The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity
Title: The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity Author: Jeffrey Sachs Rating: 4 This book is another attempt to explain our major macro problems and fix them. Sachs is an economist, with a left-wing slant. Part I does a fairly good job explaining our problems. Part II does a mediocre job at coming up with solutions. I have yet to be enthusiastic about plans to fix the system. Friedman and Mandelbaum did a similar attempt (see book review below) as another exercise in futility. Paul Ryan came up with a Republican plan that absolutely cuts the budget but devastates entitlement programs. Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma lists some $10 trillion of cuts, and the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Plan went nowhere. In Part I Sachs describes a bit of history, starting with economic failures of the 1970s (collapse of the gold standard & rising oil prices) and the resulting “Reagan Revolution.” The focus shifted to lower taxes, deregulation and falling federal spending (including important functions such as infrastructure, research and development, and education). Also described are the ingredients of mixed capitalism, including the importance of public goods and fairness; he contrasts that with libertarianism. The public prefers three goals: efficiency, fairness, and sustainability. Sachs has the usual complaints against campaign contributions and lobbying, but calls the two parties both right-of-center with a narrow focus on policy. With the four big lobbies being military, big oil, banking, and healthcare, chances of reform seem slim. Part II has some interested information, just not a workable plan to fix the system. Sachs lists eight goals (p. 186) like balancing the federal budget and improving education; then the measurement of gross national happiness—but no real plans to implement. He figures that in 2015, the federal government would raise revenues of 18% of GDP and spend 24%. In addition, he would call for an additional 3% or so for infrastructure, education and research and development. Therefore, to balance the budget for 2015 (ignoring the rising demands for entitlements) the equivalent of 9% of GDP would come from tax increases or spending cuts. He calls for greater income taxes on incomes over $250,000 and a VAT tax. Cuts are not so obvious. His list of seven goals for highly effective government are good ones (e.g., set clear goals and benchmarks; p. 238), but when and why would these happen? Title: Steve Jobs Author: Walter Isaacson Rating: 5 Big (600 pages) bio of super CEO Steve Jobs and why Apple products could be insanely great. This may be more than you wanted to know about Jobs, but the story is interesting. Jobs achieved success at Apple early and then was fired in the mid-1980s. Apple floundered, but he bought Pixar (eventually a big winner) and created NeXT (a modest success). When he returned to Apple, he achieved amazing success with one great product after another: iPod, iPhone, iPad and others. His erratic behavior and unwillingness to compromise worked at Apple, creating America’s biggest company based on market cap (competing with Exxon for number 1). His closed system end-to-end integration of products plus “magical genius” left a legacy of changing the world. Isaacson captures this complex story in a compelling read.
Author: Gary Giroux