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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

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  646 Ratings  ·  79 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
May 03, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, audiobooks
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
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book because Easterbrook puts together a lot of insightful thoughts together, but he just does it in such a maddening way that it makes it hard to follow.

The beginning of the book is all about how things have trended up, up, up. Many were eye-opening, but many were anecdotal or seemingly repetitive, and it just became very difficult to read fact after fact, no matter how interesting they were.

Later in the book he delved into some other disparate ideas like the brief
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Adam Zerner
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aaron Campbell
Oct 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Erin Beck
May 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crime is down - incomes are up - so why is everybody on anti-depressants?
Wesley Voit
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Curtis Edmonds
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(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
Jan 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book after reading Johan Norberg’s Progress, so this review is colored by the comparison. Progress is a fairly factual account of improvements being made in the world – a guardedly optimistic view of the world and the fate of the average person. It’s very insightful and eye-opening.

Easterbrook’s book is a bit more of a miscellany. It talks about improvements in the US, then how Americans still feel anxious despite the improvements, then it becomes kind of a self-help book, then a bi
Stan Diddams
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was talking to an American man who was temporarily living in Madrid when Franco died. He said his landlady, a lifelong Spaniard, was in tears over his death. Why would she be sad? He was a fascist, and did many terrible things. The reason was that she thought Spain was a paradise. There was no crime, no disasters, everything was nice and orderly. But it only seemed that way because Franco censored the news!

What we have today is the opposite. The news, our emails, social media, etc., are fille
Shelby Adamson
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book helped me to see the world in a different way and view even how I think of myself from a different perspective. It used statistics from relatively recent, even though they might not have been the most up-to-date in order to allow for further self contemplation. I would absolutely reccomend this piece to a friend.
Good book that talks about how have more does not translate to more happiness. Eye opener for what we are seeing in our society people with bigger homes, fancier cars, bigger banks account and much less happier.
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
Kevin Quinley
Feb 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  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
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008, nonfiction
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
Jun 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Don Weidinger
poor obesity, happy same as 50’s, lessons in gratitude, material want to meaning want, 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, terrorism ...more
Adam Chase
My intuition on reading this book is it's a good example of how false premises can lead to a true conclusion.

I agree with Estabrook's theses that a) as society's lot improves materially it's moral sensitivity is made more acute, b) as a result it is hard not to FEEL that the state of the world is worsening in direct proportion to how much better it IS, and c) SUVs are a silly choice of vehicle for most.

However, reading his contention that the state of the Middle East in 2003 was an indication
Wes Cobb
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In this rambling, dated, and occasionally preach book, Easterbrook makes a strong case that life has consistently been getting better for members of western society for the last 50+ (and really 5000+) years. However, he fails to make any cohesive arguments for the second part of the thesis here - why people feel worse about it. He posits the occasional idea as to why, but these remain underdeveloped. Instead, Easterbrook uses the book as a personal soapbox to preach on a whole host of random iss ...more
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,
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
Nov 08, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Barbara Lovejoy
Oct 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
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:
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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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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