February 23rd 2019


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COVER STORY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

EDITORIAL Resistance grows to Beijing's soft-power push

CANBERRA OBSERVED Climate change: deadly ... to political leaders

TECHNOLOGY Electric cars: UK taxpayers subsidise rich greenies

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION A step too small?

CYBER SECURITY Chinese smartphone threat extends way beyond Huawei

SOCIETY Such grandeur of spirit

POLITICS John Hewson should have as sturdy a Constitution

FINANCE Hayne royal commission sets agenda for bank reform

FAMILY RELATIONS Dad: a girl's first and most influential love

COMMENTARY Words gone feral: rights and equality

MEDICINE AND CULTURE Book captures tragedy of falling foul of a fanatic

SOCIETY AND CULTURE A dog's life: reflections of a grey nomad

HUMOUR

MUSIC Serialism a killer: Ideas tend to get in the way

CINEMA Cold Pursuit: Revenge served up manic

BOOK REVIEW Why the West and nowhere else

BOOK REVIEW The escalation of horror and atrocity

LETTERS

FAMILY AND SOCIETY The end of Liberalism

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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