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10 thoughts on “How Much is Enough?

  1. says:

    Overall, I found Skidelsky Skidelsky s How Much is Enough to be an intellectually stimulating, engaging, and well reasoned book I think their call for amoral understanding of economics is sorely needed, especially in an age when liberals and progressives all too often justify their recommended redistributive policies only on technocratic grounds like increased productivity My main gripe with the book, however, lies with the chapter on Limits to Growth I agree with them on th Overall, I found Skidelsky Skidelsky s How Much is Enough to be an intellectually stimulating, engaging, and well reasoned book I think their call for amoral understanding of economics is sorely needed, especially in an age when liberals and progressives all too often justify their recommended redistributive policies only on technocratic grounds like increased productivity My main gripe with the book, however, lies with the chapter on Limits to Growth I agree with them on the moral case against limitless growth and agree with their prescriptions, but I think they argue against a straw man version of the environmental movement for much of the chapter They acknowledge their complete lack of expertise in climate science but then proceed to speak very dismissively with sweeping, unsubstantiated claims of climate scientists and environmental activists for much of the first half of the chapter When they lament the non existence of a theme of living in harmony with nature in environmentalist literature, I began to wonder if they had even read any Their idea of good life environmentalism is a quite common theme in environmentalist circles, especially those in the new economy circle


  2. says:

    The Skidelsky brothers have written a succinct book arguing that neoliberal economic ideology is failing the developed world They suggest replacing the imperatives of economic growth and productive efficiency with an ethic of the good life , cobbled together from the democratic socialism of the mid 20th century, older philosophical works, and Catholic teachings Although I ve read other books with very similar central themes notably Growth Fetish and I Spend Therefore I Am How Economics Has The Skidelsky brothers have written a succinct book arguing that neoliberal economic ideology is failing the developed world They suggest replacing the imperatives of economic growth and productive efficiency with an ethic of the good life , cobbled together from the democratic socialism of the mid 20th century, older philosophical works, and Catholic teachings Although I ve read other books with very similar central themes notably Growth Fetish and I Spend Therefore I Am How Economics Has Changed the Way We Think and Feel , this one has a distinctive voice Unfortunately, that voice can sometimes seem a little, how can I put this, supercilious The authors have strongly academic backgrounds, yet this book is clearly intended for a wider audience Whilst it is certainly readable and avoids ostensible obscurantism looking at you, i ek , the tone does sometimes come off as patronising This is a pity, as it s a carefully argued and thought provoking work, for the most part.The central point is one that needs constant reiteration until it becomes better understood that the neutral neoliberal state is a myth As the book puts it, A neutral state state simply hands power to the guardians of capital to manipulate public taste in their interests Moreover, economics is not a miraculously neutral discipline, objectively studying human behaviour As the brothers put it Economics is not just any academic discipline It is the theology of our age, the language that all interests, high and low, must speak if they are to win a respectful hearing in the courts of power Economics owes its special position in part to the failure of other disciplines to impress their stamp on political debate.It has not always been the case that public policy research uses econometric methods today those are virtually the only methods used Economics has taken over the social sciences, as well as politics This book gives an interesting account of how this conquest occurred, as part of the wider explanation of why the rich world has so much less leisure than Keynes predicted back in 1930 To be honest, though, the arguments about moving beyond economic growth and considering wider wellbeing weren t new to me, nor did I need to be convinced of them They are well expressed here, with the caveat regarding tone that I mentioned earlier The novel chapters to me were those dismissing two other popular justifications for challenging neoliberal economic ideology on the basis of happiness and of environmental limits The former makes some excellent points about the nature of happiness and the great difficulty of measuring it Whilst these criticisms sometimes seemed to overstate the incompatibility of happiness measurement with the book s good life ethic, the central points were solid The other chapter, on environmental limits, was considerably weaker The Skidelsky brothers essentially dismiss climate change as a pretext for reconsidering the imperative of economic growth I cannot agree with their stance, that the seriousness of climate change has been overstated, as it rest on misunderstandings of uncertainty and risk They argue that the range of potential climate scenarios is wide and disputed and climate science is politicised How it could possibly avoid being so, given its monumental implications, they do not contemplate Essentially, without greater certainty about the costs of climate change, the authors don t think action is justified I am frankly horrified by this interpretation, which is substantially shared by the discipline of economics Such thinking ignores, firstly, that the range of potential climate outcomes does not have a normal distribution but a long tail This implies a much greater than zero probability of near infinite costs in other words, the end of human civilisation Cost benefit analysis and other econometrics cope poorly with such a probability distribution Secondly, the risks of climate change aren t linear but multiplicative An unstable climate is a risk multiplier, increasing the likelihood of violent conflict and political instability as well as making disaster responsedifficult This is on top of thereadily understood direct consequences, such as greater likelihood of droughts, floods, and storms Thirdly, climate change is irreversible on human timescales Carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere now will stay there for around 10,000 years Coupled with the existence of serious threshold effects, caution appears warranted Fourthly, it is too easy to be dismissive of climate change in the developed world It is a problem created by the rich and suffered by the poor, on a global scale The developing world is already experiencing the effects of climate change Low income equatorial countries will see the greatest loss of productive agricultural land coastal cities without the funds for flood defense will suffer most from sea level rise Fifthly and finally, pleading uncertainty about climate change costs is intellectually lazy In what other context would risks of such scale require endless niggling over costs Consider the amount spent annually on nuclear weaponry in the developed world What is that a defense against, exactly Those unwilling to sacrifice economic growth to climate change should be able to acknowledge path dependence in their thinking emissions mitigation seems difficult because it goes against the fossil fuel dependence that has become comfortably familiar in the past few centuries That does not mean such action isn t justifiable, merely that it requiresimaginative effort to grasp the practical implications of climate science findings Climate change is existentially terrifying, which is all thereason not to disregard or trivialise it in an endless argument over the exact economic optimality of the response Subsequent chapters explore what the good life requires and how its pursuit could be encouraged This was clearly explained in terms of basic goods health, security, respect, harmony with nature, friendship, and leisure Such terminology causes slight cognitive dissonance to those accustomed to economics, as in that world goods equal that which is bought and sold Here, by contrast, The basic goods are essentially non marketable they cannot properly be bought or sold An economy geared to maximising market value will tend to crowd them out or to replace them with marketable surrogates The conclusion then states firmly that promoting these basic goods should not be dismissed as paternalism basically every new policy has to refute this tired accusation nowadays , reiterating the critical point about mythical neutrality I am torn when picking a rating for this book It was for the most part thoughtful and interesting, albeit a reiteration of material I d largely read before with a slightly new emphasis I liked the concept of basic goods, though, and found the critique of happiness accounting valid On the other hand, the dismissal of environmental considerations in general and climate change in particular is hard to excuse I d still recommend How Much is Enough but in combination with something else that gives climate change its due The Skidelsky brothers conclusions are certainly consistent with books on tackling climate change, such as Whole Earth Discipline An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, The Bridge at the Edge of the World Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, Heat How to Stop the Planet From Burning, and The World We Made Alex McKay s Story from 2050


  3. says:

    I ve written a short review for CHOICE Here I ll make somespecific comments.I expected, from comments I ve read, a very poor argument for a wishy washy romantic argument about the end of scarcity Robert Skidelsky is the biographer of J Maynard Keynes, who famously thought that the prospects for his grandchildren would be a world without scarcity Just this morning I realized that Frank Knight made a quite similar argument in the final chapter of The Economic Organization While there I ve written a short review for CHOICE Here I ll make somespecific comments.I expected, from comments I ve read, a very poor argument for a wishy washy romantic argument about the end of scarcity Robert Skidelsky is the biographer of J Maynard Keynes, who famously thought that the prospects for his grandchildren would be a world without scarcity Just this morning I realized that Frank Knight made a quite similar argument in the final chapter of The Economic Organization While there is some of that here, the Skidelskys are focusedon the argument for why we should become less consumption focused than they are on some version of the end of scarcity.Unfortunately, they areconcerned about mustering as many different arguments for the reduction of consumption than they are in providing a single consistent approach In part, this results from their demand for, but lack of, a clear basis for why reducing consumption is part of human flourishing As well, because they assume that rich nations have reached the point at which consumption could be reduced, they do not provide a lot of help for those who are increasing consumption elsewhere in the world To their credit, they don t argue that others should not pursue what the West has gained, but they don t go too are toward any creditable arguments that would help those in the rest of the world to know what to do.There is a nice chapter on the problems with the literature on happiness Deirdre McCloskey s arguments are better, but the Skidelsky s have the general arguments down For McCloskey, see Happyness in The New Republic.After all the rhetoric, however, they get down to basics in the last several chapters Their seven elements of a good life basic goods are health, security, respect, personality what they mean here is probably Kantian autonomy , harmony with nature, friendship, and leisure by which they mean doing something for its own sake The policies designed to provide these basic goods would be surprise, surprise not so radical as you thought, are they a basic income, an expenditure tax base rather than an income tax base, and constraints on advertising As well, they expect we need to draw back from further globalization economic integration, they argue, only contributes to human flourishing when the playing field is level.On basic incomes, they areinclined to support demographic capital endowments rather than a guaranteed annual income There argument for expenditure based taxes is straightforward Kaldor, which is hardly surprising The one place they seem to verge into romanticizing policy is in constraints on advertising About the most they can promote is bunching ads so people can avoid them, and disallowing advertising as a tax deductible expense.So on the whole, the book could be used as a good starting point for a conversation about economics and ethics Those inclined to refer to Catholic social teaching could use the book as a conversation starter, because they make frequent reference to the social encyclicals 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


  4. says:

    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 pursueandmoney 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 forleisure, what would the economy look like Would it still be ca 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 pursueandmoney 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 forleisure, what would the economy look like 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 becomessevere Because that s always what we ve done in the past when faced with impending global catastrophe


  5. says:

    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 Also good was the discussion of how we can really assess economies, if GDP is bankrupt and so is happiness economics Their suggestion is by looking at basic goods such as health, respect, personality, h 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 Also good was the discussion of how we can really assess economies, if GDP is bankrupt and so is happiness economics Their suggestion is by looking at basic goods such as health, respect, personality, harmony with nature, friendship, and leisure What I didn t like was their chapter on limits to growth 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 The 1972 bestseller Limits to Growth predicted that world population would hit 7 billion by the end of the twentieth century, leading to shortages of grain, oil, gas, copper, aluminium and gold The footnote cites The Limits to Growth, pages 45 87 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 There are other problems with this chapter, but their treatment isn t serious enough to deserve refutation They need to get with the program and acknowledge that limits to growth are both real and dangerous


  6. says:

    One Minute ReviewWritten by Robert and Edward Skidelsky, How Much is Enough is my favourite book of the year, and my only five star rating on Goodreads in 2012 The authors have crafted a philosophical discussion about our insatiable appetites for economic growth, which so far have ignored a key question To what end As students of John Maynard Keynes, the Skidelskys are all for economic growth through capitalism, but as a means not an end and certainly not at any social and environmental co One Minute ReviewWritten by Robert and Edward Skidelsky, How Much is Enough is my favourite book of the year, and my only five star rating on Goodreads in 2012 The authors have crafted a philosophical discussion about our insatiable appetites for economic growth, which so far have ignored a key question To what end As students of John Maynard Keynes, the Skidelskys are all for economic growth through capitalism, but as a means not an end and certainly not at any social and environmental cost 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 , you will relish the meaty debate the book hopes to inspire, and wish forauthors who contribute to rigorous examination of great ideas.On Twitter Dr_A_Taubman


  7. says:

    I didn t find this book particularly useful 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 Which is presumably true of many but for the vast swathes of JAMs Just About Managing it s a little fanciful a thesis The focus was on consumption wit I didn t find this book particularly useful 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 Which is presumably true of many but for the vast swathes of JAMs Just About Managing it s a little fanciful a thesis 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 There s also a weird polemical rant half way through against the green movement which reads like the authors have been personally offended by someone waving a Save the Planet placard at them 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


  8. says:

    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 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, 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 orand consumerather 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 by unleashing self interest and acquisitive impulses from the bounds of tradition, it spurs economic development toward the point where most people will have the resources needed for a basic good life yet by unleashing these forces, the capitalist economy also erodes away the mental and spiritual basis of the enjoyment of the good life 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 things that are hard to argue with, such as health, respect, relationships, etc 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 a universal basic income, where the state would provide an unconditional cash grant to each citizen, and a consumption tax similar to the European VAT s, although oddly they do not discuss these The economic basis of each of these policy proposals is clear given a basic income, people will befree to devote their time to fulfilling pursuits a tax on consumption will incentivize people to substitute away from consumption for example, toleisure time And yetthe very logic by which these policies are intended to work is the same market based logic that the authors call out as the very basis of the Faustian bargain It was astonishing to me that they did not focus their policy proposalson 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 muchlikely 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 muchlikely 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 Despite the silly name, I this blog and the online IRL community around it is a strong and vibrant proponent of something like the good life described by the Skidelskys 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 I think something like MMM is a modest but powerful instantiation of that idea, and gives me muchinspiration than the Skidelskys policy ideas


  9. says:

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  10. says:

    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 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


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How Much is Enough? download How Much is Enough? , read online How Much is Enough? , kindle ebook How Much is Enough? , How Much is Enough? 0961cac9d4cf A Provocative And Timely Call For A Moral Approach To Economics, Drawing On Philosophers, Political Theorists, Writers, And Economists From Aristotle To Marx To KeynesWhat Constitutes The Good Life What Is The True Value Of Money Why Do We Work Such Long Hours Merely To Acquire Greater Wealth These Are Some Of The Questions That Many Asked Themselves When The Financial System Crashed In This Book Tackles Such Questions Head On The Authors Begin With The Great Economist John Maynard Keynes In Keynes Predicted That, Within A Century, Per Capita Income Would Steadily Rise, People S Basic Needs Would Be Met, And No One Would Have To Work Than Fifteen Hours A Week Clearly, He Was Wrong Though Income Has Increased As He Envisioned, Our Wants Have Seemingly Gone Unsatisfied, And We Continue To Work Long Hours The Skidelskys Explain Why Keynes Was Mistaken Then, Arguing From The Premise That Economics Is A Moral Science, They Trace The Concept Of The Good Life From Aristotle To The Present And Show How Our Lives Over The Last Half Century Have Strayed From That Ideal Finally, They Issue A Call To Think Anew About What Really Matters In Our Lives And How To Attain ItHow Much Is Enough Is That Rarity, A Work Of Deep Intelligence And Ethical Commitment Accessible To All Readers It Will Be Lauded, Debated, Cited, And Criticized It Will Not Be Ignored