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

Authors: Robert Skidelsky & Edward Skidelsky

ISBN: 978-1-846-14448-6

An interesting question that is never asked in our modern society. Because surely everyone wants more? “How much is Enough?” begins by looking back at how we set off on this road to growth, and how the economy has provided real progress to remove the risk of extreme poverty. In the developed world, we have succeeded. Crops fail and droughts occur, leading to famines for the developing world, but these no longer impact us. We can buy our way out of hunger. We have support structures that protect us from pestilence and disease. What we are now facing is relative poverty, one person’s wealth against another. We should be celebrating this interim success, by helping those who haven’t reached this level yet. But along the way, we forgot where we were aiming for. We are all still climbing upwards, but towards what? Economic growth and GDP are the only measures that politicians believe we are interested in, and so we continue without an end. Written in 2012 after several years of economic depression, the authors review Keynes’ attempt to foresee the future of work and poverty as he saw it from the depths of the 1930s recession. Keynes saw the use of capitalism as a necessary evil in order to reach the point when we would get the results we were after. When we reached this point of abundance for all, when our ‘needs’ were met, we would reduce our working hours accordingly. Greater mechanization would mean less work would be required to create products, and so we would have more time for leisure, and life. Whilst Keynes’ predicted many drivers correctly over time, he underestimated the insatiable growth of ‘desires’ to replace our dwindling list of ‘needs’. The twentieth century saw the introduction of advertising to teach consumers to buy because of our desires, rather than our needs. We no longer had natural or moral limits to our greed. (You might really like eating cheesecake, but there is still a natural limit to consumption. With greed for money, this limit doesn’t exist.) Greed and competitive consumption were encouraged, and the concept of avarice, as one of the seven deadly sins was buried. Conspicuous consumption had become a requirement for modern living, rather than an embarrassment. Continue reading

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