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The Price of Civilization

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,895 ratings  ·  244 reviews
The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity "For more than three decades, Jeffrey D. Sachs has been at the forefront of international 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 sear ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Random House (first published October 1st 2010)
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May 10, 2012 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
Oct 30, 2011 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
May 05, 2013 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
Cassandra Kay Silva
May 09, 2013 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 04, 2012 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
Oct 04, 2012 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
Nov 24, 2012 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
Oct 14, 2011 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
Oct 06, 2011 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."

Dec 31, 2011 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
Graham Mulligan
Dec 26, 2012 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
Athan Tolis
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wanted to take Jeff Sachs's course in college, but he was never there to teach it. He was too busy saving the world, and the Eastern Block countries in particular, to turn up for his fall semester class in International Economics.

If this book is any guide, that's quite lucky for me.

The book has two parts. In the first, all 175 pages of it, the author exposes what's wrong with the world. In the second part, a mere 90 pages, he offers his solutions.

One star is probably too generous for part one.
Jud Barry
Mar 21, 2012 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
Susan Paxton
Dec 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
I originally read Dr. Sachs' book when it was published in paperback in 2012. It's the kind of book that probably is intended to be read once, but it's sat on my shelves since and now, as I'm sorting through books to get rid of, I thought I'd re-read it as I recalled that the thesis of the book and the suggestions the author made were often good even if I didn't agree with some of them.

Needless to say, nothing was done. In Barack Obama the US had a competent, intelligent president who was very s
Oct 08, 2013 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
Brit Cheung
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
The author prescribed not a few insights in favor of a just social system and a more effective governance. These prescriptions are penetrating and illuminating , but not penetrating enough to pierce a hole to cure all the predicaments us facing. The prescription is good even to the plain eye. The problem is "Will these methods be fully completed by the government"? This plunged me into a strong suspicion.
However, these analysis and prescriptions can provide some food for thought for other gove
H Wesselius
Dec 08, 2011 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
Michael Berman
Jul 05, 2012 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".
Son Tung
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just a note for my friends who do not frequently use GR: Many well-presented social ills in the first part for US society and politics are transferable to a whole other countries as well (ofcourse to a lesser extent, better examemplary ones also mentioned in the book). This is one of those important book one should read to see "what's wrong with the world" (although the second part left me nothing much to pay high attention to)
Dec 19, 2011 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

Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the finest books I have read in diagnosing our current economic, social, and political crisis, but it is even more important as it contains suggestions for changing our current dismal and deteriorating condition.

What follows are extensive excerpts from this book in Sachs’ own words, with the page(s) from which they are taken indicated in parenthesis. As Goodreads sets a maximum of 20,000 characters, some of my review was cut off.

• At the root of America’s economic crisis lies a mo
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: David
(3.0) Little to unrealistic in proposals. And a little less academic/objective in his tone.

Preferred reading Piketty, cover similar ground. I did make a lot of notes and highlights though, so there's stuff worth discussing here.
Jonathan Hockey
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
For the most part a good diagnosis of some of America's problems, but from what I can see a very naive take on how to turn things around. He simply is not understanding how deep some of these problems go. He says he wants to fight against the consumerist society, exploitation by TV media. Yet his suggestion for how to do this is for state run TV to promote certain free air time for certain programmes, which no doubt will be agenda driven, and he thinks the new millenial generation is somehow mag ...more
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
David Wink
Oct 09, 2011 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
Sabrine Cutting
Nov 05, 2011 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
Jul 09, 2012 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 03, 2011 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
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not quite what I was expecting, but it's an excellent book. I was looking for a book to help me understand economics and the current economic situation of the U.S., and maybe the world. A tall order, but Sachs has a great reputation.

This book does explain how we have gotten where we are economically, but not in a great deal of detail. He also covers political and sociological causes, then goes into solutions. However, his solutions are not very new, and I didn't get a good feeling for
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Jeffrey David Sachs, is an American economist, public policy analyst, and former director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he holds the title of University Professor, the highest rank Columbia bestows on its faculty. He is known as one of the world's leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty.

Sachs is the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development

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20 likes · 4 comments
“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.” 8 likes
“Whatever the cause, the United States is privately rich but socially poor. It caters to the pursuit of wealth but pays scant attention to those left behind. And though American culture emphasizes individualism and the pursuit of individual wealth perhaps more than any other society, that focus does not lead to greater happiness. Of” 1 likes
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