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The Price of Civilization: Economics and Ethics After the Fall (Anglais) Broché – 21 août 2012

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The Great Crash


Diagnosing America's Economic Crisis

A Crisis of Values

At the root of America's economic crisis lies a moralcrisis: the decline of civic virtue among America's political and economicelite. A society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich andpowerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the restof society and toward the world. America has developed the world's mostcompetitive market society but has squandered its civic virtue along the way.Without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningfuland sustained economic recovery.

I find myself deeply surprised and unnerved to have towrite this book. During most of my forty years in economics I have assumed thatAmerica, with its great wealth, depth of learning, advanced technologies, anddemocratic institutions, would reliably find its way to social betterment. Idecided early on in my career to devote my energies to the economic challengesabroad, where I felt the economic problems were more acute and in need ofattention. Now I am worried about my own country. The economic crisis of recentyears reflects a deep, threatening, and ongoing deterioration of our nationalpolitics and culture of power.

The crisis, I will argue, developed gradually over thecourse of several decades. We are not facing a short-term business cycledownturn, but the working out of long-term social, political, and economictrends. The crisis, in many ways, is the culmination of an era-the baby boomerera-rather than of particular policies or presidents. It is also a bipartisanaffair: both Democrats and Republicans have played their part in deepening thecrisis. On many days it seems that the only difference between the Republicans andDemocrats is that Big Oil owns the Republicans while Wall Street owns theDemocrats. By understanding the deep roots of the crisis, we can move beyondillusory solutions such as the "stimulus" spending of 2009-2010, thebudget cuts of 2011, and the unaffordable tax cuts that are implemented yearafter year. These are gimmicks that distract us from the deeper reforms neededin our society.

The first two years of the Obama presidency show that oureconomic and political failings are deeper than that of a particular president.Like many Americans, I looked to Barack Obama as the hope for a breakthrough.Change was on the way, or so we hoped; yet there has been far more continuitythan change. Obama has continued down the well-trodden path of open-ended war inAfghanistan, massive military budgets, kowtowing to lobbyists, stingy foreignaid, unaffordable tax cuts, unprecedented budget deficits, and a disquietingunwillingness to address the deeper causes of America's problems. Theadministration is packed with individuals passing through the revolving doorthat connects Wall Street and the White House. In order to find deep solutionsto America's economic crisis, we'll need to understand why the Americanpolitical system has proven to be so resistant to change.

The American economy increasingly serves only a narrowpart of society, and America's national politics has failed to put the countryback on track through honest, open, and transparent problem solving. Too manyof America's elites-among the super-rich, the CEOs, and many of my colleaguesin academia-have abandoned a commitment to social responsibility. They chasewealth and power, the rest of society be damned.

We need to reconceive the idea of a good society in theearly twenty-first century and to find a creative path toward it. Mostimportant, we need to be ready to pay the price of civilization throughmultiple acts of good citizenship: bearing our fair share of taxes, educatingourselves deeply about society's needs, acting as vigilant stewards for futuregenerations, and remembering that compassion is the glue that holds societytogether. I would suggest that a majority of the public understands thischallenge and accepts it. During my research for this book, I becamereacquainted with my fellow Americans, not only through countless discussionsbut also through hundreds of opinion surveys on, and studies of, Americanvalues. I was delighted with what I found. Americans are very different fromthe ways the elites and the media pundits want us to see ourselves. TheAmerican people are generally broad-minded, moderate, and generous. These arenot the images of Americans we see on television or the adjectives that come tomind when we think of America's rich and powerful elite. But America'spolitical institutions have broken down, so that the broad public no longerholds these elites to account. And alas, the breakdown of politics alsoimplicates the broad public. American society is too deeply distracted by ourmedia-drenched consumerism to maintain the habits of effective citizenship.

Clinical Economics

I am a macroeconomist, meaning that I study the overallfunctioning of a national economy rather than the workings of one particularsector. My operating principle is that the economy is intimately interconnectedwith a much broader drama that includes politics, social psychology, and thenatural environment. Economic issues can rarely be understood in isolation,though most economists fall into that trap. An effective macroeconomist mustlook at the big canvas, in which culture, domestic politics, geopolitics,public opinion, and environmental and natural resource constraints all playimportant roles in economic life.

My job as a macroeconomic adviser during the past quartercentury has been to help national economies function properly by diagnosingeconomic crises and then correcting breakdowns in key sectors of the economy.To do that job well, I must strive to understand in detail how the differentparts of the economy and society both fit together and interact with the worldeconomy through trade, finance, and geopolitics. Beyond that, I must alsostrive to understand the public's beliefs, the country's social history, andthe society's underlying values. All of this requires a broad and eclectic set oftools. Like other economists, I pore over charts and data. In addition, I readstacks of opinion surveys as well as cultural and political histories. Icompare notes with political and business leaders and visit factories,financial firms, high-tech service centers, and local community organizations.Sound ideas about economic reform must pass a "truth test" at manylevels, making sense at the community level as well as the national politicallevel.

A macroeconomist faces the challenge of a clinical doctorwho must help a patient with serious symptoms and an unknown underlyingdisease. An effective response involves making a correct diagnosis about theunderlying problem and then designing a treatment regimen to correct it. In mybook The End of Poverty I called this process "clinical economics."My inspiration has been my wife, Sonia, a gifted medical doctor who showed methe wonders of science-based clinical medicine.

I didn't train to be a clinical economist, thoughfortunately my theoretical training, combined with my wife's inspiration andsome very good professional luck, enabled me to forge an unusual personal pathto clinical economics. I was blessed with a first-rate education as anundergraduate and graduate student at Harvard, where I later joined the facultyin 1980. With life-changing good fortune, I became involved in practicaleconomic problem solving in Bolivia in 1985, and from then on I have built acareer at the intersection of theory and practice. I spent much of the 1980sworking in debt-ridden Latin America to help support that region's return todemocracy and macroeconomic stability after two decades of incompetent andviolent military rule. In the late 1980s and early 1990s I was invited to helpEastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in their transitions from communismand dictatorship to democracy and market economy. That work, in turn, broughtme invitations to the world's two great behemoths, China and India, where Icould watch, debate, and share ideas about the world-changing market reforms ofthose two great societies. Since the mid-1990s, I have turned much of myattention to the poorest regions of the world, and especially to sub-SaharanAfrica, to try to assist them in their ongoing fight against poverty, hunger,disease, and climate change.

Having worked in and diagnosed dozens of economies overmy career, I've come to have a good feel for the interplay of politics,economics, and a society's values. Lasting economic solutions are found whenall of these components of social life are brought into a proper balance.

In this book I will bring clinical economics to bear onAmerica's economic crisis. By taking a holistic view of America's economicproblems, I hope to diagnose some of the deeper maladies afflicting our societytoday and to correct the basic misdiagnosis that was made thirty years ago andthat still sticks today. When the U.S. economy hit the skids in the 1970s, thepolitical Right, represented by Ronald Reagan, claimed that government was toblame for its growing ills. This diagnosis, although incorrect, had a plausiblering to it to enough Americans to enable the Reagan coalition to begin aprocess of dismantling effective government programs and undermining thegovernment's capacity to help steer the economy. We are still living with thedisastrous consequences of that failed diagnosis, and we continue to ignore thereal challenges, involving globalization, technological change, andenvironmental threats.

America Is Ready for Reform

After a thorough diagnosis in the first half of the book,I'll get specific on what I think we should do. Those specific recommendationswill raise several big issues. First, can we really afford more governmentactivism in an era of huge budget deficits? I'll show that we both can andmust. Second, can a program of thoroughgoing reform really be manageable? Here,too, the answer is yes, even by a government that currently exhibits chronicincompetence. Third, is a reform program politically achievable in an era whenpolitics is as divisive as it is today? Successful reforms are almost alwaysinitially greeted with a broad chorus of skepticism. "That is politicallyimpossible." "The public will never agree." "Consensus isbeyond reach." These are the jeremiads we hear today whenever deep andreal reforms are proposed. During my quarter century of work around the world,I've heard them time and again, only to find that deep reforms were not onlypossible but eventually came to be viewed as inevitable.

Much of this book is about the social responsibility ofthe rich, roughly the top 1 percent of American households, who have never hadit so good. They sit at the top of the heap at the same time that around 100million Americans live in poverty or in its shadow.

I have no quarrel with wealth per se. Many wealthyindividuals are highly creative, talented, generous, and philanthropic. Myquarrel is with poverty. As long as there is both widespread poverty andbooming wealth at the top, and many public investments (in education, childcare, training, infrastructure, and other areas) that could reduce or end thepoverty, then tax cuts for the rich are immoral and counterproductive.

This book is also about planning ahead. I'm a firmbeliever in the market economy, yet American prosperity in the twenty-firstcentury also requires government planning, government investments, and clearlong-term policy objectives that are based on the society's shared values.Government planning runs deeply against the grain in Washington today. Mytwenty-five years of work in Asia have convinced me of the value of long-termgovernment planning-not, of course, the kind of dead-end central planning thatwas used in the defunct Soviet Union, but long-term planning of publicinvestments for quality education, modern infrastructure, secure and low-carbonenergy sources, and environmental sustainability.

The Mindful Society

"The unexamined life is not worth living," saidSocrates. We might equally say that the unexamined economy is not capable ofsecuring our well-being. Our greatest national illusion is that a healthysociety can be organized around the single-minded pursuit of wealth. Theferocity of the quest for wealth throughout society has left Americansexhausted and deprived of the benefits of social trust, honesty, andcompassion. Our society has turned harsh, with the elites on Wall Street, inBig Oil, and in Washington among the most irresponsible and selfish of all.When we understand this reality, we can begin to refashion our economy.

Two of humanity's greatest sages, Buddha in the Easterntradition and Aristotle in the Western tradition, counseled us wisely abouthumanity's innate tendency to chase transient illusions rather than to keep ourminds and lives focused on deeper, longer-term sources of well-being. Bothurged us to keep to a middle path, to cultivate moderation and virtue in ourpersonal behavior and attitudes despite the allures of extremes. Both urged usto look after our personal needs without forgetting our compassion towardothers in society. Both cautioned that the single-minded pursuit of wealth andconsumption leads to addictions and compulsions rather than to happiness andthe virtues of a life well lived. Throughout the ages, other great sages, fromConfucius to Adam Smith to Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, have joined thecall for moderation and compassion as the pillars of a good society.

To resist the excesses of consumerism and the obsessivepursuit of wealth is hard work, a lifetime challenge. To do so in our mediaage, filled with noise, distraction, and temptation, is a special challenge. Wecan escape our current economic illusions by creating a mindful society, onethat promotes the personal virtues of self-awareness and moderation, and thecivic virtues of compassion for others and the ability to cooperate across thedivides of class, race, religion, and geography. Through a return to personaland civic virtue, our lost prosperity can be regained.


Prosperity Lost

There can be no doubt that something has gone terriblywrong in the U.S. economy, politics, and society in general. Americans are onedge: wary, pessimistic, and cynical.

There is widespread frustration with the course of eventsin America. Two-thirds or more of Americans describe themselves as"dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States," upfrom around one-third in the late 1990s.1 A similar proportion of Americansdescribe the country as "off track."2

This is coupled with a pervasive cynicism about thenature and role of government. Americans are deeply estranged from Washington.A large majority, 71 percent to 15 percent, describes the federal government as"a special interest group that looks out primarily for its owninterests," a startling commentary on the miserable state of Americandemocracy. A similarly overwhelming majority, 70 percent to 12 percent, agreesthat "government and big business typically work together in ways thathurt consumers and investors." The U.S. government haslost the confidence of the American people in a way that has not previouslyoccurred in modern American history or probably elsewhere in the high-incomeworld. Americans harbor fundamental doubts about the motivations, ethics, and competencyof their federal government.

This lack of confidence extends to most of America'smajor institutions. As we see in the data from a recent opinion survey (seeTable 2.1), the public deeply distrusts banks, large corporations, news media,the entertainment industry, and unions, in addition to their distrust of thefederal government and its agencies. Americans are especially skeptical of theoverarching institutions at the national and global level-Congress, banks, thefederal government, and big business-and more comfortable with the institutionscloser to home, including small churches, colleges, and universities.

From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

"The latest in a spate of books provoked by the world economic crisis and one of the best" (Guardian)

"The economic critique stands on its own merits" (The Times)

"Scholarly, original, independent, rigorous, enlightened and enlightening...Sachs goes so far to restore one's wavering faith in the informing inspiration of the post-1945 new dawn, faith in economics... and faith in humanity" (Spectator)

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Very insightful book that teaches you a lot about the US economy. However, its policy recommendations are a bit poor and not up to the task described in the first half of the book
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x90d1490c) étoiles sur 5 140 commentaires
248 internautes sur 262 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9222681c) étoiles sur 5 An Eloquent Plea for Meaningful Change 4 octobre 2011
Par Tiger CK - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
In the Price of Civilization Jeffrey Sachs makes a powerful call for significant changes in the way the U.S. government manages the economy. According to Sachs, an economics professor at Columbia University, Washington has not devised policies that meet the challenge of globalization. Rather than investing in education and infrastructure, as many Asian countries have during the last twenty years, they have resorted to popular short-term stimulus measures such as cutting taxes and reducing interest rates. These problems have been exacerbated by lobbyists whose influence over Republicans and Democrats has made meaningful change impossible.

Sachs argues that the best solution for these problems is for Washington to move toward a "mixed economy" in which a more effective government plays a larger role in regulating businesses. He believes that the current problems in the American economy are structural and not short-term. With the Republicans and Democrats both seeking solutions that will prop up the economy for a year or two rather than address the structural issues, the United States is on the wrong course and not likely to return to the levels of prosperity it previously enjoyed. These problems can only be solved if the government makes a long-term commitment to investing in industry in part by raising taxes on the wealthy and reducing the growing gap between the rich and poor.

The Price of Civilization is divided into two sections. The first section covers The Great Crash and gives a thoroughly detailed description of the mistakes made by American elected officials. He critiques free market capitalism as well as those politicians who have blamed big government for the United States' difficulties in meeting the challenges of globalization. Sachs devotes the second part of the book to laying out his solutions for the economic woes that have beset the United States. His chapter on "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Government" was especially powerful. Here, he calls for policy makers in Washington to pay more attention to planning and to stop ignoring long-term considerations. Sachs demonstrates very convincingly in this book that Washington's inability to focus on the long-term during the last thirty years has been one of major contributing factors to the nation's current economic malaise.

Sachs's bold argument is not likely to be welcomed by either Democrats or Republicans. One Republican congressman (Paul Ryan) has already published a scathing review of the book in the Wall Street Journal more or less equating Sachs's proposals with socialism. But I think Americans fed up with Washington and its inability to solve the current crisis will find many of Sachs's arguments very compelling. The majority of Americans do wish that the government could be reclaimed form corporate lobbyists and the people empowered. They do recognize that politicians on both sides of the spectrum are part of the problem.

Is Sachs right? I don't agree with him on everything but I do think he makes many valid points especially on the shortsightedness of our politicians and the methods that they are now using to attack our economic problems. I am not completely sold on Sachs's mixed economy solutions, however. I believe the key to economic policy is not whether we lean toward laissez-fair or a mixed economy. In fact, both of these have been successful in certain situations and may be part of the solution. The key is that our economic policy be smart and farsighted. In this sense, Sachs's book is at least a step in the right direction.
93 internautes sur 100 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x92226870) étoiles sur 5 Important Ideas for the Future of America 5 octobre 2011
Par R. Sampson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
In "The Price of Civilization" Jeffrey Sachs, one of the top economists specializing in poor and developing countries, turns his attention to the problems facing the United States, a task that he finds himself "deeply surprised and unnerved" to have to undertake.

Sachs is a strong proponent of the "mixed economy" and argues that while the free market works in most cases, it cannot be expected to solve all problems by itself. Government has a crucial role, and Sachs lists three primary goals: efficiency, fairness, and sustainability. In order to achieve these things, government must provide services like regulation, redistribution of income to protect the most vulnerable, and investment in public goods like infrastructure and basic scientific research.

Sachs argues that, beginning with the Reagan administration, the U.S. government has increasingly abandoned this role, and has been more and more subject to capture by corporations and the wealthy elite. As a result of this, and of a distracted consumption-focused population, policy makers have underestimated the impact of globalization and failed to make the necessary investments and adaptations to insure the country's success in the future.

Sachs' prescriptions include increased public investment, especially in education, and a dramatic reduction in military expenditure. He also argues convincingly throughout the book that marginal taxes on the wealthy should be increased, as the rich are not paying their fair share of the "price of civilization."
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HASH(0x92226ca8) étoiles sur 5 The most COURAGEOUS Economist in the World tells you the Truth - Will We Listen ????? - 5 STARS 8 octobre 2011
Par Richard of Connecticut - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Whether you are from the left or the right, Democrat or Republican, this is the book you must read to understand America. It is extraordinary because it is completely understandable. There is no jargon. This is a totally understandable narrative of what America is facing today and what we as concerned citizens can do about it.
Any undergraduate in college can tell you that economics is more about advanced mathematics than anything else. Warren Buffett, America's most famous investor will tell you that if he needed calculus to make investments, he'd still be delivering newspapers in Omaha. What Sachs has done is come at us with the truth, the unvarnished, unfiltered, objective truth as he sees it.

He pulls no punches and makes no pretense at protecting anyone else's feelings and reputation. He admits voting for Obama, and then tells us why the President has failed us miserably. He will vote for Obama next time as well, but he doesn't mind making point after point why the current programs in effect and proposed can't possibly work. His analysis and conclusions are impeccable. There's no bias here. This is the information you and I as citizens of the Great Republic desperately need and we are not getting it anywhere else.

Mass media wastes our time with the same old recycled nonsense from both sides of the aisle, but not Harvard trained Jeffery Sachs. He comes right at us and tells us that Washington gives us gimmicks after gimmicks when we need long term planning that makes sense. He is absolutely straight forward when he informs us that the millions of jobs lost to China through globalization are GONE FOREVER. The problem is structural unemployment and nobody in the government has attacked it.

The answer is to RE-TRAIN the workforce and we haven't spent one penny doing it. We give people unemployment and then they sit and watch television for 98 weeks, when for $4000 per year we can put them through community college and get them ready for the 2 million jobs that desperately need filling in our economy for which there are no takers. Is anybody listening to Sachs in Washington? The answer is no one, and when you ask the author why they aren't listening. He has a simple answer.

The President spends his time at fund raisers when only elite well-off voters write checks for almost $40,000 per plate. He is surrounded by the rich and powerful who fill his ears with what THEY WANT, not what is good for America, but what is good for THEM. According to Sachs, the Congress is bought, sold, and paid for by lobbyists representing the wealthiest people, families, corporations in America. WE as citizens vote for them, and THEY the SPECIAL INTERESTS then own them.

The lobbyists take the Congressmen to lavish dinners at the finest restaurants in Washington. They give them access to whatever they need to sustain their Washington existence. They put the word out on the street that this elected official plays ball, and campaign contributions come rolling in. We know that 95% of all elections are won by the guy with more money, and the lobbyists know how to take advantage of this reality. As a society we are the poorer for this reprehensible behavior.

The Price of Civilization is divided into two parts:

PART I - The Great Crash - Chapters 1 - 8

PART II - The Path to Prosperity - Chapters 9 - 13

There are 265 pages of riveting narrative. Its seat of your pants type writing, it is simply that interesting. If you are a concerned citizen, if you are a policy wonk, if you simply care about your country, you cannot put this book down.

In the first part of the book, Sachs gives us the details about how America's prosperity was lost, no blame here, just the facts. This author is not concerned about fixing the blame; he wants to fix the problems. He has devoted his life to fixing economic problems around the world, especially in lesser developed countries. He has now realized that America, a country of such enormous wealth and power has squandered its resources in a misguided fashion, and that he is worried about his own country. He has given us this book as a roadmap for what we must do.

This is a book he did not want to write. He takes us through the decline of civic virtue which has led to a severe lack of social responsibility among those of us who should know better. Unless the rich and powerful do what they should be doing which is lead society instead of running off with a bigger and bigger share of the national income each year, we will continue our decline as an affluent society. This is covered thoroughly in Chapter 5 - The Divided Nation.

Chapter 7 is the chapter that begs to be read. It is entitled the RIGGED GAME, and the game is indeed rigged. The tax code is written by and for the rich and the corporations. Normally 10,000 long, there are 70,000 pages of exemptions for the powerful, taking a 10,000 page code to 70,000 pages. More than 70,000 pages were written to cut down on the tax burden of the powerful who are simply the top 1% with the money and ability to write the checks.

Throughout the entire first half of the book the author could not have made it clearer that we live in a bifurcated society. We have two different countries living simultaneously side by side. For the rich, it has never been better. There has been a disproportionate amount of the income in our country going to the very rich. No society in history has lasted very long with this behavior - that's what history says.

Sach's lays out the facts and some of the facts are brutal:

* Short-term measures don't generate long term results

* Massive corporations keep and book profits abroad and pay no taxes - it's just wrong

* The 35% corporate tax rate is a fraud. No Fortune 500 company in America pays 35%. It's there to humor the masses.

* President Obama's 800 billion stimulus program was just a gimmick as is his current stimulus proposal. It's a one year, one trick pony.

* Lobbyists dominate and CONTROL the United States Congress.

* The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have achieved nothing for us in spite of more than a trillion dollars being spent, and a trillion more will be spent before they are over.

Part II Blows you away

It is in the second part of this book that we can find optimism and hope. The book is full of prescriptions and BOLD ideas. These are concepts that our politicians will never implement until a new crisis appears and it will appear. The author quotes President Obama's former Chief of Staff, Ram Emanuel that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and the President did waste it.

The author tells us we must get people back into schools that can give them the training for the jobs exist now and will exist in the next few years. Jobs that the Chinese and India cannot take from us because of their slave wages -18 cents to a dollar per hour.

For two years we have given unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and never forced them to go back to school to continue their benefits. We should have created the equivalent of the next GI Bill. For $4000 per year, they could have gone to community colleges and gotten the training, but no Democrat and no Republican proposed this. You could put one million people into community colleges for $8 billion per and yet the President is proposing near $500 billion to stimulate the economy and the bill won't work. For $80 billion, still a fraction of the President's stimulus proposal you could put 10 million Americans through community colleges that are now only 40% filled to capacity. There room and there's talent, why aren't we doing it?

Sachs implores us that we must increase taxes on the rich. They can afford it. He points out that all the benefits of the last 20 years, of globalization have gone to the rich and then the Congress gave them the benefits of tax cuts too. They got a double whammy on the upside. What's going on here? Oh and by the way, The Price of Civilization according to Oliver Wendell Holmes the Supreme Court Justice is TAXES. Thank you for reading this review.

Richard Stoyeck
23 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x92226c90) étoiles sur 5 Good identification of problems, questionable solution paths presented 19 janvier 2012
Par A. Menon - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
The Price of Civilization is an attempt to describe the problems Jeffrey Sachs sees in the US economy and how to fix them. It is very readable and insightful giving much food for thought. It reads well though its tone oscillates between being a dispassionate observer to an angry bystander in which emotional outbursts are included. The problems facing the US are vast and politics are more polarized than anytime in the post world war era (with the measure being party voting overlap for example). At the same time there are deep issues to be solved in which paralysis compound the process with the result being much larger costs to society. The Price of Civilization is an attempt by an author who really cares about people to describe and offer guidance on how to fix these issues.

The book is split into 2 parts, the first called The Great Crash, the second The Path to prosperity. The titles make apparant the first half of the books purpose of describing our situation and problems and the second to solving them. I will start with the first part. There are many themes in the authors analysis of the problems in the US, most economic and well cited elsewhere- including wage growth and stagnation as a function of education, the divergence in incomes resulting in rising inequality. The changing diversity of society in demographics and ethnicity and resulting issues are covered in a few examples. The issues arising from globalization are discussed as well. The author makes a strong point of discussing how corporate interests seem to control politics to a degree never seen before. There is much philosophy intertwined about the degradation of society and values and how people have lost their civic duty (citing putnam's bowling alone for example).

The path to prosperity is an attempt to give a plan to set us back on the path to a well balanced life. The first step, which is casually described as what we have lost that needs to be regained is a participation in society. Aristotilian ethics and buddhism are given as examples of what leads to a good life (interesting to hear aristotle brought up here as well as in Justice by Sandel). After a description of the qualities of people that are desirable, to be knowledeable and considerate etc the author sets out his concrete goals which are then listed- he has 8. The author gives guidance on his 8 goals in general terms and this is the core of the chapter. The essentially contain raising emplyment improving education, reducing poverty, consider ecology, budget discipline, improve corporate ethics, revert to softpower national security, consider new measures of progress like gross national happiness.

There are lots I like about the book but there is much that is frustrating. The author comes off as looking to allocate blame instead of building consensus despite making a point to say he is not doing that. He seems to argue that what we need is money to fix our problems (which is true) without focusing on the need for major reform to precede it. He uses economic examples that in other places he articulates as causes of stress - Sweden is constantly brought up as a happy place with high taxes, which is true but it is a homogenous ethnic population. Diversity is the source of discontent when kin dont subsidise each other - the subject of one of the author's own sections... See Tanzi if one actually wants to do the right case analysis. The book is riddled with socializing arguments masked as obvious necessity, he makes mistakes about income taxes on super rich, ie hf managers getting taxed @ 15%, i think he means private equity (at least that is what the news is talking about because their income is capital gains not income). He argues we should all work less to increase employment citing Germany as an example- he fails to mention that in Asia (Korea, Japan, China etc) the work hours are 15% higher than in the US. There are aspects of truth to what he says- if skills atrophy then having more flexible hours instead of labour force participation volatility creates better social cohesion but its argued poorly. Look at Spain Italy and Greece where inflexible labour participation in many industries has helped create mass youth unemployment. The author uses data selectively and unconvincingly- this is a common theme. In another example he discusses how low US taxes are at the federal level relative to elsewhere with the next section giving figures including state level taxation that blows the argument out of the water! Anyway, i do believe in much of what he says- higher taxes are needed, lower spending is needed, i would like people to be more civic minded so we could form consensus but the author is too preachy. The author is disillusioned and fed up with the direction, as are many in the country for good reason. The discussion of what we have in common is well needed, the analysis of what to do though has elements of insight, but much is too clouded in anger and lack of objectivity. At times its a fun to read and at times it can be pretty tough, I do recommend it all in all.
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HASH(0x915e4078) étoiles sur 5 A book of two halves 6 août 2013
Par Athan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I wanted to take Jeff Sachs's course in college, but he was never there to teach it. He was too busy saving the world, and the Eastern Block countries in particular, to turn up for his fall semester class in International Economics.

If this book is any guide, that's quite lucky for me.

The book has two parts. In the first, all 175 pages of it, the author exposes what's wrong with the world. In the second part, a mere 90 pages, he offers his solutions.

One star is probably too generous for part one. If it had been written by a Zen Buddhist monk, I'd have been more lenient, I might even be half-impressed. But if this is the best one of the rock star economists of our planet can do, we're in deep trouble. I'm rather liberal in my leanings, this ought to have been right up my alley. Instead, I found myself thinking I need to take my losses and start reading something else.

EVERYBODY knows there's a case to be made for government, everybody knows CEOs are overpaid, everybody knows politicians can be bought, and quite frankly nobody really agrees with some of the weirder stuff Sachs talks about. I know that giants like John Kenneth Galbraith shared the author's aversion for advertizing, but nine out of ten people you ask would not put the advertizing model in their top 100 problems with today's capitalism. Hell, I like ads! And I have no patience for a globetrotting professor telling me I need to worship Gandhi or Buddah. Not if the book is advertised as an economics book. Jeff Sachs has his place in the pantheon of economists, but for my money (which I forked out to buy this opus) he's a crumby philosopher.

But I finished part one of the book and got to part two and my persistence was rewarded. First, somewhere around page 180 (give or take 20 pages, I haven't got the book here) the author tells you what "the price of civilization" is. It's taxes. Hats off to him for keeping that under wraps that long. Even better, his laundry list of solutions / propositions / answers to the world's ills is thorough and clearly presented and, frankly, at odds with the weirdness of the first part of the book. It comprises a list of necessary areas where we need to spend more, places where we can make cuts and ways to raise revenue, all with estimated numbers attached. I'd give four stars to the second 90 pages, with the fifth star missing because he does not back up the proposals with anywhere near as much oomph as they deserve.

Overall, though, I can't help thinking there's some type of ulterior motive to this book. Don't know if Jeff Sachs is trying to move from Economics to Philosophy or from problem solver to Zen master, but what he's doing here is attempting some type of transformation. Two stars.
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