Green with Envy: Why Keeping Up with the Joneses Is Keeping Us in Debt

Shira Boss, Author . Warner Business $24.95 (205p) ISBN 978-0-446-57835-6

Freelance journalist Boss performs a real service by putting some of America's financial hangups on trial, charging that "the money taboo"—our good-manners reluctance to discuss what we earn and spend—is "destructive nonsense" that leads to debt and despair. Boss argues that envy ("the only vice warned against in both the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins") can be good for the economy, but our drive to keep up with our neighbors can be unhealthy. In five case studies, she shows the consequences of maintaining appearances when we can't afford it; the highlight is a chapter in which Boss lives a fantasy by interrogating her seemingly well-off next-door neighbors and getting the real scoop on their savings, income and credit card bills. The scope of the author's reporting is a bit limited—except for one billionaire, her subjects aren't especially socioeconomically diverse—and we never learn whether non-U.S. cultures suffer the same pangs of envy. Worse, her soft concluding chapter tacks toward self-help, offering counsel that's surprisingly platitudinous ("The universe will provide"). Even so, Boss's case for candor is valuable. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/10/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-0-446-55446-6
Paperback - 205 pages - 978-0-446-69598-5
Open Ebook - 121 pages - 978-1-59995-620-6
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