Beyond Our Means by Sheldon Garon

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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 aging populations. Americans save little, despite weaker social safety nets and a younger population. Tracing the development of such behaviors across three continents from the nineteenth 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 normalized 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.

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About Sheldon Garon

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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 coeditor of "The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West".
Published October 31, 2011 by Princeton University Press. 483 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Beyond Our Means

City Book Review

For readers desiring more on the savings and loan crisis in America, please see my review of Debtor Nation: The history of America in Red Ink in these pages.

Mar 06 2012 | Read Full Review of Beyond Our Means

BBC History Magazine

Postal saving gave it a boost a century later, but it was the state which made saving a truly collective exercise in the era of the two world wars.

Apr 26 2012 | Read Full Review of Beyond Our Means

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