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The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  203 ratings  ·  20 reviews
From the author of Day of Reckoning, the acclaimed critique of Ronald Reagan’s economic policy (“Every citizen should read it,” said The New York Times): a persuasive, wide-ranging argument that economic growth provides far more than material benefits.

In clear-cut prose, Benjamin M. Friedman examines the political and social histories of the large Western democracies–parti
Paperback, 592 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Vintage (first published October 18th 2005)
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Paige McLoughlin
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book I read in 2006 and it pricked up my ears to the consequences of economic growth on politics in the aughts when this came out. The argument that periods of economic crisis and declining fortunes of the mass of the population lead to extremist politics (sometimes of the left) mostly of the right. The crisis of WWI and the collapse of the world economy was a spur for Fascism to grow in Europe. Britain and America were fortunate oddballs to this phenomenon (the fascists were around for sur ...more
Jul 27, 2011 marked it as to-read
The main argument of the book, in a nutshell, is this. People want to feel better off. They have two standards to use in assessing this: (a) comparison to their neighbors, and (b) comparison to their own circumstances at an earlier time. If they feel better off by standard (b), then standard (a) will be relatively less important (and vice versa). Since it is obviously impossible for all members of society to be better off than their neighbors, an over-emphasis on standard (a) will lead to a frus ...more
Laurent Franckx
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This book dates from 2005, but it's amazing how relevant it is for today.
Friedman argues that economic growth does not just generate direct benefits in terms of more goods and services, but also makes societies more tolerant and progressive. Moreover, argues Friedman, what counts is less the absolute income levels as the process of growth itself.
This is a very bold thesis, but Friedman does a pretty good job in illustrating his thesis in detail with examples from the US, France, Germany and the
Friedman, an economist at Harvard University, argues that the not just the wealth of a country, but whether or not its economy is growing, has consequences for the openness of its society. Using case studies of the United States, France, Germany, and Britain, as well as episodes from other nation's histories, he shows that that there is a positive correlation between economic growth and other attractive social characteristics. For example, the American civil rights movement took place during dec ...more
Jan 21, 2009 marked it as to-read
Again, this is about seeing if anyone has a compelling argument for why MORE is better. In this guy's case, the argument is that there is a correlation between growth - not just wealth, but productivity, innovation, blah blah - and liberalization of policies that we western 21st century types have moralized (human rights, individualism, ecology, that sort of thing.) I'm not sure how much cheerleading for growth I can tolerate, but it looks interesting. By the by, this is not the same (Thomas) Fr ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author argues that "broadly distributed economic growth provides benefits far beyond the material, creating and strengthening democratic institutions, establishing political stability, fostering tolerance, and enhancing opportunity." Conversely, the author also argues that economic stagnation results in societies moving away from openness, tolerance, mobility, fairness, and democracy. Although published in 2005, I think that the author's arguments hold up extremely well despite having missed ...more
Jan 17, 2021 rated it liked it
As a history, and to prove a major part of his thesis, this book does well. What I pick a bone with is the assumptions the author takes that aren't spoken explicitly. These are some of the same assumptions that economists have believed but are up for more of a debate. These come out most in the last chapter. But overall its not unbearable as a read because of this bone I pick.

One of the main things I would say is that the author could easily have predicted the recent unrest by frustrated citizen
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great read and a very important contributing factor to my decision to study economics. The book explores various historical periods in various countries to study the seldom-considered impacts of broadly-based economic growth and it was very enlightening.
Aug 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Friedman admirably and effectively supports his thesis (A. economic growth is good for a society's openness, tolerance, fairness, and commitment to democracy; and B. government policies can achieve a higher growth rate than the market would if left to its own devices) without overreaching for evidence. He is quick to point out exceptions to his theory, and notes how they may or may not actually counter it. Despite being written nearly 15 years ago, many of Friedman's insights are still relevant ...more
The best measure of economic growth, Friedman argues, is how a person's economic status compares with that of their parents. If that status, overall, is growing, that is economic growth.

When such periods of wide-spread economic growth occur, we become, at least collectively if not individually, a more moral people.

It is during such periods of economic growth that Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, KS, was issued. The Virginia law forbidding interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia) was s
Attempts to demonstrate that economic growth leads to morally-favourable outcomes for society. Does so in part by defining 'moral consequences' in a way that makes them increasingly synonymous with 'economic growth' - making his argument somewhat tautological. returnreturnThe rest of Friedman's claims hinge on correlation not causation, and the book is appended with a chapter entitled 'Great Depression, Great Exception' - which acknowledges that the largest period of economic regression in moder ...more
Purchased at Half Price on 7/28 for 18$.
Michael Dowling
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed the book. I had read a rather detailed review of it on Amazon that countered some of the economics discussed, but I still found much of the history covered, especially of the US, very apt for the current political environment. I don't know that I subscribe to all of the authors ideas as to how to ensure future growth, but the examination of past growth and how it related to the politics of the time was worth the read for me. ...more
Jan 25, 2009 rated it liked it
A very interesting analysis of the importance of economic growth to a democratic society. The conclusion that growth leads to greater freedom, equality, etc. seems obvious, but Friedman uses many specific historical examples to prove this point. The conclusion is an important statement of what needs to happen in order for the U.S. to get back on its feet.
Feb 22, 2015 rated it liked it
An epitome of neoliberalism: growth produces positive externalities, and over-emphasis on inequality in the society leads to unproductive discussions and ultimately a zero-sum society. It is worth reading, but it requires a critical attitude of mind.
Alex Cone
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This would be a good book for world policy makers to read right now.
Oct 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Book is a little boring, but the subject matter is a pretty important one. Book is a balanced take.
Aug 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Interesting, but a bit long. Haven't finished it, I had to return it to the library. I only got to page #335 (out of 436). ...more
Alison Prendergast
Mar 22, 2008 marked it as to-read
I've tried to read this twice so far. so dense! the book I mean, not me. hm. ...more
Jan 02, 2011 rated it liked it
a rigorous academic read.
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Benjamin Morton Friedman (born 1944) is a leading American political economist. Friedman is the William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institute's Panel on Economic Activity, and the editorial board of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Friedman received his A.B., A.M., and Ph.D. degrees, all in economic

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