except moral limits, they say. Climate change is real, but we can still according to the authors have economic growth and deal with climate change, and they also dismiss other portents of limits to growth.
They also badly misquote The Limits to Growth and repeat false statements about it: Nothing like this appears in The Limits to Growth , even as a possible projection, as you can verify for yourself. I doubt the authors actually read this book. They need to get with the program and acknowledge that limits to growth are both real and dangerous. The authors have crafted a philosophical discussion about our insatiable appetites for economic growth, which so far have ignored a key question: I loved this book because it was decidedly apartisan, intellectually robust, and tackled a truly big idea — the quality of life — instead of the utilitarian so-called big ideas that dominate political discourse.
It courageously proposes objective definitions to the ancient notion of the good life rather than subscribing to relativist solutions that please everyone but accomplish little.
To be most admired is the way that the Skidelskys stand in the forum as public intellectuals, a role that today too often remains unfilled. Whether or not you agree with How Much is Enough? On Twitter: View all 4 comments. There seemed to be an awful lot of generalised truisms thrown about without much in the way of evidence or examination.
It characterised the affluent West as one homogenised wealthy mass enslaved by its constant consumption and that the path to freedom opens up if we could only stop buying rubbish. The focus was on consumption with barely a mention mortgages or ever increasing house prices which is surely the biggest impediment to the good life the authors talk about.
I did value their point about the modern concept of leisure as passive and consumptive experience, though, reframing leisure in terms of active and creative pastimes.
Like writing grumpy book reviews, for example. Nov 23, Nick Klagge rated it really liked it Shelves: This book would seem right up my alley, and in most ways, it was. It is written by two philosophers, so it didn't suffer from the usual problems I find with popular-consumption econ books though perhaps a philosopher reading it would find an analogous set of problems!
Skidelsky pere is the author of the preeminent biography of Keynes, and the motivation for the book is a well-known essay by Keynes in which he speculated on the economic future. Based on his projections of the growth of income, This book would seem right up my alley, and in most ways, it was.
Based on his projections of the growth of income, he figured that by around now, people in developed countries would only need to work about 10 hours per week to meet their needs.
Famously, his growth projections were remarkably accurate, but his conclusion was not. Given increasing incomes, people on the whole have chosen to work the same amount or more and consume more rather than work less and consume the same.
The authors' argument is an interesting one, which has much in common with Alasdair MacIntyre's argument in "After Virtue" which the authors note. In traditional societies, including ancient Greece, there was a conception of "the good life" as a fairly objective thing to be aimed at, consisting in a finite set of reasonably well-defined things, chief among these, time for philosophical contemplation and public service.
I am not sure how much of a caricature this is. My sense is that people may have disagreed about the specific constituents of the good life, but that the existence of such a thing was not especially in question.
One problem with this concept was that, due to the structure of these traditional societies, "the good life" was off-limits to most people. Eventually, the forces of capitalism came forth to offer what the Skidelskys very elegantly characterize as a "Faustian bargain": The competitive market can produce "enough" for everyone, but as competition comes to play a dominant role, our concept of "enough" withers away. So far, so good.
The authors take some interesting digressions into conceptions of the good life in various Eastern traditions, and into the modern field of happiness research. They are quite leery of this field, for interesting reasons.
They put forward their own subjective list of the elements of the good life: This list didn't seem very gripping to me, but also seemed fairly reasonable. What really bugged me, though, was their concluding essays at possible government policies to encourage people to cultivate the good life. After an entire book of discussing these issues, they focus on a couple of specific policies: The economic basis of each of these policy proposals is clear: And yet It was astonishing to me that they did not focus their policy proposals more on direct government provision of basic goods, as with a single-payer healthcare system.
The fungibility of things like UBI would seem to make them relatively easy for competitive, capitalist values to withstand.
I am in agreement with the authors on many points, but am not sure where I stand on appropriate responses beyond an individual or household level. It may be overly pessimistic to say that nothing can be done beyond this level. For example, I think that changes to policies around parental leave, or changes to structures that create "cliff effects" between full- and part-time work could be beneficial.
But it seems somewhat wrong-headed to me to envision the state being able to "nudge" people toward the good life or even being capable of maintaining any coherent conception thereof. If changes in attitudes are going to come, I think that they are much more likely to take root based on the actions of smaller units, from families to churches to online communities to individual companies.
I think conceptions of the good life are much more likely to be driven by the availability of positive examples than by policy innovations.
Over this past weekend, Elise discovered a blog that I read, called "Mr. Money Mustache," and has really been enjoying it. I have always appreciated the anarchist line not sure of the exact attribution that a new society must be built "in the shell of the old. Sep 20, Dpdwyer rated it really liked it Shelves: This fine, short book asks an excellent question. The father-son authors are, respectively, professors of economics and a philosophy.
The book grew out of a discussion of a little known essay by economics heavyweight John Maynard Keynes, who predicted that if then current trends in technological progress and economic growth held steady, in years we all would have everything we need and we would be working three hours a week. The two trends have exceeded his expectations, so what has hap This fine, short book asks an excellent question.
The two trends have exceeded his expectations, so what has happened? They discuss the insatiability of our wants conditioned by modern advertising and our fierce competition for status with our neighbors.
Reviewing formulations of the good life going back as far as Aristotle, they arrive at seven basic elements of the good life: For me, the chapter that discusses these elements in detail is the best in the book. Looking back over my life at the times when I was less happy I can see that one or more of the elements was impoverished or lacking. A sampling of quotes: To have the good things of life--health, respect, friendship, leisure--is to have reason to be happy.
To be happy without these things is to be in the grip of a delusion: Such items must always be expensive relative to the average level, else they cannot serve their differentiating function; thus incomes are forced up competitively in order to acquire them. 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 the great economist Keynes said that by 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 How much money do you need to lead a good life? 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! Feb 01, Rob rated it it was ok.
It's around the s. Finally, the mask slips. The Skidelskys brazenly, dangerously, declare: We doubt it. Oct 05, David Msomba rated it liked it Shelves: The beginning was a bit dull but things turned around toward the middle of book and from then,it got real interested.
I real enjoyed chapters on the philosophy of good life and money,relationship between good life and GDP Happy Economic ,how to differentiate the search for happiness,pleasure and joy in life,basic elements of a good life and so many other things.
But I was also appalled by his biased view on climate change on The chapter "limit to growth",since this book came out on I'm sure w The beginning was a bit dull but things turned around toward the middle of book and from then,it got real interested. But I was also appalled by his biased view on climate change on The chapter "limit to growth",since this book came out on I'm sure we already had some solid evidence supporting climate change,so I don't know why the author made all these baseless claims "we still have very little evidence that human activities are contributing to climate change and global warming",sadly he was wrong throughout the chapter,but I still understood where he was coming from,he is not much of a climate change denier than person who is afraid of green movement and the sentiment relationship that some environmental people tend to have with nature Overall it's a great read,packed with some useful germs on how to be content on age of consumerism, flashiness and accumulation Vier sterren is wellicht iets overdreven voor dit boek.
Het bevat heel veel interessante insteken over hoe we alternatieve economische modellen zouden kunnen uitrollen en doet ook zijn best om de onderliggende redenen waarom economische verandering noodzakelijk is fundamenteel te onderbouwen, maar het blijft al bij al vooral op dat laatste vlak vrij onevenwichtig. Sommige delen zijn goed uitgewerkt, andere daarentegen gaan heel kort door de bocht. Omdat het toch een heel belangrijk thema aanraakt Vier sterren is wellicht iets overdreven voor dit boek.
Omdat het toch een heel belangrijk thema aanraakt en ook heel goede info bevat over Keynes, geef ik het toch vier sterren. Het is zeker de moeite om door te nemen en kan tot denken aanzetten daar waar het tekortschiet.
Dec 27, Matthew Maclean rated it liked it Shelves: Without any social consensus on what money is for, we settle for perpetually chasing more of it, assuming this will enable us to achieve our individual and widely varying notions of fulfillment. The Skidelskys combine their backgrounds in economics and philosophy to look at how this state of affairs has come about, using an obscure essay by John Maynard Keynes as a trigger for the discussion Robert Skidelsky is a noted scholar on the work of Keynes.
Eventually, they arrive at policy recommendations that many would consider radical, including a guaranteed basic income, heavy restrictions on advertising, and a large-scale consumption tax among others. I agree with much of what they argue, but I find that often their characterization of opposing or merely different views is simplistic or unrepresentative.
Additionally, I find the Skidelskys dangerously sanguine about the environmental costs of growth. They repeat mainstream economic rationales for the time discounting of adjustment costs, for example, even though this methodology is precisely what ecological economists have made strong arguments against. It seems strange to me that they believe an abstract idea about the good life is ultimately more compelling to incite change than evidence of environmental limits.
They dislike arguments made in neutral, secular terms that avoid controversy over subjective differences. I agree with them that society needs to take a stand on what is enough and to support an idea of the good life, but I feel much more uncomfortable imposing my ideas of those things than it seems are the Skidelskys.
View 1 comment. May 07, Laurent Franckx rated it liked it. Over the last 4 decades, we have seen a long list of books questioning or even attacking the pursuit of economic growth.
A few years ago, the celebrated biographer of Keynes, Robert Skidelsky, and his son Edward have joined forces to write " How Much is Enough? The Over the last 4 decades, we have seen a long list of books questioning or even attacking the pursuit of economic growth.
The central theme of the book is that pursuing economic growth has become an end in itself, and that this has led people away from what really matters, namely leading a "good life". This book stands out from the crowd of what I would call somewhat unfairly the "anti-growth" crowd for several reasons.
First of all, it certainly does not deny that a lot of countries on this planet need some decades of additional growth before their citizens will be able to lead a "good life". In other words, the Skidelskies do explicitly acknowledge that there are material pre-conditions to the pursuit of non-material objectives.
Second, the authors do not align the usual suspects in their arguments. For instance, they clearly have little patience for the argument that economic growth does not lead to measurable changes in happiness once basic needs are satisfied.
Although they do spend a lot of effort in arguing that there are fundamental measurement problems linked to the concept of happiness especially in the case of intercultural comparisons , the key of the argument is an ethical one: We'll come back to this point later in this review. Similarly, they disagree with the environmental case against economic growth. They dismiss most of the environmentalists as fundamentalists, whose main agenda is not the improve the human condition at all.
Essentially, the argument is that 'deep' environmentalism is based on a flawed ethics that is in contradiction with everything we know about ecology. For instance, how can we pretend that we should give the same weight to the sufferings of all sentient beings, while real life in the wild is actually as close to Hobbes's original state of nature as one can get?
Moreover and more controversially , they also question the anthropocentric approach to environmental policy that most economists espouse. Here as well, the argument is two-pronged: Moreover, here as well, they disagree with the economic argument because it is embedded in a consequentialist ethics that most neoclassical economics espouses.
Third, and this point is directly related to the previous, the key argument the Skidelskies use against the pursuit of economic growth is indeed an ethical one. They contrast the philosophy of for instance Aristoteles with the 'Faustian bargain' that economics has struck since the writings of Mandeville and Smith: The Skidelskies argue that the general adoption of the "invisible hand" argument in favour of free-market economics has gradually undermined all ethical barriers that used to mitigate the ruthless pursuit of personal wealth in the past.
This has lead to a quest for "growth for growth's sake". The directly observable consequences are especially in the US and the UK since the s growth of average incomes combined with a stagnation of median incomes and thus increasing inequality. More importantly, the Skidelskies argue that it has led to a complete neglect of the question what exactly are the components of a 'good life'.
The main symptom of this neglect is that increasing incomes have not led to increasing leisure as Keynes expected it would. This emphasis on the 'good life' as the final objective is really what distinguishes the book from most other treatises on the subject. The key to the Skidelskies's view is their disagreement with the consequentialism of modern economics, and especially of the utilitarian variant of it.
They dispute forcefully the idea that 'maximising utility' or happiness, for that matter should be the finality of policy, and, a fortiori, of our individual lives. They propose their own alternative view of the components of a "good life" mostly as the ancient Greeks would have understood it , and then give some suggestions for public policies that could promote the pursuit of such a good life.
Of course, it is not possible to give justice to a book of pages in such a short summary, but I think this captures the essential message. But what to think of the book and its central message? As is the case with most books that question mainstream economics, I am afraid that it is better in raising questions than in providing implementable solutions. For instance, I think the book makes a relatively good case against consistent applications of consequentialist ethics in concrete cases.
But this misses the whole point of why economists use consequentialist ethics in the first place. Economic policy is not about devising solutions for individual citizens. It is about creating a general framework to evaluate policies that will affect different groups of people differently.
A policy maker needs somehow a framework to analyse trade-offs. Consequentialism and utilitarianism, for all their faults, do provide such a framework.
As the Skidelskies themselves acknowledge, policies can have a positive impact on some components of what constitutes a 'good life' for some people, and have a negative impact on the 'good life' of other people.
But they do not really provide an indication of how one should proceed with such a trade-off. More importantly, although they forcefully argue that they are not paternalists, they mostly disregard the possibility that some people may actually disagree with their views on what constitutes a 'good life'.
In short, the book falls short of providing an implementable alternative to the existing normative framework used in economics. This is most salient in the last chapter, which proposes a framework for policies that would promote the "good live" rather than economic growth per se. For instance, the authors argue that a tax on consumption would be an alternative to taxes on income that would not just redistribute from the rich to the poor as the rich obviously consume more than the poor , but would also stimulate other desirable behaviour, such as saving.
However, very little attention is paid to the risk of evasion and tax competition between countries. This issue is just as real with consumption based taxes as with income taxation. I think the idea of a tax shift from labour to advertising is a quite interesting one, but its practical implications are barely discussed.
As a final point, I think the quality and depth of the argumentation is unbalanced. In some cases, the authors really go in depth to construct their argument. In other places, they are rather sloppy. This is especially the case when they discuss the changes in economic policies since the s.
They make rather blunt statements about the motivations behind these changes, without explaining how they reached their conclusions.
Are these statements based on any party manifests or testimonies of people who were close to the decision-makers? Or are the authors mainly second-guessing the intentions of the policy makers?
And why do some sections barely contain any reference to peer reviewed literature on the subject? This being said, I think this is a very valuable book. I would even put it on the reading lists of any program in economics. Economists are too much prone to take the implicit value judgments underlying their models for granted, and this book is an excellent reminder that they shouldn't. I'd wish it would have provided a more elaborate and realistic approach for an alternative. Maybe it can be a stimulant for other people to take on this challenge.
Not exactly a breezy read—a bit of a slog, to be honest—but well worth the effort. My recent interest in combining economics and philosophy led me to this book, which is an argument for restoring a moral basis to the 'dismal science,' and rescuing it from the dark corridors of utilitarianism.
The premise of the book is: What is the good life, and how can we, as a society, attain it? I just finished it a couple minutes ago, so rather than a profound review or critique of the book, here's a quick o Not exactly a breezy read—a bit of a slog, to be honest—but well worth the effort. I just finished it a couple minutes ago, so rather than a profound review or critique of the book, here's a quick overview of what I felt were the book's strong points: We need to get the word out about "the good life" before we can expect people to advocate for it.
In the end, the authors ultimately fail to inspire people to realize a classical good life for themselves—not that that's the goal of the book per se, but I think that is a prerequisite to establishing a society that provisions for all the possibility of the good life.
By suggesting policies which have little hope of becoming reality given the current political environment, they almost encourage a hopeful passivity.
Jan 02, Andrea rated it really liked it Shelves: An interesting combination of philosophy, economics and social history, this book was an interesting, but very conceptually dense read. I read fast and it took me over 2 weeks to get through this one a few morsels at a time. In exploring this, the authors examine the Keynesian conceit that technology and advances would eventually reduce the working hours needed to no more than 10 or 15 hours a week.
Clearly this has not happened, bu An interesting combination of philosophy, economics and social history, this book was an interesting, but very conceptually dense read. Clearly this has not happened, but why? The authors explore the flaws in Keynes theory, namely not giving enough thought or attention to the idea of the insatiability of desires and consumption, but how wealth and the uses of wealth has been viewed throughout history and in different schools of thought, how happiness is conceptualized and measured, and the limits if any to growth.
I find our modern time to be one where many can barely differentiate need from want and where consumption for the sake of status or simply because one can has eclipsed more complex ideas about the uses of wealth and what is truly valuable. Nov 23, Kathy rated it it was ok Shelves: I started off liking this book and thinking it was going to propose an interesting solution to our current economic dilemma.
Unfortunately, I got more and more frustrated by the fact that the writers spent most of the book stating what to me seemed the bleeding obvious and then failed to come up with any viable solution. If you are one of the people who already knows that they have enough, then this book will not have much to say to you. If, on the other hand, you are one of the people who Hmm.
If, on the other hand, you are one of the people who has accepted a construction of yourself as a consumer rather than a citizen, I'm not sure that you are likely to be convinced by the argument. More crucially, the writers fail to address the problem that, in a modern democracy, politicians will only propose policies that they think people will vote for and the reality is that the herd will only vote for more consumption and the acquisition of more unnecessary stuff in their lives because they are mostly sheep.
How to overcome this problem? The writers of this book don't even address the question. The 'good life' as they frame it is simply not wanted by most people. And the people who actually want this concept of the 'good life' probably have it in their power to achieve it already. Live somewhere really small, don't buy a lot of stuff, work part time, pay off the mortgage, retire early - all of these goals are achievable in society as it is now - for those who really want it.
Unfortunately, too few people want it. The REAL question is how to persuade people to believe that more money won't make them any happier. And I don't think the writers of this book have succeeded on that front. This is a challenging book, not because the idea of a "good life" in a post-capitalist world is not attractive, it is, but because it is so difficult to define and the means to achieve this end are difficult to grasp. It is a book of ideas and explains them in their historical context.
We have lost the morality of the pre-Adam Smith world but not yet reestablished a new morality. It would be unthinkable in Pre-Modern times to desire wealth and to consume the way we do. It no longer has a purpose This is a challenging book, not because the idea of a "good life" in a post-capitalist world is not attractive, it is, but because it is so difficult to define and the means to achieve this end are difficult to grasp. It no longer has a purpose, or not one than fits the authors' "basic goods" of the constituents of the good life.
We work longer and longer hours instead of the reduced hours Keynes predicted. We have less leisure, and of a lower quality. It is obvious that this has to be reversed. We life in a rich country in a time of abundance but wealth is distributed so unevenly that most cannot aspire to the "good life".
I recommend this book as the antidote to a Christmas season full of materialism and insatiability. There is a better way. Sep 29, Paul Tracey rated it it was amazing.
I went on holiday and somehow lost the book I took, a book about the environment and economics, very probable I left it on the airplane. So with only minutes to spare in the Spanish airport I managed to find this book. Damn it. However I do have a deep admiration of Aristotle and the question of how to live I went on holiday and somehow lost the book I took, a book about the environment and economics, very probable I left it on the airplane.
However I do have a deep admiration of Aristotle and the question of how to live a good life is an interesting one. So I am very pleased I gave this book a go. And very thought provoking and inspiring I found this book to be.
I think there is something in this book for almost everyone. And I found that how much is enough? I feel richer for reading this book, and hopefully I will be to able to apply a more economical approach to my logic and decision making. Apr 09, Niels rated it liked it Shelves: What would you do with a 5-day weekend, every week? Do we actually know how to engage in leisure not merely 'free time' meaningfully?
Do we still understand what money is for, having an outlook of what the good life entails? The Skidelsky's draw on JM Keynes' early writings, to show that in the s, the vision of the future entailed growing richer and working much less. While we, as a country or as 'the Western World', have indeed become extraordinarily rich through productivity increases, w What would you do with a 5-day weekend, every week? While we, as a country or as 'the Western World', have indeed become extraordinarily rich through productivity increases, we have not seen the expected fall in working hours.
Nor have we seen, subsequently, advances in learning to use that extra leisure to live 'wisely and agreeably and well'. Some of us still find some joy in work, obviously, but for many people and for all people to some extent work is obligatory.
Some of us have the luxury to choose what kind of job to do, but there are very little people who can choose to not work at all. What went wrong? We could point to the benefits of work, and all the socio-cultural positives derived from it.
Others bring up the Marxist point that we have indeed become richer, but that the pie has not been shared equally. The Skidelsky's do agree with these, but add the important reason of 'insatiability' of wants. Throughout the decades, we have learnt to embrace the earlier vice of greed, of wanting more and more. In fact, our modern economy depends on it.
There is no longer a distinction between what we need to live a good life, and what we want. We therefore work more, to keep up or aim for an expected lifestyle that is built on wanting more. While this inflammation of our worst qualities has brought us to this point of richness, we have forgotten what money is for, and have started to treat this as an end in itself.
What we need therefore, is a re-examination of what we do with money, and how we can live the good life. The book therefore takes us, firstly, on a journey through Western and Oriental thought, to track two basic ideas.
First, it depicts a history of the idea that evil motives may be licensed for the sake of their good effects. Capitalism may have the underlying effect of breeding greed and individualism, but in the end we would all be better off. So too was Keynes very ambiguous to capitalism. We have, in other words, struck a Faustian bargain with our modern economy: But apparently, we have forgotten that we struck this deal in the first place.
The second idea is that there is a natural limit to means. From Aristotle, to old-Europe, India and China, it is not only shown that there is such a thing as a good life even though very different , but most of all that it did not entail work, nor wealth accumulation. At some point however, this idea of the good life started to eclipse. The effect has been that the acquisitive instinct has been released from all bounds.
The various distinctions drawn by pre-modern economic thought needs and wants, necessities and luxuries, use and exchange value all rest on the assumption that some ways of life are intrinsically superior to others.