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The Price of Prosperity: Why Rich Nations Fail and How to Renew Them Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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Sure, The Price of Prosperity is about economics--sort of. But that’s just a jumping-off point for this fascinating romp through sociology, anthropology, politics, and above all history. Buchholz’s big lesson is that prosperity is not enough to hold a country together; we need culture, community, patriotism--and babies! But he draws readers to that conclusion with a crackling good read--a tour de force that leaps through time and space and is as entertaining as it is educational. (Alan S. Blinder, former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board and professor of economics at Princeton University)
A ‘must read’ for anyone searching for a path to American economic renewal. The elephant in the room in the 2016 presidential campaign is the question of whether America is in decline. In this powerful and provocative book, Todd Buchholz recalls stumbles of other rich nations in history, and he offers a clear roadmap for America to regain her footing today. (Glenn Hubbard, former chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and Dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Business)
A lively, well-documented and important book. For at least a century, intellectuals have been heralding the death of the nation state, and often applauding it. But Todd Buchholz thinks it would be a disaster. He explains that the economic successes of our nations in some ways undermine them from within. But rather than regretting the past or lamenting the present, this book suggests important things we can do - above all by strengthening the symbols and histories that create identity and help us face the future together (Lawrence H. Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary and President Emeritus of Harvard University)
A lively, well-documented and important book. For at least a century, intellectuals have been heralding the death of the nation state, and often applauding it. But Todd Buchholz thinks it would be a disaster. He explains that the economic successes of our nations in some ways undermine them from within. But rather than regretting the past or lamenting the present, this book suggests important things we can do - above all by strengthening the symbols and histories that create identity and help us face the future together (Robert Tombs, professor of history at Cambridge University and author of The English and Their History)
Todd Buchholz’s The Price of Prosperity is loaded with witty and provocative insight into the vexing question of our era: where do the prosperous nations go from here? Inevitable collapse, perpetual stagnation, or renewed purpose and prosperity? (Michael J. Boskin, former chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and professor of economics at Stanford University)
A refreshing book that offers an alternative to the failing shibboleths of the day. (Kirkus Reviews)
... An interesting view on what makes-and breaks-a wealthy nation. (Publishers Weekly)
Targeting a general audience with clarity and humor, Buchholz’s insights will interest readers concerned about sustaining national unity. (Library Journal)
In sum, this isn’t your typical economics tome. But it is typical of Buchholz. His books are always entertaining, often insightful, and sometimes downright scary. What they never are is boring. (Weekly Standard)
“highly entertaining, far-sighted, and enjoyably acerbic”. (Sunday Times (London))
Buchholz is surely right that fostering a stronger sense of common identity is likely to be part of the answer to sustaining public support for open trade and borders. (Financial Times)
From the Back Cover
“Nations are just as likely to unravel after periods of prosperity as after periods of depression.”
So argues acclaimed economist, hedge fund manager, and presidential adviser Todd G. Buchholz in this timely, bold book. Part history and part manifesto, The Price of Prosperity exposes the economic, political, and cultural cracks that wealthy nations face, and makes the case for transforming those same vulnerabilities into sources of strength—and the foundation for a national renewal.
To understand how great powers unravel, Buchholz identifies five potent and paradoxical forces that undermine nations after they achieve economic success. These include falling birthrates, globalized trade, rising debt loads, an eroding work ethic, and waning patriotism.
Is the loss of empire inevitable? No. Can a community spirit be restored in the United States and in Europe? The answer is a resounding yes. The Price of Prosperity presents inspiring stories of historical leaders who overcame national disarray, from Kemal Atatürk to Japan’s Meiji revolutionaries to Golda Meir. It is not too late to overcome the challenges we face now and to come together once again to protect the nation and to ensure our future.
Top Customer Reviews
The author makes alot of assertions about the need for immigrants to assimilate into society and adopt native language, etc. etc. which is ...whatever, but he then fails to make the connection to the need for cultural assimilation and sustained macroeconomic growth. A basic theory that people won't care about economic sustainability if they aren't fully "American" is a touch too nationalistic for me.
Additionally, I personally dislike books whose central premise is anti-intellectualism when the author himself is the very definition of intellectualism. The idea that our country would be better off if everyone just stopped going to college, stopped trying to get high paying white collar jobs and - one presumes - stop writing self indulgent books on macroeconomic theory and started working in factories again is just short sighted and unrealistic.
Author Buchholz contends that nations are just as likely to unravel after periods of prosperity as during periods of depression (eg. crime rates exploded during the relatively prosperous 1960s), and that the rot begins internally - not from armies storming across borders trying to conquer others. Further, splintering among the population induces people to cheat swindle, and focus more on the short-term than their long-term responsibilities, ultimately undermining the economy and a cohesive civil society. Mixing cultures also reduces our ability to predict behavior --> more terrorism, religious furor, and anarchy in the last 20 years than between WWII to 1990. Falling birthrates, globalized trade, rising debt loads, eroding work ethnics, and the challenge of patriotism in a multicultural country can shatter even rich nations.
U.S. families earning over $75,000/year have fewer than 55 babies/1,000 women - half the birthrate of those earning less than $10,000. College-educated American mothers average only 1.6 babies - less than the 2.1 required to keep population steady. A Gallup Poll question since 1936 has asked, 'What is the ideal size of a family? That number slumped from3.6 in 1957 to 2.5 in 1978, where it remains. Birthrates are even lower in other nations - 1.4 in Germany and Italy, 1.3 in Japan.
To man its army and navy, Rome was forced to enlist Germanic tribesmen - in the western part of the empire, barbarians made up almost half the fighting force.
The global economy saps patriotism, reckless financial markets encourage gambling with other people's money, coddling in schools removes the stigma of a slacker's attitude.
In 1963 Japan's health ministry decided to send exquisitely wrapped silver sake bowls to anyone turning 100 that year - 153; in 2015 the practice was deemed 'too expensive' as about 30,000 turned 100.
Reviewer James Carter summarized Buchholz's book as follows: "As countries grow rich, their birthrates fall and the average population age rises. To keep up a high standard of living, more workers are needed to serve, requiring an influx of new workers via opening up to more immigrants. Unless a nation has strong cultural and civic institutions, new immigrants can splinter the dominant culture. This creates either declining relative wealth or fraying cultural fabric. Prosperous nations cannot enjoy their prosperity with becoming multicultural - however, doing so makes it difficult to pursue unified, national goals." That certainly fits the U.S. of today.
One of his proposals is to eliminate 'licensing requirements for nonhazardous jobs.' Thus, goodbye to Arizona's licensing requirement of 1,600 hours of classroom instruction at an approved cosmetology school before an aspiring hair stylist can begin work. Another is to renew Reagan's approach to trade losses - convincing more foreign firms to open plants here and 'suggesting' voluntary import restraints for Japanese autos. He is not enthusiastic at all about repairing infrastructure as being the answer to our economic growth problem, though it is necessary to repair broken down bridges. Finally, he states that while the next president will set the tone, he/she will not change the economy overnight.
What is the price of prosperity? Author Todd Buchholz argues that prosperity creates the conditions that lead to its own unraveling. Rich nations fail because, having become rich, they invariably experience falling birthrates, rising debt loads, and eroding work ethics. Add a dash of globalized trade and a pinch of cultural fracturing, and these entropic forces will shatter even the most prosperous of countries.
Buchholz, a former Harvard economics professor who later served in the White House as a policy aide to President George H.W. Bush, draws equally from pop culture and history to explain and illustrate his points. One minute Buchholz is channeling Jerry Seinfeld or quoting a line from the Planet of the Apes; the next he's delving into the Meiji Revolution circa 19th century Japan.
All of this is designed to educate the reader while avoiding any hint of having to labor over anything so tedious as a textbook.
In sum, this isn't your typical economics tome. But it is typical of Buchholz. His books are always entertaining, often insightful, and sometimes downright scary. What they never are is boring.
The Price of Prosperity paints a bleak picture. But it's no cheap, paint-by-the-numbers, Walmart knockoff. It's a Buchholz original—suitable for framing.