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Luxury Fever: Money and Happiness in an Era of Excess (Anglais) Broché – 5 septembre 2000

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Robert Frank is Goldwyn Smith Professor of Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Cornell University. He is also the author of THE WINNER TAKE ALL SOCIETY, 002 8740343, also available from Simon & Schuster UK. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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20 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Let Them Be Lemmings 3 février 2003
Par K. Johnson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Let Them Be Lemmings
Some factual common trends are noted by Frank: in general, wages in the U.S. have been static and even in decline for most Americans in recent decades. Yet, proportional per capita spending on luxury goods has increased significantly. The results according to this author and others who've conducted numerous studies and research is a weaker economy, high personal debt, longer working hours, less sleep, and having to work until death, in debt of course.
We're all aware of the American "gotta have this or that" bug. Many have it, but many don't. Some don't want it. Why do certain luxury goods and "gadgets" become oh-so-popular in American society? Frank notes, and correctly, that the desire for many to purchase certain material things is by no-doubt influenced by what others are buying or want to buy.
The concept of "social status" is a concept where human beings in mass-consumption cultures judge each other in this context in RELATION to our peers. These "peers" may be the strangers we live next to in suburban anonymity, our co-workers, friends, or the strangers we see driving next to us in our daily suburban traffic jams. (Note my use of the word "stranger").
The commonly known terms such as "keeping up with the Joneses," the status treadmill" the "arms race of consumerism, Consumer Feticism," and Velben's "Conspicuous Consumption" are presented. But not from a moralistic standpoint but a behaviorist, biological, psychological, and an economic standpoint.
The first part of the book informs us about many things we already aware of but expands upon it through the various academic fields already noted above. The second part of the book is the "solution part." What the author thinks can be done to change the current pattern. Here's where it can get sticky for some. The solution Frank offers from his research is a thesis on Human Behaviour, and he proposes a "political-economic" solution: taxing consumption. The solution is the part of this work that leads to the economic analysis of the "hypothetical" once again, and there's nothing wrong with that. Although theoretical, the first part is interesting, and the second part may be for some.
22 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Interesting Diagnosis 4 juillet 2005
Par Paula L. Craig - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Frank's point is essentially that Americans spend too much on luxury goods that don't bring them satisfaction, and too little on things they really could make them happier. He makes a good case for using a consumption tax to remedy the situation. I really enjoyed the analysis of homo economicus versus homo realisticus. Frank argues that homo economicus (as used in mainstream economics) is concerned with rational betterment of his situation, while real people are concerned as much or even more with doing better than those around them. When I studied economics I realized that something was wrong with the standard homo economicus model, but Frank lays out the differences very clearly, in ways I hadn't thought of.

Frank has some great commentary on the human condition here, too. My favorite is his analysis of why it helps to get up in the morning if you put your alarm clock out of reach of the bed. If you don't see what this has to do with economics--read the book!

Frank makes some proposals that I think are bluntly naive. For example, he proposes curing unemployment by a program of public works. This simply cannot work. It has, of course, been tried, including the attempt by the Washington DC municipal government in recent decades. Inevitably it leads to dependency and corruption, and a multiplication of the number of people needing public jobs. Frank needs to think more about where the incentives are in such a situation. In my opinion, if the streets are littered with garbage that isn't being picked up, you have to look at where the garbage is coming from and who is benefitting from creating it. It should be sellers of plastic bottles, paper cups, and the like who should be paying for picking up litter from the streets, not general tax funds. Frank also needs to pay more attention to population issues. No public works program can support a continually increasing number of people. I think Frank also overlooks the large role in overconsumption of having no limits on the interest rates which credit card and mortgage companies are allowed to charge. Unlimited rates means that such companies have a vested interest in keeping the maximum possible number of Americans on the edge of bankruptcy, and not much of an interest in making sure they lend money only to people who are likely to be able to pay it back.

Overall, though, this is a book with some useful and interesting ideas.
32 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Smart for One, Dumb for All 23 mai 2001
Par Robert Costanza - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Economist Robert H. Frank has written a stimulating book that integrates research from psychology, evolutionary biology, and economics to address the raging "luxury fever" that is needlessly consuming precious resources in "overdeveloped" economies. Frank documents how luxury consumption in western industrialized countries has been rising at an astronomical rate, even though the latest psychological research shows that there is scant correlation between this consumption and levels of stated life satisfaction. Why, then, are wrist watches costing $20,000, huge houses of 10,000 sq. ft. and more, and myriad other forms of conspicuous individual consumption rapidly increasing, even as social spending on education, infrastructure, the environment, and other things that would raise the average level of life satisfaction in society decreasing? Frank describes how this perverse "luxury fever" occurs when individuals pursue their strong individual incentives to increase their relative position in society by consuming more than their peers. But when everyone does this, relative consumption (and perceived life satisfaction) remain constant, while absolute consumption (and related negative impacts on natural resource use, the environment, education spending, etc.) soars. Luxury fever is one of a class of phenomena known by various names in different disciplines, including: negative externalities, social traps, social dilemmas, the prisoner's dilemma, and the tragedy of the commons. Frank cleverly labels these phenomena as situations that are "smart for one, but dumb for all." Once one begins to look, there are clear examples of these situations everywhere, ranging from drug addiction to pesticide overuse to arms races to environmental pollution and even women's fashions. While economists have recognized these phenomena, they have largely been relegated to the status of interesting but relatively minor anomalies. But Frank clearly points out just how pervasive, important, and wasteful they are, and how eliminating them can save literally billions of dollars while actually improving welfare. The "invisible hand" of the market cannot be relied upon to solve these problems, because, as Frank notes: "Far from being a principle that applies in most circumstances, the invisible hand is valid only in the special case in which each individual's rewards are completely independent of the choices made by others. In the rivalrous world we live in, precious few examples spring to mind." (pp 271) Frank's solution to luxury fever is a strongly progressive consumption tax. This could be done in the US with a simple one-line amendment in the tax code to exempt all savings from income taxation. With this modification, the income tax would tax only consumption, without having to specify which consumption was "luxury consumption" and (because of its steep progressivity) without adversely affecting the poor. This consumption tax would have the effect of increasing the costs to individuals of conspicuous consumption (and thus reducing it), while freeing up significant resources to pursue increased "inconspicuous consumption" - things like education, infrastructure, environmental protection, and family time. Given the psychology of relative consumption and satisfaction noted above, this could occur with absolutely no decrease in welfare. In fact, average life satisfaction would increase because relative individual consumption would not change and the neglected forms of social consumption could be increased with the resources from the tax. Why has so obvious a "win-win" move not already occurred, and what are its chances in the future? Frank answers the first part of this question with the famous joke about the economist who sees a ten dollar bill lying in the street and concludes that it couldn't really be a ten dollar bill because if it were someone would have already picked it up. The first step is to clearly and convincingly lay out the problem and the solution as Frank has done - in effect to point out the existence of the $10 bill just lying on the ground. But the idea of a broad consumption tax (and the reasons for it) has been around for many years. It was first proposed by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 and has surfaced many times during the last 300 years. Frank concludes that it will just be a matter of time before the obvious benefits of such a tax are recognized and the plan is implemented - after all, most political changes have a significant gestation period. But there are also obvious impediments to implementing such a tax in the current political climate. In political systems run more and more by special interests it is difficult to implement any policy that might hurt even one of those interests - even if only in the short run. Overcoming the political impediments to any form of meaningful tax reform will require "government by discussion" rather than by interest groups and media manipulation. If social issues of the importance of those in Frank's book can be discussed rationally by the society at large then such obvious social "win-win" solutions as ecological tax reform and a progressive consumption tax can be appreciated and implemented. In a few countries this kind of social discussion occurs reasonably well, but in most it is a far cry from the current political reality. Just as it is very difficult for an animal caught in a trap to free itself, it is also very difficult for a society caught in a social trap to free itself, even when the nature of the trap and the way out has been clearly identified. Lets hope we don't have to bite off our social foot to escape the invisible hand.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Thought Provoking For Social/Behavioral Science Students 22 novembre 2001
Par S. Miska - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
As the review title indicates, students & professors of economics, politics, psychology and other social & behavioral sciences will benefit from perusing the pages of Bob Frank's commentary on contemporary American life. Regardless of whether you agree with Professor Frank's solution to our society's "arms race of consumerism", the book makes the reader think about the materialism evident in much of the U.S. Using amusing analogies to describe human behavior related to "buying excess," Frank explains these activities with theories of psychology and economics. His insight provokes thought and entertains the reader throughout the book. Whether explaining why many middle class couples spend $5,000 for the latest Viking model gas grill for their patio, or describing how two millionaires childishly built larger and more lavish yachts just to own the biggest and best cruiser in the world, Frank delivers interesting examples which help provide an understanding for why many people do the things they do.
Read this book if you are a student or teacher of the social or behavioral sciences. Whether you agree with Frank's prescription to correct societal consumerism or you don't believe America has a problem, this book entertains the reader and stimulates ideas for discussion. Well worth the read!
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
the status treadmill 6 septembre 2001
Par Peter Gray - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
About 100 years after Veblen coined the phrase, "conspicuous consumption," Frank finds himself trying to make sense of outrageous consumption patterns during another era of prosperity. Why the love for expensive grills, cars and watches? The answer, in brief, is status. Because social status is measured relative to others (rather than by absolute standards), consumers step on a treadmill that finds them trying to outmeasure their peers. This treadmill doesn't lead to any greater happiness. Though individual satisfaction tends to increase with greater income and greater income slightly associates with higher satisfaction in the U.S., the elevations in per capita income within countries over time don't correspond with greater satisfaction (above some threshold). We have more stuff than our grandparents but not more satisfaction because of it. Pointing out that society as a whole would be better served by reallocating the resources wasted on individual luxury items by investing in clean air and water, paying teachers and maintaining roads, Frank shows that this conflict between individual and group interests represents a public goods problem. Though legal restrictions, social norms and other mechanisms have been advanced to solve these dilemmas elsewhere, Frank favors a progressive consmption tax for the U.S. This contention muddies the water between advocacy and the science of economics. In his support of it, as elsewhere in the book, he overgeneralizes from a few lines of evidence ("all evidence shows that...") to broad conclusions, leaving the reader questioning how completely the relevant evidence has been reviewed. Yet the clarity, readability and timeliness of this book make it well worth reading. Will it help us get off the status treadmill?
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