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The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters [Hardcover]

Diane Coyle
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Mar 2011

The world's leading economies are facing not just one but many crises. The financial meltdown may not be over, climate change threatens major global disruption, economic inequality has reached extremes not seen for a century, and government and business are widely distrusted. At the same time, many people regret the consumerism and social corrosion of modern life. What these crises have in common, Diane Coyle argues, is a reckless disregard for the future--especially in the way the economy is run. How can we achieve the financial growth we need today without sacrificing a decent future for our children, our societies, and our planet? How can we realize what Coyle calls "the Economics of Enough"?

Running the economy for tomorrow as well as today will require a wide range of policy changes. The top priority must be ensuring that we get a true picture of long-term economic prospects, with the development of official statistics on national wealth in its broadest sense, including natural and human resources. Saving and investment will need to be encouraged over current consumption. Above all, governments will need to engage citizens in a process of debate about the difficult choices that lie ahead and rebuild a shared commitment to the future of our societies.

Creating a sustainable economy--having enough to be happy without cheating the future--won't be easy. But The Economics of Enough starts a profoundly important conversation about how we can begin--and the first steps we need to take.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st Edition edition (6 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691145180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691145181
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 16.3 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 418,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


One of The Globalist's Top Books of 2012

Longlisted for the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2014

"In The Economics of Enough, Ms. Coyle adds a knowledgeable and earnest voice to the discussion about how to face these global challenges. . . . Ms. Coyle has written a thoughtful, sprawling work. I was impressed with both the magnitude of the subject matter and her keen grasp of it. . . . Ms. Coyle has made an important contribution to the debate on the nature of global capitalism."--Nancy F. Koehn, New York Times

"If widely read, [The Economics of Enough] could be the twenty-first century's basic action manual. Like the best political philosophers, Coyle does not merely present the gritty reality of politics (or political economy, in this case), but gives us a roadmap out of our collective swamp. . . . [T]he book is a small wonder."--Joel Campbell, International Affairs

"If Diane Coyle had written The Economics of Enough a year or so earlier, a British political party would probably have laid claim to its message during the general election campaign. Coyle's work manages to tie up fiscal policy, inequality and the environment with reflection on civil society. . . . Coyle makes a particularly effective assault on the view, often espoused by environmentalists, that economic growth ought not to be a policy goal. While she calls for other objectives--and the use of a greater range of economic indicators--she backs output growth as an objective. . . . [A] solid guide to the challenges that face governments in the coming years."--Christopher Cook, Financial Times

"[Coyle's] insistence that the crisis is essentially one of trust and governance is important--and increasingly relevant as we watch our leaders failing to tame our reckless financial overlords."--Fred Pearce, Independent

"Coyle's book is . . . a very welcome supplement to the current dearth of smart, broad, readable economic literature now available. . . . Coyle's book demonstrates her to be a political economist of the old school, concerned with economics as a truly social science rather than an abstract mass of numbers. As such, her work merits a much broader audience than it is likely to find in our contemporary political climate."--Matthew Kaul, Englewood Review of Books

"Are we bankrupt? Are countries like the US and the UK in as much fiscal trouble as Ireland or Greece? The bond markets say no: they've been quite content to lend to the UK and the US as though they were low-risk propositions, and perhaps they are right. But even if bond holders look safe enough, citizens may not be. Diane Coyle, author of a new book, The Economics of Enough, argues that we need to go beyond traditional measures of debt in thinking about future obligations."--Tim Harford, Financial Times

"Designed for readers well versed in economics, this book offers an in-depth economic analysis that often supports arguments with philosophical and sociological theories."--Caroline Geck, Library Journal

"A grim view of the economic future and suggestions on how to sway the outcome, one penny at a time. In this highly informed analysis, British economist Coyle (The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters, 2007, etc.) posits as a given that 'more money makes people happier because it means they can buy more.' . . . There's much to digest here, so the author's tendency to repeat herself turns out to be helpful. Tough trekking but well worth the journey for this top-rank economist's view from the summit."--Kirkus Reviews

"There is much good sense in The Economics of Enough, and Coyle writes efficiently and clearly."--Howard Davies, Times Higher Education

"There is much good thinking and plenty of good ideas in [T]he Economics of Enough. For many readers, the book will be a revelation in just how far we have moved from economics as a 'dismal science.' For the business reader, Coyle opens up a range of broader perspectives that will on the one hand challenge the neo-classical economic purist and, on the other, will encourage those who want their children to have more than a dismal future, to do something about it."--Roger Steare, Management Today

"[A] compelling call to action. . . . [T]his is a powerful, thought-provoking and timely contribution to the debate on the evolving shape of society."--Dimitri Zenghelis, Nature Climate Change

"From the somewhat playful Sex, Drugs, and Economics, to the more descriptive and objective The Soulful Science, economist and superb writer (too often mutually exclusive categories) Coyle presents her more general assessment in The Economics of Enough. Blending economics with politics and philosophy, she uses the recent financial crisis as an opportunity to discuss a number of grander themes with the goal of a better and sustainable future, which is to be aided and abetted by a better-informed citizenry led not by an invisible hand but by the fist of more enlightened government."--Choice

"The Economics of Enough is a thoughtful and reflective piece addressing the interplay between governments and markets in a 'post-financial crisis' world. . . . The book serves as a good foil for deeper discussions of the implications and results of the attempt to govern complex systems--both political and economic--fraught with their inevitable webs of adverse selection, moral hazard, and self-interest."--Bradley K Hobbs, EH.Net

From the Inside Flap

"Unlike many economists, Diane Coyle is a worldly philosopher! This nuanced book provides an illuminating analysis of the key debate over whether free market growth translates into improvements in our quality of life."--Matthew E. Kahn, University of California, Los Angeles

"This is a fine and interesting book with plenty of wise observations and good economic analysis. Diane Coyle is a terrific writer and an economist of real insight."--Edward Glaeser, Harvard University

"Diane Coyle has written a lively and challenging examination of the state of economic policymaking following the recent financial crisis."--Nicholas Crafts, Warwick University

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This timely book explores all aspects of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. The underlying theme pursued throughout the book is that economic growth, whilst bringing significant benefits to society, can no longer continue in its present form. Indeed, by ignoring social and natural limits, it has become unsustainable. The Economics of Enough is a devastating critique of recent economic policymaking that has been driven by political parties prepared to win votes by offering short-term solutions to long-term problems.

The book carefully reviews a vast literature relating to current multiple crises concerning our deteriorating environment, growing social inequality and the mounting burden of public debt. In providing an overarching critique of the most important debates affecting Government policy on what are the critical issues of our time, the Economics of Enough draws upon all the main disciplines of the social sciences and distills the latest evidence from academic research. The enquiry ranges from the study of happiness (psychology) to the trend of growing social inequality(sociology); from the depletion of natural capital (environmental economics)to the burgeoning problem of debt(political economy).

An ambitious and bold study which should become compulsory reading for all politicians, particularly the deficit deniers. By cutting through the ill-considered and sterile arguments of populist politicians, short-term fixes are banished in favour of long-term, sustainable solutions. In this context, the current political debate about growth versus austerity offers a false prospectus; in the West, we have reached the limits of debt-fuelled growth which has turned out to be a mirage, its proponents morally as well as economically bankrupt.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Economics of Enough 10 July 2012
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Economist Diane Coyle argues that the 2007-2008 financial crisis was not an isolated event but a symptom of greater issues in the global economy. The forces driving these issues include social progress, climate change and technology, particularly the shift to a knowledge- and service-based economy. In this impressive, strikingly honest book, Coyle works hard to avoid clichéd binaries (left versus right, market versus government) and to base her analysis on research and observation. Some of her insights are useful, and her section on measurement is nicely original. However, her overall call for action is not as fresh, practical or persuasive as her analysis of the problems at hand. Nonetheless, getAbstract recommends this earnest work of economic inquiry to executives, policy makers and all those who believe that having an ethical society remains a viable goal.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 10 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
More enjoyable than a lot of economics books. But that inevitably means being more opinionated.

Though I did not always agree with Coyle, he makes coherent arguments. And I read more than I expected to be be honest. That is why I think it deserves four stars.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Don't be fooled by the fancy cover and inner sleeve reviews. This book is surprisingly disappointing.

It is difficult to read because of the author's style. She writes in an opinionated right-wing voice, in poorly structured repetitive chapters, cherry picking evidence to draw her preconceived conclusions and often making judgements with no evidence at all. For example, in chapter 2 she says:
"...there is an off-putting air of smugness in some of this recession-chic literature. Much of it is written by people who are themselves well off by any standard, and yet they obviously get great satisfaction from circumstances that mean many people are struggling to make ends meet. It's as if homespun is morally superior to something bought for money."
She intersperses her discussions with rather pointless photos, instead of well analysed charts as other authors in this area do, and comes across with the idea that her view and analysis is the "proper" one. There are big holes in most of the chapters - the arguments are oversimplified and biaised toward the author's opinion.
For a more balanced and scientifically informed discussion in this area I recommend Tim Jackson's book - "Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet"
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A pragmatic approach to sustainable economics 3 May 2011
By erin_nh - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
So often books about economics and sustainability become doom-and-gloom rants about how we've messed everything up and now everyone needs to stop doing everything or we'll all perish. Generally these kinds of books offer little to no solutions for how we might actually remedy things and how those actions will affect not only ourselves, but the rest of the world as well. Diane Coyle manages to calmly examine multiple angles of many previously proposed, somewhat more extreme solutions offered by other sustainability economists, and leads the reader through realities and steps we'll have to deal with in the future. This is not an on-the-ground, what-can-I-do-in-my-neighborhood-now kind of book; it deals with the politics and policy challenges that we're all going to have to recognize as voters. While there are plenty of books that give neighborhood solutions for how we can help make a difference, serious and difficult changes are going to have to be made to the structure and function of our economic systems. Diane Coyle tells us about the social institutions that are going to need immediate action before they crush the budgets of various countries (for example, she describes how in the next 10-20 years one-third or more of the population of both Italy and Japan will be above the retirement age, no longer working or contributing to taxes, but in need of many expensive social services- America is not too far behind).

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how multi-national it is. Coyle is British and studied in America, but the world's economic woes are not the exclusive fault of these large economies; she uses examples from all over the world regarding growth, economic inequality, instability, trust in our leaders, and happiness as it relates to the economy. All of these issues will need to be addressed in an effort to try to find out how much is enough.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Enough is Enough 20 Sep 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I just finished reading this book for a course I'm currently taking in graduate school. I'll start by providing an overview of the book itself before explaining why I gave it one star.

The Economics of Enough, by Diane Coyle, is broken up into three main parts. In the first, she discusses various challenges faced primarily by the OECD nations (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, basically the developed economies of the world). The first chapter deals with the dilemma that although the OECD nations in general have seen an increase in GDP, the happiness of people in these countries has not increased proportionally. Next she tackles the problem of global climate change. She goes on to discuss one of the main themes of her book, which is the idea that the current generation should ensure that the world faced by the next generation is at least as good as the state in which we inherited it. In particular, she claims that we should leave for posterity the same amount, or higher, of social capital, natural resources, and economic well-being, as currently exists. In this chapter she also discusses the United States' growing national debt problem. In the next chapter she deals with fairness, primarily income inequality within a given country, as well as between the developed countries and the developing nations. Finally, she talks about the declining levels at which people trust each other.

In the next major section, she discusses the obstacles that need to be surmounted in order to tackle the aforementioned challenges. She starts by claiming that governments need a new measurement system that is more comprehensive than simply GDP, in order to fully take into account, for example, natural resources, social capital, etc. She then goes on to state that society's values need to be more fully reflected in both markets and government policies. Finally, she talks about the importance of institutions.

In the concluding section, Coyle sets out guidelines and policies that she believes would be a start towards correcting the problems laid out in the rest of the book. This is by far the best chapter of the book.

Now, as for my review, let me start by saying that the content of the book is not bad. Coyle holds a PhD in economics from Harvard, runs an economics consulting firm, is a Trustee for the BBC, and has advised members of the British government, so I'm sure she has a fairly firm grasp of economical issues, and she certainly uses the language of economics throughout many parts of the book (she has a fondness for mentioning spillovers and externalities). She cites numerous Nobel Prize-winning economists throughout the work, although it would be nice to have a little more concrete data included, particularly in the first several chapters. As other reviewers have mentioned, this book is written to be extremely accessible to a general audience, but it would have benefited greatly by having some graphs included to allow people to have a firmer grasp of the problems she discusses.

Furthermore, it's only halfway fair to call this an economics book. In many cases Coyle delves into the realms of philosophy and sociology (for example, quoting from the overview of the book she says that "the first chapter addresses the myths and realities of happiness"). Perhaps some readers will be looking for this kind of material; however, I don't really think it belongs in a book that claims to be about economics.

As other reviewers have mentioned, Coyle has quite a chip on her shoulder when it comes to banks, and especially investment bankers. Certainly the banking system made numerous missteps before, during, and after the 2008 financial crisis, but the author makes some extremely broad and hyperbolic statements with thinly veiled vitriol. It almost seems hypocritical to see her bemoan income inequality in light of the fact that her salary just from her role as Trustee of the BBC was the equivalent of about $120000.

At any rate, in spite of these flaws, her content on its own would garner about 3 stars from me: it's mediocre but not terrible. The main problem though, the reason I had to drop it down to 1 star, is not the content, but the writing itself. The single most severe problem this book has is the massive amount of repetition throughout. I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that you could capture about 95% of the content of this book if you just read the last 3 pages of every chapter, and the whole of the final chapter. There is simply no reason in the world that this book needed to run on for 300 pages, it easily could have fit into 50 or less. Honestly, I've seen op-ed articles to news organizations that made more compellingly powerful points than this entire book. It was extremely difficult at times for me to keep reading, simply because she was making the same point over and over. On top of that, the book appeared to be poorly edited. There were numerous grammatical errors, and even spelling errors, that served to slow down the reading. Finally, it didn't help that she didn't include any concrete policy recommendations until the last few pages of the book, as it made it difficult during the early stages of the book to understand what her actual stances were.

If you've made it to the end of this review, congratulations, and my apologies for the extreme exposition. If I had the option, I would have given this book 1 and a half stars, and considered rounding it up to 2, but ultimately it boils down to whether or not I could recommend this book to another person. Unfortunately, there are simply too many other high-quality books out there. If you want a far superior, accessible economics book, check out The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli, and don't waste your time on The Economics of Enough.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Moderate's Look at Global Challenges 19 Jan 2013
By Samuel J. Sharp - Published on
This book catalogs a number of current challenges - climate change, government debt, aging demographics, income inequality - notes the values implicated by these challenges, and concludes by offering a few steps to begin addressing these problems. Coyle seems genuinely interested in talking openly and honestly about these issues. For example, in discussing the unsustainable government debt levels in developed countries, Coyle concludes that people must accept either government defaults or reduced public pension and healthcare benefits. Few commentators speak this candidly about such delicate issues.

Along the way, Coyle dismisses those who argue that economic growth is unnecessary or undesirable, and she embraces markets as an indispensable tool for coordinating the array of knowledge required to resolve the challenges she identifies. The "Economics of Enough" does not mean learning to live in a no-growth environment. It means enjoying the benefits of growth today, but also taking the long view and ensuring such growth is sustainable.

The book is written at a very basic level which makes it broadly accessible, but potentially irritating for readers who are well read in economics. Because publisher is an academic press, I expected a bit more depth. Although her tone is very objective throughout the book, Coyle's disdain for bankers and their high compensation gets a bit stale. On page 283 she claims it is "nothing short of scandalous" that banks "exploit customer inertia ... by requiring people to make an effort to get the best rate of interest available for them." Her proposal is to force banks to automatically sweep funds above a certain threshold from a checking account into a savings account. How such a regulation would in any way address the problems she discusses is Part I is unclear. Another idea is to limit bank bonuses to 1x base salary, but in reality that would just result in much higher base pay and a smaller percentage of compensation based on actual performance. The compensation problem she discusses would likely worsen under her proposal.

I appreciate Coyle's seriousness and willingness to address serious problems in an honest fashion, but the book overall did not make much of an impact on my thinking. The policy proposals seem thin and not up to the task. Despite the book's stylistic qualities, I do not recommend it.
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 6 Jun 2011
By Michael Harrington - Published on
While Coyle does a competent job in identifying many of the political and economic challenges developed democracies face, she doesn't offer much in terms of practical policy solutions - just a wishlist of bromides. There is also little cohesiveness to her general prescriptions. For example: yes, we need more savings and less consumption in developed countries, but then she fails to advocate for tax reform that will reward savings. Why are there limits on contributions to tax free accounts for retirement, health care, education, and home purchases? Why are we sending money to central governments so they can turn around and send it back to us after taking their cut? She articulates why we have to reform the public sector but fails to address the tough political choices that must be made. She did at least recognize the problems of measurement and government statistics so we can evaluate performance, but again she seemed to avoid tough hitting against the political conflicts of interest that keep taxpayers in the dark. Her take on inequality was weak and conventional, where it should have focused on policies and the changing nature of economic productive processes. What about winner-take-all and the financial plutocracy? All in all there was 'not enough' to this Economics of Enough.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Economics of Enough 10 July 2012
By Rolf Dobelli - Published on
Economist Diane Coyle argues that the 2007-2008 financial crisis was not an isolated event but a symptom of greater issues in the global economy. The forces driving these issues include social progress, climate change and technology, particularly the shift to a knowledge- and service-based economy. In this impressive, strikingly honest book, Coyle works hard to avoid clichéd binaries (left versus right, market versus government) and to base her analysis on research and observation. Some of her insights are useful, and her section on measurement is nicely original. However, her overall call for action is not as fresh, practical or persuasive as her analysis of the problems at hand. Nonetheless, getAbstract recommends this earnest work of economic inquiry to executives, policy makers and all those who believe that having an ethical society remains a viable goal.
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