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The Hidden Wealth of Nations Paperback – 6 Nov 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press; 1 edition (6 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745648029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745648026
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 214,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

" The Hidden Wealth of Nations has a fresh idea that could catch on and transform the welfare state, while bypassing boring government machinery. The idea is that people could earn credits for caring for others. They could then use these to obtain help for themselves. The scheme could make possible a level and breadth of care that the real economy could not begin to afford. It is an idea that must be worth exploring further."
Financial Times

"In his excellent recent book on social capital, The Hidden Wealth of Nations, David Halpern argues that (for instance) smaller class sizes for the youngest pupils and extra tuition for those that struggle are far more important than ′the building of shiny new buildings or computer rooms to impress parents′. As a former chief analyst in Tony Blair′s Strategy Unit, Halpern knows of what he speaks."
Daily Telegraph

"Scintillating and immensely well–informed and covers almost all aspects of public policy. Halpern is particularly interested in wellbeing and – as his remarks about heroin indicate – he seems to be using the book to flesh out all the policy ideas that he could not get past the prime minister."
Andrew Sparrow, Guardian political blog

"A collection of very interesting essays on an ambitiously broad set of topics, packed with fascinating facts and examples."
Journal of Social Policy

"The author introduces libertarian paternalism, defaults setting, the power of declarative norms, and the choice architecture promoted by Thaler and Sunstein. That sounds heavy, but Halpern has a way to make it read like the latest Ben Elton."
Neighbourhoods

"Compelling."
New York Times

"Chief analyst in the prime minister′s Strategy Unit between 2001 and 2007, he has written many of the most influential papers in shaping the politics of happiness. Now outside government, he expresses his confidence that within 10–15 years, ′policymakers will routinely be using sophisticated well–being measures in judgements about policy′."
Mark Easton, BBC News

"Halpern has kept a wide audience in mind with this stimulating and detailed book. Kicking off with that question that everyone has an answer to – does money make you (or your nation) happy? – and romping through a range of dinner party topics from immigration to whether democracy is going down the pan, he draws out a range of evidence that is useful and often surprising."
New Start

"Halpern′s discussion of the policy complexity of promoting social mobility or the issues relating to overcoming social exclusion is impressively nuanced and thought provoking."
Socialist Unity

"This important book... summarises the literature on life satisfaction, social capital, morality and values, and inequality, together with discussion of implications for public policy design."
British Religion in Numbers

"An excellent book – a thoughtful and informed analysis of a wide range of policy issues by someone who′s ′been there′."
Richard Easterlin, University of Southern California

"An important book by someone who has been at the centre of public policy to improve our community. This book will do much to rebalance our priorities towards aspects of life which really matter."
Richard Layard, London School of Economics and Political Science

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ben Saunders VINE VOICE on 1 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Halpern's aim in this book is to argue that for decades there has been too much focus on economic growth and not enough attention paid to the alternative 'economy of respect.' To those who've been following politics and policy, the shift of attention towards social capital, well-being or happiness, and co-production of services will come as little new. Halpern does, however, do a good job of connecting a lot of different dots to form one larger - if not entirely clear - picture.

I ordered this book because I'm a lecturer in political philosophy. I found its subject interesting, particularly on fairness and participation, but few of the ideas were new to me - I'm already familiar, for example, with proposals for stakeholder grants (Ackerman) and deliberative opinion polling (Fishkin). It's true that this is a book that seeks to go beyond blue skies ideas to policy implementation, but sadly I found it lacking in this respect. The information about exactly what's been tried and found to work is patchy - many of the policy recommendations simply seem to be Halpern's personal preferences. Sadly, this seems to be a general failing of the book. For an academic book on this subject, the notes and references are few. Some of Halpern's assertions are backed by citations, but quite often he simply asserts the existence of evidence for some recommendation without directing the reader to its whereabouts.

Perhaps its unfair to apply rigorous academic standards to such a work, obviously written for a wider audience. Maybe this book has value, if it serves to popularise some of the ideas it reproduces, but I doubt it will reach a particularly wide audience. There are plenty of graphs and tables, supposedly providing empirical evidence for a number of points, but they're rarely explained.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jill Rutter on 15 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
If you are an addict of the recent outpourings of the happiness gurus (Layard, Oswald et al) and the behavioural economists, but wondered how their findings might translate into practical policies, this book takes the key next step. Written by ex-Prime Minister's Strategy Unit Chief Analyst, David Halpern - but of interest to future governments of any persuasion, this book takes a look behind conventional policy appraoches to look at the things that really make somewhere a place worth living. Conventional economics has no place for trust or relationships - the Hidden Wealth of the title, and little place for unremunerated transactions - Halpenr's economy of regard rather than of money. But by missing these key dimensions out of policy making ( taking the Treasiry's narrow account of what matters as the only game in town) policy-makers deliver solutions that don't work in the real waorld and miss opportunities to go with the grain of human nature and offer more effective ways of advnacing wellebing. The book also delves into what we really mean by equality - goign well beyond the standard focus solely on income inequalities and offers some interesting ideas for how to tackle one of the perpetual weakspots of the British economy and British Society.

At the end David Halpern comes up with a list of ten things he would do if he were Prime Minister. An interesting benchmark for the manifestos that will start popping up in a few month's time. Read it now to be able to be part of that debate.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Building on recent books such as Wilkinson and Picket's 'the Spirit Level,' Halpern's latest work builds on the growing intellectual awareness that Greed is not necessarily Good, and that the libertarian core tenet that individualism is not just a divine human right, but an essential element in the further development of humankind, is all nothing but a sham.

The re-discovery that we are a social animal and that we have got to where we are today by collective efforts, community building and such old-fashioned [i.e. not financially quantifiable] concepts such as trust and empathy, is going to be a hallmark of this decade's political development and we may even be on the cusp of a general public re-alignment involving the realisation that to be nothing but a stand-alone consumer is not all the neoliberal Right makes it out to be, but we'll see.

Whatever unfolds over the next ten years or so, this book will be I think, seen as a cornerstone in the change of that overall political mood not just in the UK, but in the West as a whole. Richer nations are indeed on the whole 'happier' [whatever that means], but only when that wealth is spread relatively evenly. High levels of wealth- and economic growth- is not enough; a society needs a fair degree of equality and a fundamental current of trust running through that community, for all parts of it to prosper, not just economically but socially and mentally.

David Halpern addresses these issues in his book and gives clear, practical suggestions on how policy can be developed to achieve a more equitable, sustainable society that is more at ease with itself than it is now, after the disaster of more than thirty years of neoliberal Me-ism.
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