December 11, 2011
BOOK OF THE WEEK: WEEK FIFTY, 2011
Jeffrey D. Sachs, The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity (New York: Random House, 2011) ("The American economy increasingly serves only a narrow part of society, and America's national politics has failed to put the country back on track through honest, open, and transparent problem solving. Too many of America's elites--among the super-rich, the CEOs, and many of my colleagues in academia--have abandoned a commitment to social responsibility. They chase wealth and power, the rest of society be damned." Id. at 4-5. "I have no quarrel with wealth per se. Many wealthy individuals are highly creative, talented, generous, and philanthropic. My quarrel is with poverty. As long as there is both widespread poverty and booming wealth at the top, and many public investments (in education, child care, training, infrastructure, and other area) that could reduce or end poverty, then tax cuts for the rich are immoral and counterproductive." Id. at 8. "Our greatest national illusion is that a healthy society can be organized around the single-minded pursuit of wealth. The ferocity of the quest for wealth throughout society has left Americans exhausted and deprived of the benefits of social trust, honesty, and compassion. Our society has turned harsh, with the elites of Wall Street, in Big Oil, and in Washington among the most irresponsible and selfish of all. When we understand this reality, we can begin to refashion our economy." Id. at 9. "[A]s economic life becomes more complex, we should expect the role of government to become more extensive. Therefore, expecting to find good twenty-first-century economic answers in a constitution that dates back to 1789 is unrealistic. The Founding Fathers were clever, to be sure, but the cleverest thing they realized is that Thomas Jefferson's famous aphorism that 'the earth belongs to the living' means laws from a premodern age should not blindly bind us today. We need fresh thinking about our circumstances, especially at a time of rapid globalization, environmental threats, and a knowledge-based economy." Id. at 45. "We will need . . . to achieve a new mindfulness regarding our needs as individuals and as a society, to find a more solid path to well-being" Id. at 164. "Mindfulness, I would suggest, is crucial in eight dimensions of our lives: Mindfulness of self: personal moderation to escape mass consumerism[;] Mindfulness of work: the balancing of work and leisure[;] Mindfulness of knowledge: the cultivation of education[;] Mindfulness of others: the exercise of compassion and cooperation[;] Mindfulness of nature: the conservation of the world's ecosystems[;] Mindfulness of the future: the responsibility to save for the future[;] Mindfulness of politics: the cultivation of public deliberation and shared values for collective action through political institutions[;] Mindfulness of the world: the acceptance of diversity as a path to peace". Id. at 165. Read this book along with Friedman & Mandelbaum, That Used To Be Us, and Lessig, Republic, Lost. Also, contrast Sachs, The Price of Civilization, with the the views of libertarian law professor Richard A. Epstein, expressed in his October 26, 2011, interview on The News Hour on PBS.).