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The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,324 Ratings  ·  201 Reviews
For more than three decades, Jeffrey D. Sachs has been at the forefront of international economic problem solving. But Sachs turns his attention back home in The Price of Civilization, a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but al ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Random House (first published October 1st 2010)
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Nov 07, 2011 Harold rated it it was amazing
This is by far the best book on current US economics and political theory that I have read. Detailed, clear and persuasive. Starts with an economic history of the past 50 years to show how we have gotten here, and then details why the current political process and economic policy are wrong-headed and destined (if we don't change them) to lead to a serious decline in America's leadership role in the world, and its standard of living. Every member of Occupy Wall Street should read it so they know ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
May 09, 2013 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
Despite the fact that I completely disagreed with his "painting" regarding the outcome of some of these scenarios I do think the delivery was sharp and to the point. I loved the way he presented the data and tried to engage the reading audience with a myrid of examples and different topics and how they fit in to the current picture of Americas economy and policy. I am not sure if I agree with all of his views, but many of them need to be brought up. I though his information on the collective lac ...more
May 10, 2012 Matt rated it liked it
Sachs acts as if he is exposing problems for the first time, but actually, he's ended up preaching to the crowd. Not really sure who'll read this and find out new things about problems in America, although he is a master of using graphs to try to prove his arguments.

The biggest problem here is the disconnect between parts I and II. Part I is spent explaining why and how the system (systems?) is broken, and part II is Sachs's advice on fixing it. But the solutions often seem to gloss over politic
May 26, 2012 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Now I understand what a political economist is. Jeffrey Sachs is an outstanding example of one. This is a superb analysis of the current state of the US economy with an impressive list of suggestions on how to fix it. Prof. Sachs pulls no punches in his critique of both ends of the political spectrum and the damage that they have done to the American political system. He likewise indicts the media and the American people for their short attention span and their dangerous habit of kicking the sig ...more
Nov 24, 2012 Bruce rated it it was amazing
In this incisive and prescient presentation, Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and an renowned and highly respected international economist, presents his analysis of the economic and cultural challenges that the US is currently facing, and he courageously and convincingly provides recommendations for addressing those concerns.

In Part I, he diagnoses America’s current economic crisis, detailing how prosperity has been lost, the free-market fallacy, and Washington’s retreat from a sense of publ
May 05, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
The first half of this book is scary. Jeffrey Sachs seems to list all of the ills of our civilization. The state of politics, our economy, national values and consumer trends are falling into a deep dive. This book puts all these trends together, and it is very depressing.

Much of this book is about the shared social responsibility of the wealthy, and of corporations. Sachs is strongly against the huge political influence of large corporations. He is definitely a liberal--but that does not mean h
Oct 14, 2011 Danna marked it as to-read
The author explains to Tavis Smiley (PBS) that 99% of us need to wake up and realize our power (like some of us are beginning to do), and that both Democrats and Republicans are simply catering to the rich, for campaign contributions to get re-elected. We need publicly funded elections and accountability, with elected officials who work for the people, not the wealthiest Wall Street investors and brokers. When opposition politicians accuse Obama of class warfare and bailout Wall Street with litt ...more
Apr 03, 2014 Mishehu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Feeling drunk with excess? Need to sober up pronto? A few hours with Jeffrey Sachs should do the trick. What a dismal, depressing state of the union this book presents. In all, though, a completely convincing one. Sachs nails the diagnosis: ours is a failing political economy, spectacularly so on measure after measure. Can we, the masses, be at the mercy of more incompetent leaders or a more venal system of governance? To read this book is to oscillate between righteous anger and despair. But Sa ...more
Jud Barry
Mar 24, 2012 Jud Barry rated it really liked it
"I like to pay taxes," said Oliver Wendell Holmes. "With them I buy civilization." Economist Sachs (Earth Institute, Columbia) says the U.S. badly needs a new governing majority with Holmes's attitude.

At present, however, it appears things are going the other way. Surveying the American civic landscape, Sachs finds the commitment to public values fast eroding, with predictable results: a widening income gap, huge inequities of opportunity, an increasingly divided nation, a "corporatocracy" conce
Graham Mulligan
Dec 26, 2012 Graham Mulligan rated it it was amazing
The Price of Civilization – Economics and Ethics After the Fall
Jeffrey Sachs, Random House, 2011

Sachs says, “Much of this book is about the social responsibility of the rich” and about society’s shared values and the need to plan ahead to achieve common goals. The book is also a diagnosis of the failure of the American economy to achieve society’s common goals since the 1970’s and makes recommendations for future economic reforms. Sachs argues that there is a consensus on some key beliefs about
Oct 04, 2012 Doug rated it it was ok
Shelves: business, nonfiction
I've been reading enough of these books that the problem is going to be come combination of:

Special interests
Climate change

At the end of the day, it all boils down to greed and doing things today without any thought as to the consequences tomorrow. I am really wary of anyone who relies on some cultural awakening by young people to right the ship, didn't we go through this with the Baby Boomers and aren't they the ones causing a lot of the mess? The thing is, the author
H Wesselius
Dec 22, 2011 H Wesselius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent analysis of the current economic and political crisis in the United States. Correctly labeling the current American system a corporatocracy, he identifies various lobby groups who have a lock on both parties, leading to a decline of what he calls a civic virtue. In response he cites the need to view gov't as part of the solution and a partner with a market economic system resulting in a mixed economy. Several times he cites the Nordic model as an example for the US to realize that t ...more
Oct 06, 2011 Toni marked it as to-read
(Opening paragraph) "At the root of America's economic crisis lies a moral crisis: the decline of civic virtue among America's political and economic elite. A society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world... Without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningful and sustained economic recovery."

Jan 09, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
(This was the first book I read entirely on an e-reader and I'm surprised how different that was for me than reading a "real" book. I don't think I retained as much about the book as I usually do, but I really liked using the highlight and bookmark features, which made it easy for me to find certain quotes again.)

Mr. Sachs writes passionately and persuasively. "A society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion to
I like to read books that challenge my opinions, and The Price of Civilization definitely did that. I felt immediately that I could trust Sach's credentials; he's a clinical macroeconomist who has spent his career advising foreign governments about how to build and improve their economies. He states that in his early years he felt that America was doing well and didn't need his expertise, but our recent financial crises have changed his mind. This book is basically his diagnosis and prescription ...more
Dec 19, 2011 Converse rated it it was ok

Jeffery Sachs, an economist at Columbia University, is worried about the state of America. He sees a nation in which incomes for many have been stagnant since the 1970s in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, increasing income inequality, a chronic budget deficit and resulting increase in government debt, increased poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and an unwillingness to deal with climate change.

The Price of Civilization is a well documented book with end notes and a list of sources consulted, as

Sabrine Faragallah
Nov 12, 2011 Sabrine Faragallah rated it it was amazing
Fantastic synopsis of the current political and financial state of the US, although the ironic part of Sachs' analysis is that the folks who NEED to read his book before the next election, are still stuck in front of the TV watching distorted media news stations as their primary source of information.

Sach's proposals are too idealistic for practical adoption. The by-gone era's he nostalgically recalls, the New Deal years and the Kennedy years, were the result of a generation devastated by two W
David Wink
Oct 09, 2011 David Wink rated it really liked it
First off, I think Jeffrey Sachs is a brilliant guy, and the message of this book is certainly worth reading. The book's greatest shortfall is that it is a bit simplistic. It even has a paragraph that explains the basic principle of supply and demand. I've read Sachs' other books, and he's always readable, but he's an economist. I go to him because I want data thrown at me. This book is strongest when he is explaining problems with the American economy, and debunking stories told about the econo ...more
Jul 28, 2012 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The kind of unrestrained greed that is now loose in America,” writes economist Jeffrey Sachs, “is leading not to real liberty but to corporate criminality and deceit; not to democracy but to politics dominated by special interests; and not to prosperity but to income stagnation for much of the population and untold riches at the very top.” Sachs explains how we got into this deplorable state and then outlines a plan for getting the country back on track. Diehard righties will not find much to l ...more
Daniel Taylor
This questions poses an important question - how can American again become a global economic leader? - and it gives clear answers to this question.

The first half of the book diagnoses the causes of America's economic state, chief among them the influence of corporations on government. The second half of the book are proposed solutions, based on goals that can be measured.

What makes this book so appealing is the way Sachs keeps economics connected to the pursuit of happiness. After all, if the ta
Nov 13, 2011 Justin rated it it was amazing
Jeff Sachs is a world-renowned economist who turns his attention to the financial crisis and other issues that the United States faces. He describes the responsibility that every American has to their country and to the rest of the world and how we have recently dropped the ball regarding those responsibilities. All is not lost, though. Sachs goes on to suggest specific actions, both societal and political, that we can pursue to increase the level of fiscal responsibility, standard of living, an ...more
Lynn Johnson
Feb 04, 2013 Lynn Johnson rated it liked it
This book made me angry. In a good way. Opened my eyes to the systems in this country that are fueled by greed and injustice. It made me want to do something about it. Sachs shared economic theory in way that was easy for a non-economist to grasp. I appreciated that. I found his solutions to, what I call "a compassion deficit" sound and helpful. However, I also found his solutions somewhat one-sided in that they did not speak for me as an artist. As a woman. It made me understand how important i ...more
Sep 05, 2015 Brick&rope rated it it was ok
There is much to like in The Price of Civilization. The co-mingling of individual choices and economic outcomes is interesting. The linking of political malaise and long term social implications is impressive. The quote of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization." was new for me, and I thought it was worth the price of the book.

But there is also much to bemoan about this book. When an author takes on a broad canvas and attempts to ask the big questions, I prefe
Jun 16, 2015 Nicholas rated it liked it
It’s possible to wonder as you read Dr. Sach’s humane, brainy, informed, level-headed, compassionate treatise on the ills of the corporatocracy that now plague America and threaten to tear us asunder—as well as the prescriptive remedies he supplies on how to right the ship—why we can’t have more people such as himself in positions of political power: Why, in other words, do we continue to elect corrupt, greedy idiots while we have genuinely good and generously brilliant people like himself avai ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Ronnie rated it it was amazing
When I first started reading this book someone told me that it was a good bookend that went with Galbraith 's " Affluent Society". I had read that book when I was in the Army I went back and re-read that book and returned to Sachs " The Price of Civilization"...The person was right. If Gailbraith's writings were a warning of was to be...Sachs presentation is of what has happened..will happen..and the consequences of not stopping the craziness. We are all guilty..some more than ot ...more
Apr 27, 2014 Matt rated it liked it
The Price of Civilization is economist Jeffrey Sachs's diagnosis of and prescription for America's political maladies. Like any book of this sort, there is a lot to argue about, but all in all I found Sachs's contribution to this discussion beneficial to my understanding. That said, I found more areas of agreement in the diagnosis of the problem than in his prescription.

Starting with the diagnosis, two points stood out to me. First, American citizens are disengaged, easily manipulated, and I do
Michael Hitchcock
Oct 13, 2015 Michael Hitchcock rated it liked it
This could easily have been a five star book. The writing style is very clear and well ordered and the ideas are very important. I would hope that many of these ideas would become policy in the coming years. I just wish Sachs hadn't so consistently lost the specificity that a book like this needs to win over those who do not already agree.

I do not know Jeffrey Sachs or his work, but judging by his reputation and real-life success in the field of fixing the hell out of broken countries and broken
David Teachout
Feb 25, 2015 David Teachout rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
For a clear, broadly minded articulation of what ails American society, touching on the social to the political, there is little better to be done than what is found here. Sachs has been caricatured as a neo-liberal previously, but there is no such pie-in-the-sky thinking going on here. Certainly there is an incessant hope and belief that people have it within themselves to change for the better and overcome the social pressures that keep them like sheep under corporate and special interests, bu ...more
Michael Berman
Jul 10, 2012 Michael Berman rated it liked it
Shelves: current-events
I completely agreed with the author's diagnosis of the US circa 2011 (growing wealth inequality coupled with the wealthy increasingly detaching themselves from any sense of the common good, combined with the pernicious influence of money in politics). The book fell flat, though, in his suggestions for improvement. They were big on the "what" (i.e., "reduce the influence of money in politics") but dramatically lacking in the "how".
Jan 20, 2016 Breeze rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
In my case, I would say Jeffrey Sachs is "preaching to the choir", since I agree with most of his assertions about the dire state of the economy and compelling arguments for economic change. However, aside from the personal changes within ones own control (less consumption, "unplugging" from media hype and advertising, reading more, becoming more informed), I feel rather helpless as an individual to influence larger market trends such as the influence of corporations on the political system, dis ...more
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Is an American economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. One of the youngest economics professors in the history of Harvard University, Sachs became known for his role as an adviser to Eastern European and developing country governments in the implementation of so-called economic shock therapy during the transition from communism to a market system or during periods of ...more
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“Similarly, though the United States is one of the world’s richest economies by per capita income, it ranks only around seventeenth in reported life satisfaction. It is superseded not only by the likely candidates of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, which all rank above the United States but also by less likely candidates such as Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Indeed, one might surmise that it is health and longevity rather than income that give the biggest boost to reported life satisfaction. Since good health and longevity can be achieved at per capita income levels well below those of the United States, so too can life satisfaction. One marketing expert put it this way, with only slight exaggeration: Basic Survival goods are cheap, whereas narcissistic self-stimulation and social-display products are expensive. Living doesn’t cost much, but showing off does.” 5 likes
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