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   How much is enough
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Jun 2012
over the three distinct stages of goods’ acquisitions, nothing would be enough because enough would always remain too little. From acquiring ‘bandwagon goods’, which others possess, to ‘snob goods’, that others do not have, is a long journey that most of us cover through the markets of want and desire. The journey ends at what theorist Thorstein Veblen described as ‘Veblen goods’, goods that act as advertisements of wealth.

The father-son duo of Robert and Edward Skidelsky go beyond the current debate about growing inequality to ask what we need money for? Without doubt, ‘insatiability’ is making people restless, craving for novelty to ride over restlessness. It is this restlessness that the world of advertising exploits to create the ‘organised creation of dissatisfaction’. However, the Skidelskys argue if making money could be the permanent business of humanity?

It may not have been had John Maynard Keynes’s prediction that people would become rational agents once their wants have been satisfied been proved correct. The Skidelsky’s have found two blockages to the fulfilment of Keynes’s prophecy: those rising from power relationships and those rising from insatiability of wants. Both work in combination to produce an ethic of acquisitiveness, which has become the essential driver of capitalism. Unless insatiability is addressed on intellectual, moral and political grounds, it may remain tough to exit from the rat race of market-driven world of consumption and production.

Markets, the Skidelsky’s argue, were made for man and not man for the markets. Economics, as reflected in gross domestic product, ought to be impregnated with purpose if markets have to work for man. For markets to remain obedient to human needs and not greed, the world would need to invent social and economic policies which reduce the amount of work necessary to achieve the material requisites of well-being. This may not be utopian proposition if we agree that the greatest waste now confronting mankind is not one of money but of human possibilities.

The Skidelsky’s end their scholarly work, which challenges the free market fundamentalism, by quoting Keynes: ‘Once we allow ourselves to be disobedient to the test of an accountant’s profit we would have begun to change our civilisation’. And the time for such a change is overdue.

How much is enough?
by Robert & Edward Skidelsky
Allen Lane, London
243 pages, £ 20


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Commentators
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
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