What 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 2008. This book tackles such questions head-on.
The authors begin with the great economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1930 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 more 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 it.
How 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.
About Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky
Robert Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick. His biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes received numerous prizes, including the Lionel Gelber Prize for International Relations and the Council on Foreign Relations Prize for International Relations.
Edward Skidelsky is a lecturer at Exeter University, specializing in aesthetics and moral philosophy. He contributes regularly to the New Statesman, Telegraph, and Prospect on philosophy, religion, and intellectual history.
Eminent economic historian Robert Skidelsky (Political Economy Emeritus/Univ. of Warwick; Keynes: The Return of the Master, 2009, etc.) and his philosopher son Edward (Moral and Political Philosophy/Exeter Univ.) recall when John Maynard Keynes predicted that, in his grandchildren’s days, no one would need to work much more than a few hours a week to satisfy our shared human needs. As the great economist expected, production soared, but work increased as well. What happened to the dream of Keynes? Though he thought needs were finite, the sought-after good life expanded. Needs may be satisfied, but not wants or the insatiable desire for more. In seeking to find suitable goods for the blissful life, the authors conflate economic theory with philosophy. They cite Marx and Marcuse, Aristotle and Adam Smith, happiness economists and ecological economists, the dharma sutra and story of Faust. In sum, they posit certain requirements: health, security, respect, individuality, harmony with nature, friendship and leisure. Individually and as a society, we should value these, not perpetual growth. With a statement likely to attract notice, the Skidelskys write, “the capitalist system in our part of the world is entering its degenerative phase.” As an alternative to avarice and excess, the authors propose “non-coercive paternalism,” including basic income payments to all (as in Alaska), reduction of advertising (how else would we choose our presidents?), a graduated use tax and, possibly, some sumptuary laws. – Kirkus Reviews
Working 9 to 12 - ‘How Much Is Enough?’ by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky
The New York Times Book Review – August 17, 2012 (Excerpt)
Robert Skidelsky is a historian best known for his definitive three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes; his son Edward Skidelsky is a philosopher. They have collaborated on a book arguing that people in wealthy countries like Britain and the United States work too hard and by doing so miss out on the “good life” — an ethical concept of a life as “worthy of desire, not just one that is widely desired.”
The inspiration for “How Much Is Enough?” is — unsurprisingly, given the father’s preoccupation — an essay by Keynes. It is called “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” and was published in 1930. Since it is by Keynes, it is ingenious and brilliantly written. It is also dated and unconvincing. It predicted that barring another world war or some comparable tragedy, a century hence per capita income would be four to eight times as much because of continued capital investment. So far, so good; despite another world war, G.D.P. per capita in the United States has increased almost sixfold since 1930 (and about the same in Britain), and we still have 18 years to go before the century is up. Keynes thought the increase in per capita production would lead to a sharp fall in the hours of work; by 2030 a person would have to work only 15 hours a week to maintain his standard of living. The “economic problem” would have been solved, and the challenge would be to fill up people’s leisure time with rewarding leisure activities. This part of Keynes’s paper is wide of the mark. People in wealthy countries like the United States and Britain are working fewer hours per week on average than in 1929, before the Great Depression reduced the amount of available work: roughly 40 rather than 50. But Keynes thought that by 2010 the average would be 20. [Read the full article...]
DOODLEBUGS & SPITFIRES Memories and Short Stories by Peter Carroll
“Doodlebugs & Spitfires” is a delightful collection of memories and short stories written by Peter Carroll, the author of “Queen of Misfortune,” in his trademark poetic and profoundly thoughtful style.
Most of his stories, previously published in limited form in local English newspapers and magazines, like “Brave New World”, “The Forties Street Tradesmen”, “Doodlebugs”, or “The Christmas of 43” evolve around his childhood in the Northern part of London during and after World War II. He describes the horrors that came with the V1 flying bombs, nicknamed the “Doodlebugs.” Heroic British pilots in their “Spitfire” airplanes would attempt to divert the flying bombs from the populated areas, sometimes successful, and sometimes not.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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