Money and the Good Life

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky argue that economics is a moral science, and they trace the concept of the good life from Aristotle to the present day. In their book How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life, they investigate what the good life really means, what the true value of money is, and why we concentrate so much on acquiring greater wealth.


Edward Skidelsky and Robert Skidelsky

Comments [10]

Orla from Manhattan

Are your guests putting a dollar figure on the happiness threshold? I'm curious since the presumed threshold was just dropped to $50k p.a. from $75kp.a. by a recent study. (Interestingly, counterintuitive considering inflation.)

Jun. 13 2012 12:37 PM

What about accumulation -- the repetitive thrill of new stuff -- as a hedge against the reality of death?

Jun. 13 2012 12:32 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

There will ALWAYS be employment for those who are physically capable of doing work, but at a wage that he or she can barely subsist on. Throughout the centuries the wealthy have always build large mansions, palaces, castles and tombs which supplied work to the idle usually at a wage just great enough so he or she could live to work another day. Unless it's a slave labor system where people can be worked to death and replaced by an inexhaustible supply of slaves. But slavery, thankfully, is no longer legal but subsistance wages still is.

But there will always be work as long as capitalists can produce some profits. When profits can no longer be produced, then work for wages ceases to exist. Even crime ceases when poverty is that endemic.

Jun. 13 2012 12:30 PM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

Leonard, No doubt Keynes was one of the more complex and thoughtful "practical philosophers" to ever come along, but also hard to categorize.

The discussion is quite overlooking the important theme of his work, discussed in Chapter 16 and as "the widows cruse" fable, that the tendency of investors to accumulate their savings has a "runaway" potential. It's because investor self-interest is to keep adding their profits to their savings, even if that means the rest of the economy will become impoverished.

That only applies to when the rest of the economy is not constrained and unable to "grow its way out" of that burden of ever growing financial obligations. Yes, but that's today.

Jun. 13 2012 12:28 PM
GW from manhattan

Wealth is created as soon as something of "value" is created . What ever system distributes it, manufactures it or what ever is irrelevant to that creation. Capitalism is not inevitable. The wealthiest societies in history were not capitalist. The Incan, and Aztec Empires (which provide most of the Gold and Silver that made Europe rich after the rape of the Americas, were not financed by capitalists and investment bankers.

THe so called "failure" of Soviet economies was as such a collaboration of capitalists to bring about a diversion of resources towards countering the military threat of the west. If left alone to prosper the Soviet Union which accomplished much even with all the devastation of war and dictatorship was extremely productive and innovative , and managed to lift vast areas of that part of the world into the modern area. (which is why Muslim central Asia under Soviet tutelage poses no threat to the world the way that Muslim nations associated with the USA do.

Increasing, The price of goods and services is falling as production is automated and huge economies of scale are I'm place top provide our needs. This is at the root of the current crises. Everything is almost free .. the costs of everything are basically just labour. We have a surplus of labour.

Capitalists wil try to subvert this trend because money is increasingly representing political power not just purchasing power.

Jun. 13 2012 12:28 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

A great rabbinical sage was one asked, who is a rich man? He replied, "A truly rich man is one who is CONTENT with his lot in life."

If you can find peace and contentment in your own life with whatever little you have, you are already a rich person. That may sound like a Buddhist concept, but I think it can apply to everyone who is prepared to accept it.

Jun. 13 2012 12:22 PM

Oh Leonard,

You're becoming such the Devil's Advocate -
"Unfair to Marx"? Whatever can you mean?

Jun. 13 2012 12:18 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Keynes was wrong about many things. Einstein was wrong about many things too. Both were pacifists, and Keynes blamed the Versailles treaty for the rise of Hitler. Appeasement and pacifism were rife in the '20s and '30s.

Marx's basic axiom was wrong, that capitalists were simply ripping off the "surplus labor" of the oppressed worker, when in fact, wealth is created only when profits are created. When something is made but cannot be sold at a profit, and must sit in a warehouse or be destroyed, then wealth had actually been lost. So the capitalist creates wealth by putting together labor and capital and marketing to make and sell something at a profit, and hence creating wealth. How much of that profit he gets to keep after paying his workers, is where tax policy comes in.

Jun. 13 2012 12:16 PM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, Ca

Money in our society is freedom; I have very bad social anxiety but must leave my house and be amongst crowds of nearly-incomprehensible humans because I have not found a way to make enough money from home. If I had more money, I could avoid this near-daily sand-papering of my mind, a little more worn off forever every day it feels. (And you may well think me damaged from reading this....)

And even if I could stand people, I doubt I could much stand the hierarchy that most jobs impose. I get no pleasure from receiving or giving orders, and most of the time the work-place seems more devoted to this sick S&M-style game (apologies to the S&M community) than to getting useful work done. Unless you are rich or a prisoner, you get more direct orders from your boss in an average day than from the Big Evil Gummint in a decade.

The only true freedom is the ability to do as you will; the only necessary constraint on that were the provision that one harm no-one else---all other constraints, be they governmental tyranny, social bullying, or economic limitations imposed by our laughably primitive technology and social systems that lead to our current condition of scarcity, are unnecessary.

Jun. 13 2012 11:16 AM
oscar from ny

$Money is good...but health can even be better :)

Jun. 13 2012 09:59 AM

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