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The Price of Civilization
Cover of The Price of Civilization
The Price of Civilization
Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
 
“Succinct, humane, and politically astute . . . Sachs lays out a detailed path to reform, regulation, and recovery.”—The American Prospect
 
In this forceful and impassioned book, Jeffrey D. Sachs offers a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills, and an urgent call for Americans to restore the core virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, profoundly underestimating globalization’s long-term effects and offering shortsighted solutions. He describes a political system that is beholden to big donors and influential lobbyists and a consumption-driven culture that suffers shortfalls of social trust and compassion. He bids readers to reclaim the virtues of good citizenship and mindfulness toward the economy and each one another. Most important, he urges each of us to accept the price of civilization, so that together we restore America to its great promise. The Price of Civilization is a masterly road map for prosperity, founded on America’s deepest values and on a rigorous understanding of the twenty-first-century world economy.
 
With a new Preface by the author.

“Half a century ago J. K. Galbraith’s The Affluent Society changed the political consciousness of a generation. . . . Jeffrey Sachs’s new book is a landmark in this great and essentially American tradition. . . . Sachs by his life and his writing goes far to restore one’s wavering faith in the informing inspiration of the post-1945 new dawn, faith in economics, faith in America and faith in humanity.”—The Spectator

 
“Stimulating . . . a must-read for every concerned citizen . . . [a] hard-hitting brief for a humane economy.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Sachs’s book is loaded with information and anecdotes [and] proposals that would make it harder for the powerful to rig the system for their benefit.”—Scientific American
 
“An eloquent call for American civic renewal based on moderation, compassion, and cooperation across the lines of class, ethnicity, and ideology.”—CNN Money
 
“Compelling . . . This is an important book.”—Financial Times
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
 
“Succinct, humane, and politically astute . . . Sachs lays out a detailed path to reform, regulation, and recovery.”—The American Prospect
 
In this forceful and impassioned book, Jeffrey D. Sachs offers a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills, and an urgent call for Americans to restore the core virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, profoundly underestimating globalization’s long-term effects and offering shortsighted solutions. He describes a political system that is beholden to big donors and influential lobbyists and a consumption-driven culture that suffers shortfalls of social trust and compassion. He bids readers to reclaim the virtues of good citizenship and mindfulness toward the economy and each one another. Most important, he urges each of us to accept the price of civilization, so that together we restore America to its great promise. The Price of Civilization is a masterly road map for prosperity, founded on America’s deepest values and on a rigorous understanding of the twenty-first-century world economy.
 
With a new Preface by the author.

“Half a century ago J. K. Galbraith’s The Affluent Society changed the political consciousness of a generation. . . . Jeffrey Sachs’s new book is a landmark in this great and essentially American tradition. . . . Sachs by his life and his writing goes far to restore one’s wavering faith in the informing inspiration of the post-1945 new dawn, faith in economics, faith in America and faith in humanity.”—The Spectator

 
“Stimulating . . . a must-read for every concerned citizen . . . [a] hard-hitting brief for a humane economy.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Sachs’s book is loaded with information and anecdotes [and] proposals that would make it harder for the powerful to rig the system for their benefit.”—Scientific American
 
“An eloquent call for American civic renewal based on moderation, compassion, and cooperation across the lines of class, ethnicity, and ideology.”—CNN Money
 
“Compelling . . . This is an important book.”—Financial Times
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  • Chapter One PART 1

    The Great Crash

    CHAPTER 1.

    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...
About the Author-
  • Jeffrey Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. He is internationally renowned for his contributions to solving some of the world's most daunting economic and social crises, in his roles as a leading scholar and as an economic adviser to governments and international organizations around the world.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 29, 2011
    Best known for advising postcommunist and impoverished countries on development strategies, economist Sachs (Common Wealth) takes on the cesspool of debt, backwardness, and corruption that is the United States in this hard-hitting brief for a humane economy. Sachs surveys an America where the rich get richer and the rest grow poorer, less secure, and less prepared for a modern economy; where a fixation by both parties on cutting taxes and coddling corporate donors—Sachs issues stinging rebukes of Obama's policies—creates insupportable federal deficits and stymies critical reforms and spending programs; and where an electorate stupefied by mass media and advertising ignores its better instincts and pursues a mindless consumerism. The author's straightforward exposition, buttressed by a wealth of revealing tables and charts, sharply rebuts reigning free market orthodoxies and makes a compelling case for an activist state that redistributes wealth and makes life fairer and more productive for everyone. Sachs's remedies are less focused than his critique, and his pinning of all hope on the 15- to 29-year-old "Millennial Generation," aka "the children of the Internet," feels naïve and ageist. Still, his stimulating, staunchly progressive take on America's dysfunctions is a must-read for every concerned citizen.

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2011

    A noted economist argues that deep reforms are needed to bring renewed prosperity to the United States—a nation "dangerously out of balance," where a tiny elite holds wealth and power without regard for their fellow citizens.

    Known for his studies of economies in Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere, Sachs (Healthy Policy and Management/Columbia Univ.; Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, 2008, etc.) weighs in for the first time on America's economic ills. Drawing on diverse studies and surveys, he characterizes the U.S. as a competitive market society in which "the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world." From the New Deal through the 1960s, the federal government steered the national economy for the public good. But in the '80s, power shifted to special interests, whose concern was private advantage, leaving the U.S. economy vulnerable to the 2008 collapse. To restore prosperity, writes Sachs, America must once again have an activist government that works within the market system to create a more balanced economy and a society based on social trust, honesty and compassion. The author writes that most Americans support such reforms, but are misrepresented in Congress, where both parties enact policies "to the right of the public's true values" to please wealthy contributors. Sachs considers the effects of such forces as globalization, social change and media saturation, and shows how national consensus dissipated as a result of the civil-rights movement, the upsurge in Hispanic immigration the rise of the Sun Belt and suburbanization. Like social scientist Raj Patel (The Value of Nothing, 2010), Sachs writes that we must abandon the craving for wealth and create a more mindful society. A lucid writer, the author is refreshingly direct—tax cuts for the wealthy are "immoral and counterproductive"; stimulus funding and budget cutting are "gimmicks"—and he offers recommendations for serious reform.

    An important assessment of what ails America, and a must-read for policymakers.

     

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Booklist

    October 1, 2011
    How did we get into this messand how can we get out? Sachs, an international macroeconomist and director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, has some ideas. For 30 years, Sachs has multitasked in academia (Harvard, Columbia, short-term appointments around the world); in consulting (South America, the former Warsaw Pact states, sub-Saharan Africa, various United Nations entities); and in writing papers and books; his last two solo effortsThe End of Poverty (2005) and Common Wealth (2008)were New York Times best-sellers. In his new one, he explores the economic, political, social, and psychological roots of the U.S.'s 30-year journey from decades of consensus and high achievement to an era of deep division and growing crisis. He indicts America's elites for abandoning social responsibility, politicians for giving up on solving problems, the media for distraction and hyper-commercialization, and citizens for surrendering to that distraction. He urges mindfulness, clear goals for political reform, and significant tax changes, and he suggests that the millennial generation will lead the way to a restoration of the nation's highest aspirations.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

  • The Spectator

    Praise for THE PRICE OF CIVILIZATION

    "An important assessment of what ails America, and a must-read for policymakers."
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The Price of Civilization
Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity
Jeffrey D. Sachs
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