October 20th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Internal strife at Fortress ABC by Peter Westmore

EDITORIAL The state is separating children from families

CANBERRA OBSERVED Liberals are bare favourites for Wentworth

DEREGULATION Sugar growers are getting burned on churned-up playing field

EUROPE Attempt to discipline Hungary divides the EU

CHINA Social Credit System gives complete control of every citizen

EDUCATION Curriculum refinements will not fix schools

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION Banks' failures are a symptom of social malaise

HISTORY Moby Dick and American exceptionalism

SHAKESPEARE Tick-tock: clues to the timeless appear of the Bard

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Trump to UN: we'll do it our way; you do it yours

MUSIC Well-tempered scale: might put an alien in a bad temper

CINEMA Alpha: Beautiful beginnings

BOOK REVIEW Essays towards reconstruction

BOOK REVIEW Can society survive the decay of religion?

LETTERS

Books promotion page

BEYOND OUR MEANS:
Why America Spends While the World Saves

Sheldon Garon

$39.90


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by Sheldon Garon

(Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013)
Paperback: 488 pages
ISBN: 9780691159584
Price: AUD$39.90

 

Book description

If the financial crisis has taught us anything, it is that Americans save too little, spend too much and borrow excessively. What can we learn from East Asian and European countries that have fostered enduring cultures of thrift over the past two centuries?

Beyond Our Means tells for the first time how other nations aggressively encouraged their citizens to save by means of special savings institutions and savings campaigns. The U.S. government, meanwhile, promoted mass consumption and reliance on credit, culminating in the global financial meltdown.

Many economists believe people save according to universally rational calculations, saving the most in their middle years as they plan for retirement, and saving the least in welfare states. In reality, Europeans save at high rates despite generous welfare programs and ageing populations. Americans save little, despite weaker social safety nets and a younger population.

Tracing the development of such behaviours across three continents from the 19th century to today, this book highlights the role of institutions and moral suasion in shaping habits of saving and spending. It shows how the encouragement of thrift was not a relic of indigenous traditions but a modern movement to confront rising consumption. Around the world, messages to save and spend wisely confronted citizens everywhere — in schools, magazines and novels. At the same time, in America, businesses and government normalised practices of living beyond one’s means.

Transnational history at its most compelling, Beyond Our Means reveals why some nations save so much and others so little.

 

About the author

Sheldon Garon is the Nissan Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Princeton University. He is the author of Molding Japanese Minds: The State in Everyday Life (Princeton) and co-editor of The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West.

 

Endorsements

“[A] very important book for critics of capitalism…. Garon explains in an ambitious book that roams across centuries and continents … why much of Europe and Asia embraced, and stuck with, a savings culture while the U.S. first adopted and then abandoned one. It’s intriguing social history.” — Stephen Matchett, The Australian

“Professor Garon offers brilliant scholarship, engaging reading, and some practical insights for dealing with our current financial crisis worldwide. An insightful and provocative book that … will be a unique and important volume for historians, policy-makers and the general public.” — Claude Ury, San Francisco Book Review

“Garon makes a powerful case that savings isn’t about culture. It’s policy…. You’ll think about savings policies differently after [you] pick up a copy of Beyond Our Means.” — Christopher Farrell, economics editor of Marketplace Money

“How the Anglo-world came to live ‘beyond their means … while the world saves’ is the big question of Sheldon Garon’s fascinating book. It could not be more timely. Readers who worry that it might be too technical, do not fear. This is a history of flesh and blood, as Garon reclaims the topic from the economists. Facts and figures are surrounded by real people and rich illustrations that convey how passionate societies came to be about saving. Postal saving has never been so sexy.” — Frank Trentmann, BBC History Magazine

“This is an important and timely book. It effectively makes the case for viewing savings behaviour neither as primarily a cultural trait nor one produced by market forces, but as something fundamentally shaped by policy, politics and institutions. Beyond Our Means is an uncommon pleasure to read.” — Andrew Gordon, author of The Wages of Affluence

Beyond Our Means shows that we need more than economics and psychology to determine how societies save and spend. Garon reveals the history of farsighted reformers, politicians and bankers who actively shaped the norms, incentives and institutions that turned rising earners into savers. He delivers strong lessons for those who worry about today’s overspent America.” — Jonathan Morduch, New York University


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