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Publisher's Summary

In The Progress Paradox, Gregg Easterbrook draws upon three decades of wide-ranging research and thinking to make the persuasive assertion that almost all aspects of Western life have vastly improved in the past century; and yet today, most men and women feel less happy than in previous generations. Why this is so and what we should do about it is the subject of this book.

Between contemporary emphasis on grievances and the fears engendered by 9/11, today it is common to hear it said that life has started downhill, or that our parents had it better. But objectively, almost everyone in today's United States or European Union lives better than his or her parents did.

Still, studies show that the percentage of the population that is happy has not increased in fifty years, while depression and stress have become ever more prevalent. The Progress Paradox explores why ever-higher living standards don't seem to make us any happier. Detailing the emerging science of "positive psychology," which seeks to understand what causes a person's sense of well-being, Easterbrook offers an alternative to our culture of crisis and complaint. He makes a compelling case that optimism, gratitude and acts of forgiveness not only make modern life more fulfilling but are actually in our self-interest.

Seemingly insoluble problems of the past, such as crime in New York City and smog in Los Angeles, have proved more tractable than they were thought to be. Likewise, today's "impossible" problems, such as global warming and Islamic terrorism, can be tackled, too.

Like The Tipping Point, this book offers an affirming and constructive way of seeing the world anew. The Progress Paradox will change the way you think about your place in the world, and about our collective ability to make it better.

©2003 Gregg Easterbrook (P)2003 Random House Audible

Critic Reviews

"Easterbrook...writes nothing that is not brilliant." (Chicago Tribune)
"This is an important, timely, and well-reasoned book that is sure to have people talking." (Booklist)
" a serious author with serious points to make." (The New York Times)
"Easterbrook invests the timeless questions of life's meaning with distinctly contemporary pertinence." (George Will)
"Easterbrook is perhaps the finest general science writer in the country." (Forbes)

What listeners say about The Progress Paradox

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael Carrato
  • 29-06-2004


Those who label this book as "liberal" are doing it a disservice. Easterbrook's advice is logical and pragmatic, not political. I generally lean to the right of center and I found this book to be a compelling read (listen). As for "veer(ing) off into a socialist agenda advocating class warfare against the rich" (as one reviewer wrote), I don't see it. Easterbrook's main complaint is against CEOs who manipulate the system to award themselves obscene salaries and bonuses.

Is it "liberal" to say that awarding tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to executives, while low end workers are laid off, is wrong? I don't think so. Maybe if your definition of "liberal" is "not conservative".

Some of his arguments about living wages and the like might be considered liberal views. But he balances it with a good dose of pragmatism when it comes to things like the environment.

The audio presentation is excellent, one of the best I've heard.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-03-2013


Enjoyed his take down of CEO's although examples are from the Enron era, bit out of date, but his solutions are terribly naive.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert L.
  • 02-04-2004

Good start , then faulty analysis, hidden politics

The Progress Paradox starts off with an interesting review of why, despite things being better, people seem unhappy. It's an interesting topic and the book raises some good points and observations.

Having built a solid foundation demonstrating how well market economies have provided a higher standard of living and discussing the unexpected angst that has resulted, the book then veers off into a socialist agenda advocating class warfare against the rich, government control of markets, and massive government programs. All of this is hidden under a false flag of "fairness" improvements to the market system. While the early material in the book is well supported with studies and facts, the veiled political views are hyped with false analogies, hysterical language, hidden assumptions, and outright ignorance of basic economic principles.

You could get the book and just throw it away after you've read the first half, but picking up a copy of P J O'Rourkes "Holidays in Hell" will provide a better read and a lot more insight into how the world really works.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous Professor
  • 20-06-2005

Stop the insanity, read this book

You know, I read other people's reviews on this book. Why is it that some people assume that because someone's conclusions happen to be more similar to a particular viewpoint means the person is liberal? What if its simply obvious observations that people today work harder for less? How is that liberal? Its only biased if the method at arriving at the particularly conclusion was biased. If the observations are made in an empirical manner and the conclusions happen to be more consistent with "liberal" views does not mean the book is biased.

So basically some of the other people who reviewed this book were annoyed because some of the conclusions involved utilitarianism. So who is really biased, the writer or the readers who dislike anything that disagrees with their viewpoint?

By the way, I encourage anyone who wants ideas for having a less stressful life to read this book. Do you know people in this country work more hours for less results than most other "postindustrial" countries? Well, wake up, I hope this book helps you.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • reggie p
  • 29-09-2004

Everyone should read this

This is a book everyone should read. So many people say the world is getting worse but never really think about how good things really are. They either don't know any history or just believe what they hear without really thinking about their actual situation. This book lists many of the ways in which the world is better than ever and why so many of us still feel so bad. Hopefully it will change the way people think and make everyone more grateful. The author seems to digress into how we could make things better for everyone with some intriguing ideas, but it is all very interesting. I didn't think any of the content was political at all.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 14-07-2004

Stop Listening at the 60% mark.

The first half of so of the book is an interesting tour of social, health and economic improvements of the last century. The balance is an unsubstantiated political discussion that blurs many topics together. Especially annoying to non-Americans will be the equation of the US with the free world and assumption that every country to wants to be like the US in its heart of hearts. Also some thinly disguised racism.
The back end of the book also calls into question the statistics and viewpoints expressed in the first sections.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Lee Lukehart
  • 21-09-2005

Get off the soapbox, please!

I wish I would have read the other reader reviews first. It would have saved me the sad experience of wading through the extended opening of statistical recitation only to get harangued by the author's personal viewpoints. It's not that I necessarily disagree with the author's sense of morality--but I certainly did not buy the book to be subjected to an accusational political diatribe. Stay away from this book, unless you like being preached to.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Christopher
  • 15-06-2004

Quickly turned left into liberal waters

I cannot recommend this book. I was expecting objective analysis but was myself subjected to an agenda driven piece favoring big-government, liberal solutions to all of humanity's problems. Read the reviews of the unabridged book before buying this one.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Joe
  • 10-11-2004

Good Statistics, Bad Conclusion

The argument is thourough and compelling as it summarizes how much better off we are today for Western society, yet contradicts itself by noting how horrible it is for everyone else. The fact remains that everyone is better off today than 100 years ago with regard to material things. Whether that should be the standard is debateable. So everyone is better off, yet people are depressed. Easterbrook's solution involves telling people that they don't need all that money when people are starving. Although I agree there was criminal behavior from some top executives in the past decade, that doesn't support the argument that the extremely rich don't "need" certain things. It is like saying the author of this book doesn't need the money he gets from it. No one in America "needs" all they have. We are a society of excess- but we can produce some good from it. The good Easterbrook suggests is universal healthcare, minimum wage and other socialist programs, while, at the same time, he condems Fascism and Communism. This contradiction was too much for me- especially since he never supports his socialist ideas with any logic except for, "sure it may bring down the wealth of the very rich and make all of your consumer goods more expensive..." Doesn't he see that those socialist programs would hurt the people they're trying to benefit as well as everyone else? Try to follow this: Minimum wage goes up so that Jose can feed his 10 kids >> Price of McDonald's food goes up >> Demand for food goes up >> all food prices go up >> It's more expensive for Jose to feed his kids. That's a real simplistic overview of what would happen, but that is the case generally speaking. Easterbrook doesn't address this.

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