22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Great analysis of the problems, not so great when it comes to solutions,
This review is from: How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life (Hardcover)
This is a very readable account of how, despite getting much richer since Keynes wrote his essay 'Economic possibilities for our grandchildren', we haven't had the concomitant drop in working hours Keynes forecast. The authors mine a rich stream of thought which considers capitalism a 'Faustian pact' with unseemly motives for the production of wealth. How this pact has got out of hand, with GDP growth changing from a means to bringing about the good life to the end pursued by government policy is the first argument of the book.
The authors also argue - following Aristotle, and echoing Michael Sandel in his book Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? - that the draining of a moral and ethical discourse from public discussion of policy has merely obscured, rather than removed, the ethical stance behind political decisions. This is a welcome point, and along with their discussion of the 'Faustian pact' forms the most successful passage of the book.
So far, so good - but unfortunately the rest of the book is on shakier ground. The authors outline their own vision for 'the good life', which I felt was too subjective to be a programme with a real chance of being adopted by any mainstream political party. They make some valid criticisms of it, but nevertheless I feel the capabilities approach (developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum) remains a much better guide for policy than their assertion that the good life be promoted by government.
Two chapters deal in turn with the new happiness economics promoted by Richard Layard and the green/sustainable movement. They convincingly argue that neither happiness or sustainability should become the ultimate policy goal to replace GDP. The questionable alternative they propose, though, detracts from the chapters' impact.
Overall, definitely a recommended read, but I'd suggest some discussions of the capability approach as a guide to better solutions: like Nussbaum's Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach.