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The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse
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The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  509 ratings  ·  67 reviews
In The Progress Paradox, Gregg Easterbrook draws upon three decades of wide-ranging research and thinking to make the persuasive assertion that almost all aspects of Western life have vastly improved in the past century--and yet today, most men and women feel less happy than in previous generations. Why this is so and what we should do about it is the subject of this book. ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 25th 2003 by Random House (first published January 1st 2003)
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Rod Hilton
This book is pretty frustrating - it's rare for me to feel like I want to reach into a book and slap the author for being a dumbass, but I had that feeling multiple times reading this book.

The first portion of the book is essentially someone taking hours to say "everyone is miserable, but look how much better off we are than 50 or 100 years ago with regard to various advancements." Essentially the author is saying stop complaining, everything is great. He laments what whiners people are, given h
If you are not aware of the many privileges we partake of every day in the developed world this book will help to open your eyes. The concept of Americans privilege in relation to Americans mood and attitude is intriguing to say the least. Eastbrook offers many poignant thoughts on problems with the current norm of thinking within the United States. The book does cover a lot of different stats to support the thesis which can get a little dry at certain points. The statistics are important in the ...more
This book falls right in line with my way of thinking. Life is getting better. I get annoyed with persistent pessimists because a lot of times, they aren't seeing life for what it truely is. I enjoyed the fact that he factually backed up this notion of mine. However, there came a point where I was done reading all of the statistics. I think if I had read this book years ago it could have had a very profound impact, but by now I've kind of learned most of what he says, i.e. marriage, sociality, f ...more
Aaron Campbell
This was an interesting read. Objectively speaking, by almost any measure, if you live in the US or EU, you live better than your parents did. So how can it be that happiness has not increased, stress/depression, are more prevalent?

This is a good read for anyone, but I'd especially recommend it for anyone raising kids. There are a number of values, beliefs, and attitudes that are major detractors from feeling a true sense of happiness.

Easterbrook does a health and needed critique of our cultur
This is a great book that shows 1) how life in the modern world is, in material terms, much better than it ever has been in world history, and 2) how little that seems to translate into human happiness. Even if you end up not buying into some of Easterbrook's conclusions in the latter parts of the book, it is worth reading for the first half of the book alone -- it will reset your views on the state of the world today.
Don Weidinger
poor obesity, happy same as 50’s, lessons in gratitude, material want to meaning want, ¼ 75Kup, healthcare and college more than 50’s, 11% foreign as in 30’s, liars privateers thieves, finish HS marry after 20 marry before childbirth, high and mighty suv, important people are biased (self-imp worse), media untruth govt untruth, needs vs wants, to the spoils go the victors, no virtues no happiness, Gates and public respect, global despair challenge in meaningless rich countries and poor, terroris ...more
Wesley Voit
If you're feeling shitty about the human condition in the modern world, read this 'big picture'synopsis of how awesome everything really is. Seriously, everything is pretty good for us right now.
Erin Beck
Crime is down - incomes are up - so why is everybody on anti-depressants?
In a somewhat academic style, the author quotes an almost endless stream of statistics showing how humankind has never had it better. Then asks the question "Why is it that so many believe that it has never been worse?"

You are not going to get a definitive answer. What you are going to get is lots of exploration, lots of theories, lots of quoting from experts, and lots of statistics.

The author borders on the edge of religion but doesn't quite cross that line. If you ever wondered what happened t
Kevin Quinley
May 25, 2008 Kevin Quinley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the mysteriously melancholy
Keenly aware of the negativity prevalent in American culture, Easterbook crafts a multi-layered response explaining the titular paradox. Heavily reliant on statistical data demonstrating the many improvements afforded to the current generation of Americans, he paints a generally positive picture of the modernity rarely evidenced in the doomsday rhetoric so familiar to politicians. Easterbook primarily uses figures and anecdotes in order to contrast 'the way things were' to 'how good we have it n ...more
Curtis Edmonds
(Note: This review was written in 2004. All football-related references are therefore dated except those that note that the Cowboys stink.)

Let’s face it, there are some serious – not to say dire – issues out there that have to be dealt with, and soon. The NFL Sunday Ticket package is only available to satellite dish customers, not for cable customers, so loyal out-of-market Cowboys fans in, say, Atlanta who live, say, in basement apartments can’t access the games they – well, me – want to see. W
Gregg Easterbrook's thesis is interesting: life is better for the typical person in the United States and a few other countries now than it has been for pretty much anyone, ever, yet we are unhappy.
"The Progress Paradox" lays out how good life is now, measures our unhappiness, and then has a section on the developing world. Easterbrook's basic point is we now know stuff doesn't make us happy and we should make life better for everyone in the rest of the world.
Arguing life is better for the typic
Leonard Woods
Overall, the book was alright. Easterbrook spends the first one hundred pages on a relatively entertaining defense of modern society. He explains how almost everything today is vastly better than any other point in human history, and he rather successfully attacks common complaints like income inequality is rising, the middle class is being destroyed, the environment is consistently getting worse, etc. This part had me shouting out and pumping my fist in support of the USA.

The next part goes int
Written in 2003, I'd like to see an updated version that account for changes in the last five years -- Hurricane Katrina, deteriorating domestic infrastructure, the housing bubble, and the change in oil prices, to name a few. Although I often ended up agreeing with the overall premises of the book, there were not infrequent "yes, but"s as I read, grown from knowledge of things that had not occurred at the time of that edition's writing and an awareness of how the author tends to pick and choose ...more
Adam Zerner
He takes the whole first half of the book to say that "things are much better than they used to be". He does a great job articulating it, which was nice, but ultimately it just took way too long.

In the second half of the book, he does two things: 1) talk about how we could be happier, and 2) talk about how the world should change. He makes good arguments and articulates them well. But ultimately, he doesn't say anything new, which made for a dull read. This theme (doing a good job articulating t
I heart TMQ. I hearted him when he first stepped onto the scene, I hearted him when he got fired for insulting Michael Eisner and moved to Football Outsiders (who I also heart), and hearted him when he returned after Eisner left.

The single most incredible idea from this book- if you told someone a hundred years ago that the biggest health problem facing America's poor today would be too much food, they would have slapped you. Okay, so TMQ doesn't say it like that, but he points it out,
Butch Campbell
A very interesting book that begs the question of why do westerners tend to be no more happy today than 100 years ago despite living conditions being dramatically better?

Don't look for many answers to this question in this book, however, there are many takeaways from this book. Most importantly is the emerging field of positive psychology. It is an emerging field in psychology in the last ten years. The greatest takeaway, in simple terms, is that the key to happiness and good health according to
Cory Talbot
The basic premise of the book is that, while things have improved (often drastically) in virtually every material way in America, people are more likely to be unhappy now than they were 50 years ago.

The book was very well-researched and I liked the author's writing. In fact, he's one of the few authors I search for on the internet because he writes a lot of articles and I enjoy reading them.

When it came to his suggested solution to the problem of unhappiness, however, it seemed rushed.

That said,
Taylor Moore
I learned a lot from this book. I read it in my college English class and it was paired with the book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. While the Affluenza booked detailed how consuming rates were going up, The Progress Paradox tells how everything's getting better, yet people feel worse. This book was definitely a good read, even for non-fiction, and makes you think about your own consumer habits, such as: Do you really want it? or are you just trying to fill a void like other people? I de ...more
I've just started this and I don't know if I can go any further, I am all for optimism but this guy seems to be living in a different world than I am. At the beginning of the book he talks about how many middle class families can afford one, if not two, boats!?!? He says that older people no longer have to worry about being taken care of when they are older, sure they can get S.Security but go to a nursing home where they stick the poor people, I would rather be dead. His views on the environmen ...more
Has a really good message, lots of fantastic points and facts. Really great way of putting perspective on many things in our culture and what they really mean. But by the end of the book its very apparent the author as some real issues about/against SUVs, which i found distracting from book as a whole. And parts of the later half of the book are not as unbiased as the beginning, which was a little disappointing. I would have been much happier with the book if he had continued skewering both ends ...more
Easterbrook makes many interesting observations in this book and offers some good explanations for them, but he covers so much ground (politics, poverty, health care, the environment, the history of the Islamic world, and more) that not all of his ideas are fully developed. His optimism is refreshing, but at times, it is too extreme.

For those who are interested in reading my thoughts on this book in more detail, check out my blog post on it:
Barbara Lovejoy
Last Sunday I listend to the BYU Forum speech of Gregg Easterbrook. His message intrigued me so I borrowed this book from the library. Finished reading it this morning. He definitely caused me to think differently about why we have made so much progress as a nation and yet have so many unhappy people. I liked the book so much I want to buy the book and read it again. I am also going to read other books written by him.
I did buy my own copy and read it again. It is such an excellent book!
Steve Lin
I picked it up because I liked reading his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on I don't feel like he's as insightful as I thought he'd be, and he tends to gloss over serious issues while making his point, such as saying the general environmental trend is getting better not worse. He makes some valid points -- water and air quality are much better than in the past -- but then he brushes off carbon dioxide emissions and global warming as if they wer not big problems.
Read the first three chapters and you will feel wonderful about life in the our modern world. It counts the blessings for you. The middle of the book begins to delve into why we are unhappy when everything is so good. The last part are the authors suggestions for what can change our perceptions. The authors political views come out here and there, but the topic of the book falls in a moderate category and easily applicable to many of us.
Would love to hear Easterbrook on some of the topics in this book now, 5 years afer the book was published. With a Democrat in the White House, I'm hoping the picture will change. I read this while on a reading vacation, between two other books preaching the gospel of "Chin Up, Things Could Be a Ton Worse." It worked, I felt grateful for what I have when the vacation ended. I think all of you should read it, too.
Very good book. Solid research to up premise. Out of date tho. Needs to be updated for 2014-15. Gets a little preachy at the end
Jul 27, 2011 John marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Why, if all kinds of "progress" measures are getting better, do people report no increase in happiness? The book develops several themes. One is "collapse anxiety" - the feeling that "progress" is a fragile thing that could be blown away in a breath of some economic or environmental wind. This theme isn't developed much in the book. It has had plenty to feed on since the book was written.
I like Easterbrook's writing in the New Republic so gave this one a whirl. His thesis is compelling and there are a lot of interesting factoids, but he belabors some of his points. Other times, I feel that he goes a step to far in making assumptions (e.g., everybody know that...)

Bottom line, it was interesting and I now feel like I should be happy and never complain about anything.
In his TMQ article on, Easterbrook intersperses thoughts on the environment, politics, media and other non-football related topics. They are usually well thought-out and I thought I'd give his book a whirl. I'm only a quarter way into the book and so far nothing profound, just fun stories and facts about the material progress of the lower/middle class over the last century.

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I was born in Buffalo, New York and have lived there plus Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Colorado, Pakistan and Washington, D.C. My wife is a State Department official, which accounts for the globe-trotting: currently she is the #2 officer of this Personal globe-trotting includes time in Ecuador as Fulbright fellow. We have three children, boys born in 1989 and 1995 and a g ...more
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