The Price of civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity
The Price of civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity, can be split into two sections; one, Sachs elaborate reasoning on the great recession, and two, his suggestions to American recover on its path to prosperity. The first few chapters look at the felony of societal governance, which includes the influence and rigged markets of Oil, Wall Street, and others, who are either money-minded or distracted by excessive TV watching and mall shopping. The second part, which is what he advocates to bring the derailed American economy back on track, is about the author’s policy prescriptions; targeting poverty, improving education, cutting down on defense budget, employment and so on. The book has a number of figures, tables, graphs, and references, which gives credence to what the author is speaking about.
The book looks at how reenergizing of the social activism of American society can put America back on track to economic prosperity. According to Sachs, the United States can learn a lot from the rest of the world by reassessing its value in terms of pushing itself toward economic freedom. There are number of challenges it faces; not least of all from outsourcing of services. Most of the elite social class, bureaucrats, politicians, and government officials have ignored social activism, challenged social means, and left the economy crumbling. Sachs is worried that America is disintegrating to such a low because of the powerful bureaucratic influence and lobbying, that it has ignored the country’s response to globalization, and has instead, looked at endorsing a pro-corporate culture where, “powerful corporate interest groups dominate the policy agenda” (p.105).
He also looks at the incisive diagnosis that ills American economy, and seeks an urgent understanding and reaction to its unassuming ignorance, so that it can restore the core virtues of being fair, and honest, that will take it back to the pinnacle of prosperity. Sachs faults the two national parties, and economists, for ignoring the criticality of the onus on globalization, and instead, profoundly underestimating the importance globalization has on contemporary and future Americans. He says that the American political system is so acclimatized to receiving and supporting the major corporate donors and influential lobbyists that it has conveniently forgotten to address its shortfalls on social trust and compassion. Sachs bids his readers to reclaim the lost virtues of good governance and citizenship, and strive to reclaim the lost glory of America’s economic prosperity. He urges Americans to understand that nothing comes easy and that, they should, as responsible citizens, accept the price for hard work, so that they can restore the country’s pride.
There are a lot of other important views expressed by Sachs in this book. He is mindful of the insensitiveness with which Americans have moved forward, and criticizes the authority of influential lobbyists and money-launderers. An insensitive economic structure, that lacked vision and direction, has brought the country to its knees, as living standards, educational reforms, public infrastructure, and consumer debts breached to unmanageable proportions. Way back in the late twentieth century, American Presidents and Congress, cut taxes to comfort the bureaucrats, which directly affected many populist government programs. The bureaucrats won favourable decisions that set the exchequer back and dried the coffer. The country witnessed two major recessions, and while the economy is limping back to some form of certainty, it still is dependent on the World Bank and International Monitory Fund to bail it out of the crisis. This means that the present and future generation of Americans will have to pay skyrocketing debts in the form of reduced government benefits, higher interest rates, and additional taxes.
Sachs is blatant in his attack on president Obama’s policies which has only created insurmountable federal deficits and critical reform policies. In Sachs’ view, the Obama administration has faltered considerably, not just because it continues to follow the policies of their predecessors, but because they too have not given any serious thought to address the serious concerns of American health care, education, and science and technology, among others. It is high time Americans gave their future some thought, instead of remaining short-sighted. To support his view, Sachs cites the example of the European Union, where governments focus on unemployment by investing on training and career services that match industry needs. Germany is a country, which has reduced workers’ working hours to compensate for layoffs. Sachs also gives the example of Bhutan, a small kingdom over the Himalayas, which since 1972, has taken steps to develop their ‘gross national happiness,’ by focusing on community development, cultural development, health, education, and social well-being. Despite being the world’s largest economy, the country still lags smaller economies like Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and some others. The U.S government must raise its expenditures on public services and infrastructure, argues Sachs. This can come about, only if the government introduces higher taxes. No doubt, it will be painful for many Americans, but that is the only way, this nation can become self-sustainable. If the government can monitor the inflow of revenue, it can use this to end poverty in a big way. “With a fair tax structure and a just contribution of the rich to the rest of society, we can afford a truly civilized America," Sachs writes.
Raising taxes is difficult, but Sachs acknowledges that opinion polls has indicated that over 61% or more Americans favor tax raise on the wealthy, and support the idea that bureaucrats and other influential lobbyists’ need to be reined in. All this will depend on the strong will of politicians who don’t get sucked into corporate governance and interests. Unfortunately, America believes and has only a two-party system, where it’s either tot Democrats or the Liberals who run the government, and lesser parties are trampled into submission. This must change and the people should rise to make America accountable for its actions. Sachs then turns his focus on the electoral demography. He believes that the contemporary younger generation is far more progressive, and knowledgeable of political issues, and ethnic minorities such as Hispanic Americans and African Americans constitute the largest vote bank in American society. This should be taken into account before any policies are evolved, and with such population demarcations, there should be a ‘long-lasting progressive recalibration’ of the American political interests. This can help tide the crisis America faces today. Today, many Americans have become obsessed by money, and work long hours without realising its effect on health and life. They are far too occupied with their work that they have little knowledge of the world around them. Indulging in excessive television watching and socializing has only made matters worse. It is about time that they began to prioritize their time, as mass consumerism and media saturation has negated possible communion among people and communities.