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How Much is Enough?

by Edward Skidelsky Robert Skidelsky

What constitutes the good life? What is the true value of money? Why do we work such long hours merely to acquire greater wealth? These are some of the questions that many asked themselves when the financial system crashed in 2008. This book tackles such questions head-on. The authors begin with the great economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1930 Keynes predicted that, within a century, per capita income would steadily rise, people's basic needs would be met, and no one would have to work more than fifteen hours a week. Clearly, he was wrong: though income has increased as he envisioned, our wants have seemingly gone unsatisfied, and we continue to work long hours. The Skidelskys explain why Keynes was mistaken. Then, arguing from the premise that economics is a moral science, they trace the concept of the good life from Aristotle to the present and show how our lives over the last half century have strayed from that ideal. Finally, they issue a call to think anew about what really matters in our lives and how to attain it. How Much Is Enough? is that rarity, a work of deep intelligence and ethical commitment accessible to all readers. It will be lauded, debated, cited, and criticized. It will not be ignored.

Keynes

by Robert Skidelsky

When unbridled capitalism falters, is there an alternative? The smartest and, for most of the century, most influential economist, tells us that there is. 'In the long run,' Keynes famously said, 'we are all dead'. But John Maynard Keynes has never been quite dead, and has led a ghostly half-life in the corridors of central banks, treasuries and in the economics profession for decades. In the current financial crisis Keynes has been taken out of his cupboard, dusted down, consulted, cited, invoked and appealed to about how a rescue operation can be effected. But very little attention has so far been paid to Keynes's explanation of why economies experience these sorts of collapses. There are three main ideas of Keynes's worth thinking about now. The first is that the future is unknowable, and therefore that economic storms, especially those originating in the financial system, are not random shocks which impinge on smoothly-adjusting markets, but part of the normal working of the market system. The second idea is that economies wounded by these 'shocks' can, if left to themselves, stay in a depressed condition for a long time. That is why governments need to have and use fiscal ammunition to prevent a slide from financial crisis to economic depression. The third is a moral critique of societies which worship the pursuit of money and efficiency above all other objects of human striving. No one has bettered Keynes's description of the psychology of investors during a financial crisis: 'The practice of calmness and immobility, of certainty and security, suddenly breaks down. New fears and hopes will, without warning, take charge of human conduct . . . the market will be subject to waves of optimistic and pessimistic sentiment'. The ideas of John Maynard Keynes have never been more timely.

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