November 18th 2017


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Full audit can end dual-citizenship fiasco

CANBERRA OBSERVED High Court high handed to 'foreigners' in Parliament

MANUFACTURING Auto industry loss result of government policy failure

AGENDA FOR AUSTRALIA Financing infrastructure for development and jobs

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Behind the indictments of ex-Trump campaigners

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY Beersheba charge enabled a pivotal victory

ECONOMICS China intends to party like it's 1949 ... again

ENVIRONMENT Core of climate science is in the real-world data

U.S. HISTORY Why Americans stick to their guns

MUSIC New styles: Dipping into the melting pot

CINEMA Loving Vincent: A mystery in oils

BOOK REVIEW Just what is the conservative idea?

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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