How Much is Enough?: The Love of Money, and the Case for the Good Life

Robert Skidelsky, Edward Skidelsky

How Much is Enough?: The Love of Money, and the Case for the Good Life

In recent years, economic growth has been regarded as a self-evident good, with political debate focussed on the best means to achieve it. But there are now signs that this shared assumption is weakening. Anger at 'greedy' bankers and their 'obscene' bonuses has given way to a deeper dissatisfaction with an economic system geared overwhelmingly to the accumulation of wealth. Huge income disparities and an ever-growing gap between the richest and the rest has brought us to one of those rare moments when the underlying assumptions of society, are changing. In How Much is Enough? Robert and Edward Skidelsky argue that wealth is not an end in itself but a means to the achievement and maintenance of a 'good life', and that our economy should be organised to reflect this fact. The book includes a definition of the 'good life', discusses the relevance of 'Happiness Studies' and the environmental impact of our ever-growing need to consume. In doing so, it offers an escape from the trap of excessive specialization and a way to reinvigorate the idea of economics as a 'moral science'. It concludes by offering a radical new model for income redistribution - and a consideration of what human beings might really want from their lives. 3.3 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
How Much is Enough?: The Love of Money, and the Case for the Good Life

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy, Business, Finance & Law
Format Hardback
Pages 256
RRP
Date of Publication June 2012
ISBN 978-1846144486
Publisher Allen Lane
 

In recent years, economic growth has been regarded as a self-evident good, with political debate focussed on the best means to achieve it. But there are now signs that this shared assumption is weakening. Anger at 'greedy' bankers and their 'obscene' bonuses has given way to a deeper dissatisfaction with an economic system geared overwhelmingly to the accumulation of wealth. Huge income disparities and an ever-growing gap between the richest and the rest has brought us to one of those rare moments when the underlying assumptions of society, are changing. In How Much is Enough? Robert and Edward Skidelsky argue that wealth is not an end in itself but a means to the achievement and maintenance of a 'good life', and that our economy should be organised to reflect this fact. The book includes a definition of the 'good life', discusses the relevance of 'Happiness Studies' and the environmental impact of our ever-growing need to consume. In doing so, it offers an escape from the trap of excessive specialization and a way to reinvigorate the idea of economics as a 'moral science'. It concludes by offering a radical new model for income redistribution - and a consideration of what human beings might really want from their lives.

Keynes: The Return of the Master by Robert Skidelsky

Reviews

The Independent

Jon Cruddas

The Skidelskys move seamlessly from the abstract to the concrete; from philosophy to public policy. They are not unaware of the incongruity of their ideal of the good life in a country with high levels of poverty. They note that Keynes's futuristic essay was ignored as the world sank into the Great Depression ... We must hope that a new political philosophy is being forged. It is, in short, a revival of a politics of virtue. It is an exiled Labour tradition. Pioneers such as Michael Sandel, Martha Nussbaum, the Australian intellectual Tim Soutphommasane and the Skidelskys are laying the foundations for something profound.

07/07/2012

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Prospect

Rowan Williams

“Capitalism, it is now clear, has no spontaneous tendency to evolve into something nobler,” write the Skidelskys. “Left to itself, the machinery of want-generation will carry on churning, endlessly and pointlessly.” … And one of the many virtues of the Skidelskys’ study is that it makes it very clear how eccentric all this is in the broader light of human history and culture. We are the first civilisation to treat monetary accumulation as an absolute goal … The Skidelskys’ final chapter offers some bold and lucid proposals about what the state can do to rein in the fever of reductive economism and toxic acquisitiveness … I offer no detailed comment…but remark only that it is not enough to claim that the state must be neutral in such matters: it is, as we have seen, quite prepared to be paternalistic about some supposed goods; why not others?

23/04/2012

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The Observer

Giles Fraser

Economics, they insist, needs to be impregnated with purpose, with some human‑centred teleology. In other words, markets were made for man and not man for markets. This is a commendable insight, but whether their prescriptions for an economics of the good life are sufficiently inclusive to work at the level of the poorest in our society — those for whom growth and accumulation are what mostly happens to others — was something about which I was less convinced. Mostly, the Skidelskys are concentrated on the size of the pie and not so much on how the pie is cut up.

17/06/2012

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The London Review of Books

Glen Newey

One gets the impression that for the Skidelskys the pursuit of growth displays the same recursiveness as someone who treats any holding of goods as providing a platform for yet more acquisition, a person who has ‘an uncontrollable desire to collect cats’, for example. That urge certainly seems odd, but there are both abstract and concrete reasons why it may not model politicians’ push for growth. Economic growth could be infinite but asymptotic (tending to a limit value), unlike the growth pursued by the cat-hoarder, whose behaviour leads to an endlessly expanding kitty. More concretely, as Keynes’s distinguished biographer, Robert Skidelsky needs no reminding that the postwar Western consensus on promoting growth had as a prime rationale the solution of the distribution problem: with growth in output, it was hoped, even those at the bottom of the heap would have enough for a decent life.

21/06/2012

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The Sunday Times

Dominic Lawson

They are surely right in their lacerating attack on the so-called happiness agenda, now fashionable in government with its absurd “general happiness index” … I am less impressed by Skidelsky and Son sermonising to the effect that we as a society are, uniquely in history, completely tyrannised by acquisitiveness ... the point is that money is interchangeable with a great deal of what comprises the good life, as the Skidelskys themselves define it. It buys security; it buys good health care; it definitely buys respect ... the other point is that we have children and grandchildren and we want to provide for them into the distant future, as well. In that sense, the desire to make a lot of money can actually be connected to real love.

17/06/2012

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The Guardian

Larry Elliott

How Much Is Enough? is a spirited polemic but it is not without its faults. The book starts and finishes well but has a long central philosophical section in which the disquisitions on Marcuse and Aristotle give the impression that the authors are showing off. They also have quite fixed views on what constitutes the good life ... But the main problem with this book is one of political agency. They make a series of sensible suggestions for how the good life could be attained: a basic citizens income, an expenditure tax and curbs on advertising to rein in consumerism; a Tobin tax on financial transactions. Where they are less convincing is in sketching out how these policies will be effected.

30/06/2012

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The Spectator

Anthony Daniels

Some of the Skidelskys’ criticisms of the modern liberal state — that it smuggles in value judgements under cover of a claimed neutrality — are shrewd and just. But the book also skates over the surface of problems, and thereby avoids difficulties and complexities ... The authors simplify; their hope of a stable world in which people place a limit on their own appetites, not by coercion but by choice fostered by a wise and scrupulous government, smacks of utopianism.

30/06/2012

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The Sunday Telegraph

Alasdair Palmer

Their vision of what we should do to achieve the good life and society ends up sounding distinctly unappetising ... But I think there is an even more fundamental difficulty at the heart of How Much is Enough? … The Skidelskys have nothing substantial to say about boredom — and it is why their analysis is doomed from the start. The reason why most people keep striving long after they have satisfied all elementary needs is not, as the Skidelskys claim, that they mistakenly think that money is the ultimate value. It is simply that striving for it keeps boredom at bay.

26/06/2012

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Times Literary Supplement

Ferdinand Mount

What is absent is any recognition that strenuousness might be an intrinsic element in the good life, not merely a wearisome means to its enjoyment ... Above all, it is not the absence of any shared concept of the good life which undermines our social well-being. It is rather the failure to address widening inequality or to regenerate our decaying political and economic institutions.

11/07/2012

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