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How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life Hardcover – June 19, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"What perfect timing!  How Much is Enough? is what every graying Baby Boomer I know is asking right now. The Skidelskys argue that time is not ONLY money, as many driven New Yorkers seem to think, and urge workaholic Americans to devote more of it to pursuing the good life.  Sounds like wise advice to me. As my desk mate at the New York Times in the 1990s used to remind me at least once a day: All you really HAVE is your TIME ." —Sylvia Nasar, author of Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius

"Deeply provocative and intellectually suggestive...Offers some bold and lucid proposals about what we can do to rein in the fever of reductive economism and toxic acquisitiveness." —Prospect, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

"The Skidelskys ask a pivotal question: Is there no end to our constant quest for more and more wealth? As the world economy stutters and we look for ways to restart the engine, their arguments pull us up short. Are we not prosperous enough already and missing a far richer life without the perpetual quest for needless economic growth?" —Nicholas Wapshott, author of Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics

"The over-all thrust of their polemic is a welcome call to reinvigorate society's ethical aspect and bring about the good life for everyone." —The New Yorker

"How Much Is Enough? is a delightful book. It addresses a Big Question without the jargon and obfuscation that pollutes so much philosophy. The prose is lucid, and all the relevant issues are raised and addressed." —The Wall Street Journal

“The authors turn to historical fiction, philosophy, and political theory, drawing on Faust, Marx’s critique of capitalism, and Aristotle’s uses of wealth. Their conclusion that concepts like respect, friendship, and community are more likely to contribute to satisfaction and overall happiness than wealth makes for a fascinating, if cerebral, read.”  —Publishers Weekly

“A provocative and articulate discourse on the dismal science and moral philosophy.” —Kirkus

“The Skidelskys move seamlessly from the abstract to the concrete; from philosophy to public policy.” —The Independent

"There is a rigor in their view of leisure. It is productive, but not so much of things as of experiences animated by intrinsic motivation. Eliminate the propulsive force of self-interest narrowly pursued, and leisure becomes a form of social wellness, a striving for the common good rather than the individual accumulation of more and more." —Portland Book Review

"[An] intelligent, impassioned, provocative treatise to those who wonder if materialism is necessary to the good life." —Get Abstract

"[B]reath-taking analysis of capitalism as a Faustian bargain with the devil." —Book News

About the Author

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; First Edition edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515072
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515075
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #628,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Diziet on July 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
John Maynard Keynes believed that there would come a time when capitalism would be able to provide for all our needs. When that time was reached, there would be no further reason for growth. Capitalism was a necessary but temporary evil - 'a transitional stage, a means to an end, the end being the good life' (P17). Unfortunately, as we have seen, this 'end' has actually been the triumph of an aggressive and consumerist capitalism that has swept all before it, capturing us in a seemingly endless spiral, not of 'needs' but 'wants'. We are caught in an 'insatiability trap' and 'the good life' appears to be receding into dreams and sitcoms.

This book tries to explain just how this all came about. And, after exploring the roots of what more and more people are recognizing as our global dilemma, attempts to put forward some solutions and new ways to define and move towards this 'good life'.

The book starts with Keynes. Keynes believed that the average number of hours that people worked would slowly diminish as technology became more and more efficient. In reality what we have seen is instead of four people being employed for ten hours a week, one person works for forty hours a week, leaving three people unemployed. At the same time, capitalism has increasingly 'monetized' and commodified everything it can, as Michael Sandel, amongst many others, has shown. Monetizing things changes how they are valued - not only do they become comparable in money terms, but their very nature is altered. For example: '[e] increasingly seen not as a preparation for the good life but as a mean to increase the value of 'human capital''.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I really liked this book. It does an outstanding job of laying out the problem and it is a thesis that I thoroughly agree with. In our endless pursuit of money we have lost sight of what that money should be for; it should be to allow us to live the good life. It should not be an end in itself. The vast majority of the book is centered around this project. The weakness comes at the end where the authors lay out their idea for a solution.

Let me quote a paragraph in the introduction that I think describes the book very well:

"The premise of what follows is that the material conditions of the good life already exist, at least in the affluent parts of the world, but that the blind pursuit of growth puts it continually out of reach. Under such circumstances, the aim of policy and other forms of collective actions should be to secure an economic organizations that places the good things of life - health, respect, friendship, leisure and so on - within reach of all. Economic growth should be accepted as a residual, not something to be aimed at."

This is a thoughtful book about an important topic. It is well written and even if you don't agree with the perspective of the authors, you should consider what they have to say. These are the kinds of important long-term ideas our leaders should be focused on rather than telling the public to go out and spend more money they don't have to "stimulate the economy".

The only problem I have with this book is over reliance on government policy the authors serve up as a solution. The history of unintended consequences of "good intentions" should be enough to disabuse anyone of that idea. However, the solution is something that needs to be worked out. The first step is to get people to really accept that a problem exists. This book is a good step in that direction.

Highly recommended.
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66 of 75 people found the following review helpful By dfenner on August 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have devoted a considerable amount of time and thought to this book over the past weeks. I am intrigued by it, and admire it, but I also find I am not satisfied with it. In pondering why this is so, I have come to the conclusion that, like many books of its type, it describes the problem it identifies very well, but falls short when proposing a solution to it. And I have a hunch that the authors realize this, otherwise we wouldn't see so many references for the need for faith and the need for optimism.

First, though, a secondary point. The authors assert that rich countries now have sufficient wealth that everyone living in them could afford to stop the ceaseless quest for more, if this wealth was properly distributed. I would like to see this assertion expanded upon with more facts, and with a hypothetical model to demonstrate it. While no reasonable person expects, say, a neurosurgeon to receive the same wage as someone collecting money in a parking booth, what would the base level of income available be at some reasonable range of compensation, as compared to the vilely unfair pattern we have today?

If indeed this calculation is convincing, the implementation of a guaranteed annual income via the income tax system would be simplicity itself, and in fact the cost savings from elimination of a massive system of benefits administration might go a good distance towards paying for it. Certainly that well known pinko Richard Millhouse Nixon thought so, when he came close to implementing such a scheme, as is described by the late Senator Daniel Moynihan: The Politics of a Guaranteed Income: The Nixon Administration and the Family Assistance Plan (1973) ISBN 0-394-46354-4.

But to get back to my dissatisfaction.
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