The Best Society eBooks




What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
by Michael J. Sandel
What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we allow corporations to pay for the right to pollute the atmosphere? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars? Auctioning admission to elite universities? Selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay?
In What Money Can't Buy, Michael J. Sandel takes on one of the biggest ethical questions of our time: Is there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? If so, how can we prevent market values from reaching into spheres of life where they don't belong? What are the moral limits of markets?
In recent decades, market values have crowded out nonmarket norms in almost every aspect of life-medicine, education, government, law, art, sports, even family life and personal relations. Without quite realizing it, Sandel argues, we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. Is this where we want to be?
In his New York Times bestseller Justice, Sandel showed himself to be a master at illuminating, with clarity and verve, the hard moral questions we confront in our everyday lives. Now, in What Money Can't Buy, he provokes an essential discussion that we, in our market-driven age, need to have: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society-and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets don't honor and that money can't buy?


 



End This Depression Now!
by Paul Krugman
End This Depression Now!

The Great Recession is more than four years old — and counting. Yet, as Paul Krugman points out in this powerful volley, "Nations rich in resources, talent, and knowledge — all the ingredients for prosperity and a decent standard of living for all — remain in a state of intense pain."

How bad have things gotten? How did we get stuck in what now can only be called a depression? And above all, how do we free ourselves? Krugman pursues these questions with his characteristic lucidity and insight. He has a powerful message for anyone who has suffered over these past four years — a quick, strong recovery is just one step away, if our leaders can find the "intellectual clarity and political will" to end this depression now.


 



The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
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Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty
by Daron Acemoğlu, James A. Robinson
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions — with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

 — China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?
 — Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?
 — What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More
philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at — and understand — the world.


 



Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone
by Eric Klinenberg
Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone

A revelatory examination of the most significant demographic shift since the Baby Boom — the sharp increase in the number of people who live alone — that offers surprising insights on the benefits of this epochal changeIn 1950, only 22 percent of American adults were single. Today, more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million — roughly one out of every seven adults — live alone. People who live alone make up 28 percent of all U. S. households, which makes them more common than any other domestic unit, including the nuclear family.  In GOING SOLO, renowned sociologist and author Eric Klinenberg proves that these numbers are more than just a passing trend. They are, in fact, evidence of the biggest demographic shift since the Baby Boom: we are learning to go solo, and crafting new ways of living in the process.

Klinenberg explores the dramatic rise of solo living, and examines the seismic impact it’s having on our culture, business, and politics. Though conventional wisdom tells us that living by oneself leads to loneliness and isolation, Klinenberg shows that most solo dwellers are deeply engaged in social and civic life. In fact, compared with their married counterparts, they are more likely to eat out and exercise, go to art and music classes, attend public events and lectures, and volunteer. There’s even evidence that people who live alone enjoy better mental health than unmarried people who live with others and have more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than families, since they favor urban apartments over large suburban homes. Drawing on over three hundred in-depth interviews with men and women of all ages and every class, Klinenberg reaches a startling conclusion: in a world of ubiquitous media and hyperconnectivity, this way of life can help us discover ourselves and appreciate the pleasure of good company.

With eye-opening statistics, original data, and vivid portraits of people who go solo, Klinenberg upends conventional wisdom to deliver the definitive take on how the rise of living alone is transforming the American experience. GOING SOLO is a powerful and necessary assessment of an unprecedented social change.


 



Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
by Charles Murray
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010

From the bestselling author of Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, this startling long-lens view shows how America is coming apart at the seams that historically have joined our classes.

In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity.

Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship — divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.

The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America, and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. That divergence puts the success of the American project at risk.

The evidence in Coming Apart is about white America. Its message is about all of America.


 



The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married
by Iris Krasnow
The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married

A bestselling, groundbreaking author investigates successful long term marriages, interviewing wives and their uncensored strategies for staying married. America's high divorce rate is well known. But little attention has been paid to the flip side: couples who creatively (sometimes clandestinely) manage to build marriages that are lasting longer than we ever thought possible. What's the secret? To find out, bestselling journalist Iris Krasnow interviewed more than 200 wives whose marriages have survived for 15 to 70 years. They are a diverse cast, yet they share one common and significant trait: They have made bold, sometimes secretive and shocking choices on how to keep their marital vows, "till death do us part, " as Krasnow says, "without killing someone first."

In raw, candid, titillating stories, Krasnow's cast of wise women give voice to the truth about marriage and the importance of maintaining a strong sense of self apart from the relationship. Some spend summers separately from their partners. Some make time for wine with the girls. One septuagenarian has a recurring date with an old flame from high school. In every case, the marriage operates on many tracks, giving both spouses license to pursue the question "Who am I apart from my marriage?" Krasnow's goal is to give women permission to create their own marriages at any age. Marital bliss is possible, she says, if each partner is blissful apart from the other.

A fascinating window on the many faces of modern relationships, The Secret Lives of Wives brims with inspiring and daring examples of women who have it both ways: a committed marriage and personal adventures in uncharted territory. For anyone who wants to stay married and stay sane, this is the book to read!


 



Debt: The First 5,000 Years
by David Graeber
Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Before there was money, there was debt

Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems — to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it.

Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5, 000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods — that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.

Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.

Debt: The First 5, 000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history — as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.


 



Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything
by F.S. Michaels
Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything

Winner of the 2011 NCTE George Orwell Award for outstanding contributions to the critical analysis of public discourse. One of The Atlantic's Top 11 Philosophy/Psychology Books of 2011 As human beings, we've always told stories: stories about who we are, where we come from, and where we're going. Now imagine that one of those stories is taking over the others, narrowing our diversity and creating a monoculture. Because of the rise of the economic story, six areas of your world — your work, your relationships with others and the environment, your community, your physical and spiritual health, your education, and your creativity — are changing, or have already changed, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. And because how you think shapes how you act, the monoculture isn't just changing your mind — it's changing your life."I found myself reading non-stop, underlining like crazy… an astute explanation about what I've been feeling recently, something I couldn't put my finger on… [Michaels] writes in clear, energetic prose that's thoughtful, engaging and unforced. She defines and analyzes without judgment or insistence… a breath of fresh air… " — NPR Ohio..". a singularly brilliant and accessible analysis of some of the fundamental assumptions and driving principles of our time." — Comment Magazine..". a single lucid narrative that's bound to first make you somewhat uncomfortable and insecure, then give you the kind of pause from which you can step back and move forward with more autonomy, authenticity and mindfulness than ever." — The Atlantic "5 stars: The cause and effect of our world is more surprising than you'd think. With intriguing notions about the driving ideas of stories in every shape of our life, "Monoculture" is an incredibly fascinating way about how the mind works and today's consumer culture." — Midwest Book Review "If you just read one book this year, read this one." — BuriedInPrint blog "A smart and realistic guide to first recognizing the monoculture and the challenges of transcending its limitations." — BrainPickings. org "A thin, enrapturing gem. It's accessible, sensible-exactly the sort of book that should have (and still could + should!) take off and create a tiny little dent in books." — Kenyon Review


 



Civilization: The West and the Rest
by Niall Ferguson
Civilization: The West and the Rest

Western civilization’s rise to global dominance is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five centuries

How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? Acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson argues that beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts, or “killer applications” — competition, science, the rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic — that the Rest lacked, allowing it to surge past all other competitors.

Yet now, Ferguson shows how the Rest have downloaded the killer apps the West once monopolized, while the West has literally lost faith in itself. Chronicling the rise and fall of empires alongside clashes (and fusions) of civilizations, Civilization: The West and the Rest recasts world history with force and wit. Boldly argued and teeming with memorable characters, this is Ferguson at his very best.


 



Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America
by Matt Taibbi
Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America

The dramatic story behind the most audacious power grab in American history
The financial crisis that exploded in 2008 isn’t past but prologue. The stunning rise, fall, and rescue of Wall Street in the bubble-and-bailout era was the coming-out party for the network of looters who sit at the nexus of American political and economic power. The grifter class — made up of the largest players in the financial industry and the politicians who do their bidding — has been growing in power for a generation, transferring wealth upward through increasingly complex financial mechanisms and political maneuvers. The crisis was only one terrifying manifestation of how they’ve hijacked America’s political and economic life.

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi here unravels the whole fiendish story, digging beyond the headlines to get into the deeper roots and wider implications of the rise of the grifters. He traces the movement’s origins to the cult of Ayn Rand and her most influential — and possibly weirdest — acolyte, Alan Greenspan, and offers fresh reporting on the backroom deals that decided the winners and losers in the government bailouts. He uncovers the hidden commodities bubble that transferred billions of dollars to Wall Street while creating food shortages around the world, and he shows how finance dominates politics, from the story of investment bankers auctioning off America’s infrastructure to an inside account of the high-stakes battle for health-care reform — a battle the true reformers lost. Finally, he tells the story of Goldman Sachs, the “vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.”

Taibbi has combined deep sources, trailblazing reportage, and provocative analysis to create the most lucid, emotionally galvanizing, and scathingly funny account yet written of the ongoing political and financial crisis in America. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the labyrinthine inner workings of politics and finance in this country, and the profound consequences for us all.


 



Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future
by Robert B. Reich
Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future

A brilliant new reading of the economic crisis — and a plan for dealing with the challenge of its aftermath — by one of our most trenchant and informed experts.

When the nation’s economy foundered in 2008, blame was directed almost universally at Wall Street. But Robert B. Reich suggests a different reason for the meltdown, and for a perilous road ahead. He argues that the real problem is structural: it lies in the increasing concentration of income and wealth at the top, and in a middle class that has had to go deeply into debt to maintain a decent standard of living.

Persuasively and straightforwardly, Reich reveals how precarious our situation still is. The last time in American history when wealth was so highly concentrated at the top — indeed, when the top 1 percent of the population was paid 23 percent of the nation’s income — was in 1928, just before the Great Depression. Such a disparity leads to ever greater booms followed by ever deeper busts.

Reich’s thoughtful and detailed account of where we are headed over the next decades reveals the essential truth about our economy that is driving our politics and shaping our future. With keen insight, he shows us how the middle class lacks enough purchasing power to buy what the economy can produce and has adopted coping mechanisms that have a negative impact on their quality of life; how the rich use their increasing wealth to speculate; and how an angrier politics emerges as more Americans conclude that the game is rigged for the benefit of a few. Unless this trend is reversed, the Great Recession will only be repeated.

Reich’s assessment of what must be done to reverse course and ensure that prosperity is widely shared represents the path to a necessary and long-overdue transformation. Aftershock is a practical, humane, and much-needed blueprint for both restoring America’s economy and rebuilding our society.


 



The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
by Matt Ridley
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Life is getting better — and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down — all across the globe. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people’s lives as never before. The pessimists who dominate public discourse insist that we will soon reach a turning point and things will start to get worse. But they have been saying this for two hundred years.

Yet Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. Prosperity comes from everybody working for everybody else. The habit of exchange and specialization — which started more than 100, 000 years ago — has created a collective brain that sets human living standards on a rising trend. The mutual dependence, trust, and sharing that result are causes for hope, not despair.

This bold book covers the entire sweep of human history, from the Stone Age to the Internet, from the stagnation of the Ming empire to the invention of the steam engine, from the population explosion to the likely consequences of climate change. It ends with a confident assertion that thanks to the ceaseless capacity of the human race for innovative change, and despite inevitable disasters along the way, the twenty-first century will see both human prosperity and natural biodiversity enhanced. Acute, refreshing, and revelatory, The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.


 



The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
by Michael Lewis
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

The real story of the crash began in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn't shine and the SEC doesn't dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower- and middle-class Americans who can't pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren't talking.

Michael Lewis creates a fresh, character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor, a fitting sequel to his #1 bestseller Liar's Poker. Out of a handful of unlikely-really unlikely-heroes, Lewis fashions a story as compelling and unusual as any of his earlier bestsellers, proving yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our time.


 



I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay
by John Lanchester
I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay

Part economic primer, part fiscal and historical analysis, New Yorker and London Review of Books contributor John Lanchester offers his brilliantly witty, succinct overview of the current financial crisis.

For most people, the reasons for the sudden collapse of our economy remain obscure. I. O. U. is the story of how we came to experience such a complete and devastating financial implosion, and how the decisions and actions of a select group of individuals had profound consequences for America, Europe, and the global economy overall. John Lanchester begins with "The ATM Moment, " that seemingly magical proliferation of cheap credit that led to an explosion of lending, and then deftly outlines the global and local landscapes of banking and finance. Viewing the crisis through the lens of politics, culture, and contemporary history — from the invention and widespread misuse of financial instruments to the culpability of subprime mortgages — Lanchester draws perceptive conclusions on the limitations of financial and governmental regulation, capitalism's deepest flaw, and, most important, on the plain and simple facts of human nature where cash is concerned.

Weaving together firsthand research and superbly written reportage, Lanchester delivers a shrewd perspective and a digestible, comprehensive analysis that connects the dots for the expert and casual reader alike. I. O. U. is an eye-opener of a book — it may well provoke anger, amazement, or rueful disbelief — and, as the author clearly reveals, we've only just begun to get ourselves back on track.


 



Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
by Nick Bostrom
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

Superintelligence asks the questions: What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us? Nick Bostrom lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life. The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. If machine brains surpassed human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become extremely powerful — possibly beyond our control. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on humans than on the species itself, so would the fate of humankind depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence. But we have one advantage: we get to make the first move. Will it be possible to construct a seed Artificial Intelligence, to engineer initial conditions so as to make an intelligence explosion survivable? How could one achieve a controlled detonation? This profoundly ambitious and original book breaks down a vast track of difficult intellectual terrain. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom's work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.


 



The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves
by Dan Ariely
The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves

The New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality returns with thought-provoking work to challenge our preconceptions about dishonesty and urge us to take an honest look at ourselves.

Does the chance of getting caught affect how likely we are to cheat?
How do companies pave the way for dishonesty?
Does collaboration make us more honest or less so?
Does religion improve our honesty?

Most of us think of ourselves as honest, but, in fact, we all cheat. From Washington to Wall Street, the classroom to the workplace, unethical behavior is everywhere. None of us is immune, whether it's the white lie to head off trouble or padding our expense reports. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, award-winning, bestselling author Dan Ariely turns his unique insight and innovative research to the question of dishonesty.

Generally, we assume that cheating, like most other decisions, is based on a rational cost-benefit analysis. But Ariely argues, and then demonstrates, that it's actually the irrational forces that we don't take into account that often determine whether we behave ethically or not. For every Enron or political bribe, there are countless puffed résumés, hidden commissions, and knockoff purses. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Ariely shows why some things are easier to lie about; how getting caught matters less than we think; and how business practices pave the way for unethical behavior, both intentionally and unintentionally. Ariely explores how unethical behavior works in the personal, professional, and political worlds, and how it affects all of us, even as we think of ourselves as having high moral standards.

But all is not lost. Ariely also identifies what keeps us honest, pointing the way for achieving higher ethics in our everyday lives. With compelling personal and academic findings, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty will change the way we see ourselves, our actions, and others.


 



The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future
by Joseph E. Stiglitz
The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future

A forceful argument against America's vicious circle of growing inequality by the Nobel Prize–winning economist.

America currently has the most inequality, and the least equality of opportunity, among the advanced countries. While market forces play a role in this stark picture, politics has shaped those market forces. In this best-selling book, Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz exposes the efforts of well-heeled interests to compound their wealth in ways that have stifled true, dynamic capitalism. Along the way he examines the effect of inequality on our economy, our democracy, and our system of justice. Stiglitz explains how inequality affects and is affected by every aspect of national policy, and with characteristic insight he offers a vision for a more just and prosperous future, supported by a concrete program to achieve that vision.


 



Dongri To Dubai : Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia
by S. Hussain Zaidi
Dongri To Dubai : Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia

Dongri to Dubai is the first ever attempt to chronicle the history of the Mumbai mafia. It is the story of notorious gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan, Abu Salem, but above all, it is the story of a young man who went astray despite having a father in the police force.

Dawood Ibrahim was initiated into crime as a pawn in the hands of the Mumbai police and went on to wipe out the competition and eventually became the Mumbai police’s own nemesis. The narrative encompasses several milestones in the history of crime in India, from the rise of the Pathans, formation of the Dawood gang, the first ever supari, mafia’s nefarious role in Bollywood, Dawood’s move to Karachi, and Pakistan’s subsequent alleged role in sheltering one of the most wanted persons in the world.

This story is primarily about how a boy from Dongri became a don in Dubai, and captures his bravado, focus, ambition, and lust for power in a gripping narrative. The meticulously researched book provides an in-depth and comprehensive account of the mafia’s games of supremacy and internecine warfare.


 






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