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The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies Paperback – September 1, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Well-written and -documented." -- Amitai Etzioni, author of The New Golden Rule

About the Author

Robert E. Lane is Eugene Meyer Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Yale University.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Institution for Social and Policy Studies
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300091060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300091069
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is probably the most complete Western book about happiness. Robert Lane recommends that to the goal of happiness should be added the goals of justice and personal development. He uses "happiness" with the meaning of "satisfaction with life", or with "Subjective Well Being" (SWB). The difference being that happiness is a fleeting emotion and satisfaction with life a more profound view.

He accuses economists of wanting to maximise one dimension only like "the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people" (Jeremy Bentham), or maximise increases in GDP per person. The belief of many people in prosperous countries is that Increasing GDP per person will lead to increases in happiness. Prof Lane refers to this belief as the "Economistic Fallacy" which he considers a major threat to the future of the USA. He proves conclusively that in the USA and other prosperous countries, increases in GDP per person do not lead to increases in happiness. He points out that governments focus too exclusively on increasing GDP. Governments should in all their policies ask themselves if their policies contribute to the three goals of happiness, justice and personal development.

The title of the book can create the mistaken impression that Professor Lane is against a free market and democracy. His main point is that the market and democracy on their own do not lead automatically to increased happiness and that the three goals should also be considered by governments when attempting to make the free market and democracy function satisfactorily. He points out that happiness is dependent on what he refers to a "companionship" (that is friends) and a good family life. At no point does he suggest that the free market and democracy can be replaced by better systems.
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Format: Paperback
Have you noticed that in spite of great increases in wealth and improvements in technology in the last few decades, people don't seem to be any happier today than they used to be? Lane tackles this question head on, and finds some interesting answers. This book modestly blows most of today's conventional economics right out of the water.

Conventional economic wisdom is that increased GDP will solve all problems and make everyone's life better. Lane shows this isn't so. For the very poor, increased per capita GDP does indeed make people happier. Once the necessities of life are satisfied, higher GDP has little or no effect on how content people are with their lives. When you consider the lengths to which governments go to increase their GDP by a few percentage points, you begin to understand how important this finding is.

In the developed countries, Lane shows that people's overall satisfaction with their lives has been declining steadily in recent years. Lane finds that a decline in companionship and family life and an increase in television viewing are important factors in this. People are often not very good judges of what life choices will really make their lives better and happier. It is easy to fall into a trap of trying to get more money, while sacrificing the time it takes to maintain relationships with friends and family.

Some great quotes from the book:

". . . relieving poverty without creating dependency has proved difficult where it has been seriously tried."

"Consequently, it is possible to want to spend more than one earns--a sure prescription for misery, as Micawber once explained to David Copperfield."

". . .
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Format: Paperback
I agree with the previous reviewer that this book doesn't have all the answers, and that Lane often spends too much time pressing the same points. That said, Lane supports his conclusions well, and presents his central message clearly. For someone without much philosophy background (i.e. me), Lane's discussion of the trinity of ultimate goods was valuable and instructive. To recently graduated students: this is book is a great reason to use your alumni library privleges.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This beautifully written book provides so many answers to so many fundamental questions that we face today! I keep re-reading it and I warmly recommend it to anyone who would like to get a better understanding of a the context we live in: What we need to be happy and why it's so rare to find (although it costs nothing). It's kind of a Psychological version of Paleo Diet. Yale University must be a great place if they have such professors - it makes me want to study there.
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A pompous intellectual treatment of a simple subject. This book has enough material to fill a one page editorial in the Economist. With all its statistics and graphs it tells us what we already know: Money doesn't buy happiness ( unless your'e very poor ). I read the first half and just browsed the rest. It has an intro that goes on and on and references that take up a large section of the end. Conclusion: Some good insights but way to much gobbledygook .
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