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American Amnesia: Business, Government, and the Forgotten Roots of Our Prosperity

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From the groundbreaking author team behind the bestselling Winner-Take-All Politics, a timely and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans—and why those interests are misaligned. In Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explained how political elites have enabled and propelled plutocrac From the groundbreaking author team behind the bestselling Winner-Take-All Politics, a timely and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans—and why those interests are misaligned. In Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explained how political elites have enabled and propelled plutocracy. They trace the economic and political history of the United States over the last century and show how a viable mixed economy has long been the dominant engine of America’s prosperity. Like every other prospering democracy, the United States developed a mixed economy that channeled the spirit of capitalism into strong growth and healthy social development. In this bargain, government and business were as much partners as rivals. Public investments in education, science, transportation, and technology laid the foundation for broadly based prosperity. Programs of economic security and progressive taxation provided a floor of protection and business focused on the pursuit of profit—and government addressed needs business could not. The mixed economy was the most important social innovation of the twentieth century. It spread a previously unimaginable level of broad prosperity. It enabled steep increases in education, health, longevity, and economic security. And yet, extraordinarily, it is anathema to many current economic and political elites. And as the advocates of anti-government free market fundamentalist have gained power, they are hell-bent on scrapping the instrument of nearly a century of unprecedented economic and social progress. In American Amnesia, Hacker and Pierson explain how—and why they must be stopped.


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From the groundbreaking author team behind the bestselling Winner-Take-All Politics, a timely and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans—and why those interests are misaligned. In Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explained how political elites have enabled and propelled plutocrac From the groundbreaking author team behind the bestselling Winner-Take-All Politics, a timely and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans—and why those interests are misaligned. In Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explained how political elites have enabled and propelled plutocracy. They trace the economic and political history of the United States over the last century and show how a viable mixed economy has long been the dominant engine of America’s prosperity. Like every other prospering democracy, the United States developed a mixed economy that channeled the spirit of capitalism into strong growth and healthy social development. In this bargain, government and business were as much partners as rivals. Public investments in education, science, transportation, and technology laid the foundation for broadly based prosperity. Programs of economic security and progressive taxation provided a floor of protection and business focused on the pursuit of profit—and government addressed needs business could not. The mixed economy was the most important social innovation of the twentieth century. It spread a previously unimaginable level of broad prosperity. It enabled steep increases in education, health, longevity, and economic security. And yet, extraordinarily, it is anathema to many current economic and political elites. And as the advocates of anti-government free market fundamentalist have gained power, they are hell-bent on scrapping the instrument of nearly a century of unprecedented economic and social progress. In American Amnesia, Hacker and Pierson explain how—and why they must be stopped.

30 review for American Amnesia: Business, Government, and the Forgotten Roots of Our Prosperity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Book

    American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led US to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson “American Amnesia” is a much-needed refresher of what truly made America great and what we can do to restore a well-functioning government that promotes shared prosperity. Political Science professors Hacker and Pierson join forces once again to provide the public with the virtues of the greatest invention in history, the mixed economy. This insightful 464-page book includes American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led US to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson “American Amnesia” is a much-needed refresher of what truly made America great and what we can do to restore a well-functioning government that promotes shared prosperity. Political Science professors Hacker and Pierson join forces once again to provide the public with the virtues of the greatest invention in history, the mixed economy. This insightful 464-page book includes ten chapters and is broken out by two parts: 1. The Rise of the Mixed Economy, and 2. The Crisis of the Mixed Economy. Positives: 1. A professionally written and exhaustively researched book. 2. A much needed topic, what truly made America great and what we can do to restore it. 3. Professors Hacker and Pierson make a great team, they have great command of the topic and make persuasive arguments based on sound research. 4. An excellent introductory chapter that captures the main topics of the book and the general approach taken. “We are told that the United States got rich in spite of government, when the truth is closer to the opposite: The United States got rich because it got government more or less right.” 5. Taking back Adam Smith, the authors counter revisionist economy. “When ‘regulation . . . is in favor of the workmen,’ he wrote in The Wealth of Nations, ‘it is always just and equitable.’ He was equally enthusiastic about the taxes needed to fund effective governance. ‘Every tax,’ he wrote, ‘is to the person who pays it a badge, not of slavery but of liberty.’” Bonus, “As Adam Smith was keen to point out, the greatest threat to functioning markets is often those functioning in markets.” 6. Throughout this book the recurring theme of the virtues of a mixed economy is at its heart. “The mixed economy was at the heart of this success—in the United States no less than in other Western nations. Capitalism played an essential role. But capitalism was not the new entrant on the economic stage. Effective governance was.” 7. Taking back James Madison against conservation revisionist rhetoric. “Madison arrived at the convention with one firm conviction: Government needed the authority to govern.” Bonus, “Like the demonization of Woodrow Wilson, the morphing of Madison into some sort of protolibertarian is a manifestation of American Amnesia.” 8. A look at the current reality versus what once was. “Older Americans are the most educated in the world. Younger Americans, not even close.” 9. Inequality. “When it comes to inequality, the United States once looked relatively similar to other rich countries. Today it’s the most unequal rich nation in the world by a large margin.” 10. Highlights some underrated themes, lack of science funding. “The United States now ranks ninth in the world in government R&D expenditures as a share of the economy.” 11. The emergence of effective government. “What happened around the turn of the last century was neither a revolution in medical treatment nor a natural dividend of growth. It was the emergence of effective government action to improve the health of citizens.” Bonus, “In drug development, a 1995 investigation by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that government research had led to eleven of the fourteen most medically significant drugs over the prior quarter century.” Bonus #2, “A short list of nonmedical technologies that originated in government-funded research or contracts would include semiconductors, integrated circuits, nuclear power, satellite communications, GPS, radar, the microwave (used in communication as well as cooking), jet engines, the radio (and its sister technology, television), and a dazzling range of high-tech materials and innovative methods for making them, from titanium to powder metallurgy.” And finally bonus #3, “Of the twenty-five biggest advances in computing technology during the critical period between 1946 and 1965—breakthroughs like magnetic core memory, graphics displays, and multiple central processors—the US government financed eighteen.” 12. The achievements of America’s mixed economic model. “Alongside companies like Apple, however, government plays a dominant or vital role in the many places where markets fall short. Look inside that iPhone, and you’ll find that nearly all its major components (GPS, lithium-ion batteries, cellular technology, touch-screen and LCD displays, internet connectivity) rest on research that was publicly funded—and, in some cases, carried out directly by government agencies.” 13. The important role of governance. “A big government isn’t a guarantee of prosperity, but where we find prosperity, we find big government, too.” 14. The resistance to government. “The annals of consumer safety see this story repeated again and again: On issues from smoking to auto safety, government regulations faced tenacious resistance from the industries that profited from our myopic behavior.” 15. The role of government. “Governments provide essential public goods, correct externalities, combat monopolies, reduce the intensity of boom-and-bust cycles in the economy, expand economic opportunity, and promote social stability and the legitimacy of the market economy.” 16. How and why the successful mixed economic fell apart. How negative forces depleted political support needed to sustain the mixed economy but have undermined effective governance to secure American prosperity. “When businesses can use their economic power to influence government, they can extract policies that guarantee them returns above and beyond those they would obtain in a competitive marketplace.” 17. The two grave threats to the mixed economy. “A new economic elite with ideas (and earnings) starkly distinct from the American mainstream and a newly influential economic philosophy that we call “Randianism” (after the radically individualistic thinking of the midcentury novelist Ayn Rand).” 18. A look at the forces that have undermined our mixed economic model: the Roundtable, the revamped US Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers. “In American political history, few groups have assembled more resources or amassed more power than these three, and few have done more to shape the world we occupy today.” 19. Libertarian politics, the why behind smaller government. “No doubt the Koch brothers’ stance was also consistent with the interests of Koch Industries, a company knee-deep in oil. The economic rents that flow to corporations from the absence of regulation are especially great for companies, such as Koch Industries, that engage in the business of extracting, processing, and transporting commodities. If your business model generates huge negative externalities, libertarian governance is profitable.” 20. The march of the Republican Party further to the right and how it threatens our mixed economic model. 21. How to restore a well-functioning politics that promotes shared prosperity. 22. Links and so much more… Negatives: 1. At over 400 pages, it will require an investment of your time. 2. Lacks charts and visual material that would have complemented the excellent narrative. 3. The flow of the book is not optimal. It is a little repetitive and it drags here and there. 4. I would have provided a chapter or two on the top technologies that originated from government-funded research versus incorporating it loosely in the narrative. Too important a highlight to allow it to get lost in the shuffle. 5. No formal bibliography. In summary, this is a very good and provocative book that dispels many of the myths emanating from the right-wing conservative machine. Professors Hacker and Pierson show that America’s mixed economic model was at the heart of its rise to prominence and persuasively present the forces that are undermining government and hence a threat to the prosperity that made America great. There is so much valuable information in this book. A must read, I highly recommend it! Further suggestions: “Winner-Take-All Politics” by the same authors, “Dark Money: The Hidden Story of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer, “Plutocrats” by Chrystia Freeland, “Why the Right went Wrong” by E.J. Dionne Jr., “Nation on the Take” by Wendell Potter, "The Age of Greed" by Jeff Madrick, “Predator Nation” by Charles H. Ferguson, “The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America…” by Michael W. Hudson, “Republic, Lost” by Lawrence Lessig, and “The Looting of America” by Les Leopold.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Really useful catalogue and counterpoint to the libertarian/conservative/small government movement. Government actually works sometimes. And it has produced many economic gains. The book is a bit dry at times and sometimes repetitive, but good.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rita Welty Bourke

    The thesis of "American Amnesia" is that no nation achieves prosperity, and remains prosperous, unless they have a strong, central government with the power to rein in capitalistic excesses. Capitalism, if left to its own devices, will never make the necessary investments in education, infrastructure, and R&D for a country and a people to thrive and to prosper. Only government can and will do that. "Look inside (the IPhone), and you'll find that nearly all its major components (GPS, lithium-ion The thesis of "American Amnesia" is that no nation achieves prosperity, and remains prosperous, unless they have a strong, central government with the power to rein in capitalistic excesses. Capitalism, if left to its own devices, will never make the necessary investments in education, infrastructure, and R&D for a country and a people to thrive and to prosper. Only government can and will do that. "Look inside (the IPhone), and you'll find that nearly all its major components (GPS, lithium-ion batteries, cellular technology, touch screen and LCD displays, internet connectivity) rest on research that was publicly funded--and in some cases, carried out directly by government agencies. Jobs and his creative team transformed all this into something unique, and uniquely valuable. But they couldn't have done it without the U.S. Government's huge investment in technical knowledge.” For forty years we’ve heard a constant drumbeat of voices raised against our government: Government is bad. Social programs make people lazy. Government regulations strangle business. Taxes are wasted. If left alone, capitalism would create un-imagined wealth and prosperity for all. Prosperity would trickle down. It would lift all boats. Balderdash. Read this book and be reminded of the Robber Baron days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Progressive era, the Depression, the years of unprecedented prosperity after WWII, the unparalleled growth of businesses spurred on by the GI Bill of rights that allowed so many young men to go to college, helped them buy houses, gave them seed money to start new businesses. Along came Ronald Reagan (“Government is not the solution to our problem; government IS the problem.”), Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” (cut taxes, reform welfare, oppose raising the minimum wage), Grover Norquest (shrink government to the point where you can drown it in a bathtub), and Mitch McConnell (oppose every single thing Obama proposes). The conservative movement was in full control. Under their leadership, America suffered with anemic growth, the alarming deterioration of our infrastructure, and the hollowing out of the middle class. Our planet warmed significantly, the few at the top piled up unimaginable wealth, our air, water, and soil were polluted, and storms of never-before-seen intensity raked across the land. In 2008, the nation entered the Grand Recession. It would take years for us to climb our way out. The authors of “American Amnesia” assert that we have forgotten the things that made us great, brought prosperity to our country, and made us the envy of the world. They argue for a return to a mixed economy, one in which government and business work together to create prosperity. It is a persuasive argument.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mack Hayden

    It's not that this book is uninformative, it's just that it's kind of bland. It's basically an apologetic for the idea of a liberal mixed economy; clearly, that's something that needs all the defending it can get, especially in today's extremely right wing political climate. The authors mount a pretty good defense of why America's golden years were the result of government interventionism and economic liberalism. It just came across as a bit disjointed and dull to me. They try to cover so many d It's not that this book is uninformative, it's just that it's kind of bland. It's basically an apologetic for the idea of a liberal mixed economy; clearly, that's something that needs all the defending it can get, especially in today's extremely right wing political climate. The authors mount a pretty good defense of why America's golden years were the result of government interventionism and economic liberalism. It just came across as a bit disjointed and dull to me. They try to cover so many different strains of argumentation that each comes up somewhat wanting. I'd recommend Saving Capitalism by Robert Reich as a more pointed, enjoyable means of conveying the central message of this book. From there, Dark Money by Jane Mayer should get you up to speed in a much more engaging way on all the nefarious right-wing stuff detailed in the latter half of this one. If you want an amalgamation of a lot of different things, by all means check this out. I just personally thought it felt like a rehash of ideas I'd seen much more compellingly put elsewhere.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brad B

    There is some vital content in American Amnesia and I recommend it for that reason alone. I'm not a fan of the authors' writing style, it feels a little too academic, perhaps making it less accessible to the people who need it the most. At the same time, the organization of the book could use a little help, the authors jump from topic to topic a little too quickly. One thing I wish the authors had expressed more directly: There is a widespread assumption that Ryan, McConnell, et al, actually beli There is some vital content in American Amnesia and I recommend it for that reason alone. I'm not a fan of the authors' writing style, it feels a little too academic, perhaps making it less accessible to the people who need it the most. At the same time, the organization of the book could use a little help, the authors jump from topic to topic a little too quickly. One thing I wish the authors had expressed more directly: There is a widespread assumption that Ryan, McConnell, et al, actually believe their own pro-market, anti-government rhetoric. I don't believe that's true. Government, like race, gay marriage, etc., is an easy subject for a divide and conquer strategy, an approach the GOP uses quite effectively. Today one doesn't even need to persuade a majority of voters, only enough to win an election decided by gerrymandered districts. They also gloss over the Republican Party's effective ability to incorporate religion into the anti-government, divide and conquer strategy. The authors touch on both topics briefly, but I would have liked a thorough analysis. So it could use a little improvement but overall an important read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    C. Scott

    Solid and well put-together. I also really liked Winner Take All Politics, another book by this duo. Hacker and Pierson do great work. I kind of feel like this book was preaching to the choir - I read a lot of material like this so it was right in my wheelhouse - I don't need to be convinced that a mixed economy is a great idea. However, the authors marshal a lot of great facts in an easily-digestible format. The book is dense and satisfying, but also a bit of a grind to get through. Solid and well put-together. I also really liked Winner Take All Politics, another book by this duo. Hacker and Pierson do great work. I kind of feel like this book was preaching to the choir - I read a lot of material like this so it was right in my wheelhouse - I don't need to be convinced that a mixed economy is a great idea. However, the authors marshal a lot of great facts in an easily-digestible format. The book is dense and satisfying, but also a bit of a grind to get through.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    How did Eisenhower turn out to be so wrong when he asserted that any party that attacked unions and social security would be committing electoral suicide? Why did George Romney praise unions and government action and Mitt Romney villify them? Why did the language in the New York Times shift from describing government as doing things to interfering in things? Where business groups really looking for governmental partnerships through the early 70s? I picked this up because I over the last years I f How did Eisenhower turn out to be so wrong when he asserted that any party that attacked unions and social security would be committing electoral suicide? Why did George Romney praise unions and government action and Mitt Romney villify them? Why did the language in the New York Times shift from describing government as doing things to interfering in things? Where business groups really looking for governmental partnerships through the early 70s? I picked this up because I over the last years I found some of the concepts in Hacker's Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class helpful for interpreting what was going on and I think the same will be true of this book. On content this would be four stars but unfortunately this is a pretty depressing story for anyone of my opinions to begin with, and the writing is competent but not the most engaging. I found it a tough read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim McCoy

    pretty good read. started to drag on towards the end of the book. could be that I've read some of the source material already so it was a re-hash. pretty good read. started to drag on towards the end of the book. could be that I've read some of the source material already so it was a re-hash.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John Kaufmann

    An opus to the mixed economy. The authors challenge the reigning orthodoxy that the main role for government is defense and the redistribution of wealth from the makers to the takers, and that government is inefficient and inept. Instead, they argue that government is a necessary complement to private enterprise, and that governmental policies, regulations, and programs help lay the groundwork for societal (including private sector) prosperity. The authors point to historical evidence supporting An opus to the mixed economy. The authors challenge the reigning orthodoxy that the main role for government is defense and the redistribution of wealth from the makers to the takers, and that government is inefficient and inept. Instead, they argue that government is a necessary complement to private enterprise, and that governmental policies, regulations, and programs help lay the groundwork for societal (including private sector) prosperity. The authors point to historical evidence supporting the mixed economy: the mixed economy doesn't necessarily guarantee prosperity, but it is a necessary condition for prosperity - no developed country has gotten where they are without a mixed economy. Their premise is that the free market fundamentalism of the last several decades have caused undermined the mixed economy that got us to this point and threaten our future prosperity. The first half of the book made a compelling case for the benefits of the mixed economy - roads, education, basic scientific research, courts, environmental protections (clean air, clean drinking water, no lead in paint, etc.), child labor laws, seat belt and other auto safety requirements standards, unemployment insurance, contract and tort laws, workers compensation laws, food safety standards and inspections, consumer product standards, etc. They argue that these policies level the playing field and provide the safety net that allows people to take risks they otherwise might not take. It also provides services that no one firm or individual in the private sector will undertake because of costs or because competitors will benefits as free riders. These services and policies not only enable the private sector to proceed in confidence, but creates wealth by itself. The second half of the book focused more on tracing the roots of the free market backlash - I thought this part was a little tedious and repetitive. Nonetheless, an necessary and mostly interesting read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Another timely book. The authors suggest that the key to American postwar prosperity was the mixed-economy model enjoyed through the mid-sixties, which promoted infrastructure investment and scientific research through public and private partnerships. The Eisenhower administration was a particularly good example of this. Today, because of less public investment, Americans are slumping in global rankings such as education, infant mortality, transportation, and overall health. Americans are even g Another timely book. The authors suggest that the key to American postwar prosperity was the mixed-economy model enjoyed through the mid-sixties, which promoted infrastructure investment and scientific research through public and private partnerships. The Eisenhower administration was a particularly good example of this. Today, because of less public investment, Americans are slumping in global rankings such as education, infant mortality, transportation, and overall health. Americans are even getting shorter, on the average, than people in Western Europe. The authors have some good recommendations for remedying this situation. If you think our health industry could become more cost-efficient, or wondering why we don't have high-speed rail, or faster broadband, or higher-wage industrial jobs, this is the book to read. If you wonder why the middle-class pays most of the tax bill, this book is for you.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    This was an excellent companion to Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People, insofar as it carefully explains the cynical obstructionism of the Republican Party throughout the Obama era, but with an update for the second term of his presidency. This book also wins points for having such a muscular "What to do about it" section, whereas most of these books seem to shoehorn in some bien pensant bullshit toward the end. This was an excellent companion to Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People, insofar as it carefully explains the cynical obstructionism of the Republican Party throughout the Obama era, but with an update for the second term of his presidency. This book also wins points for having such a muscular "What to do about it" section, whereas most of these books seem to shoehorn in some bien pensant bullshit toward the end.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Regina

    This one. Everyone needs to read this one and then we all need to remember how great an efficient (not big and not small) government makes our lives - everything from the United States Postal Service to our national highway system to the CDC to NASA.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Great overview of the mixed economy and why it is important for the success of the nation. Book was an interesting dive, but was shallow in some ares and deep in others, leading to a few sections that dragged a bit. Overall, very happy with the read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    A Review of Jacob Hacker’s and Paul Pierson’s American Amnesia By Greg Cusack May 17, 2016 Over the past forty years a new class of extreme economic individualists has labored to vilify “government” in the eyes of Americans in order to return the country to the rule of billionaire privateers and their political allies in the Republican Party. The title of this book reflects the authors’ conviction that Americans in recent years seem to have forgotten how much they had once benefited from the long-las A Review of Jacob Hacker’s and Paul Pierson’s American Amnesia By Greg Cusack May 17, 2016 Over the past forty years a new class of extreme economic individualists has labored to vilify “government” in the eyes of Americans in order to return the country to the rule of billionaire privateers and their political allies in the Republican Party. The title of this book reflects the authors’ conviction that Americans in recent years seem to have forgotten how much they had once benefited from the long-lasting cooperation between civic-minded business leaders on the one hand, and a responsive, adequately funded government on the other, that was forged during the successive national crises of the Great Depression and the Second World War. This successful working relationship endured into the 1970s and was responsible for both a significant expansion of the middle class and a marked reduction in the disparity between them and the wealthiest citizens. In this book, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson explore the extent to which economic thought and policy has been skewed to far the right in the years since, as well the means by which the Republican Party has deliberately undermined effective governance. In fact, argue Hacker and Pierson, widespread prosperity cannot endure without effective government. “Government,” they write, “has unique capacities – to enforce compliance, to constrain or encourage action, to protect citizens from private predation – that allow it to overcome problems that markets can’t solve on their own. These problems…concern areas in which markets tend to fall short and areas where market actors tend to distort democratic processes in pursuit of private advantage.” (P. 70) Examples of the kind “public goods” that cannot be provided by markets alone – if at all – include schools, roads, and the multiple protections provided by oversight guarding against food pollution or environmental degradations. (Pp. 71-2) However, at the very time this highly productive balance between the private and public spheres achieved some of the greatest gains for the common good since the 1930s -- the creation of Medicare and Medicaid and legislation overturning the segregationist system widespread in the American South – it began to fracture, battered by several crucial developments of the 1970s that together put an end to effective governance. The most significant of these were: • The rise of a strain of economic thought (often called the Austrian school) that opposed the vigorous government-led programs of the New Deal by promoting the ideal of capitalism unfettered by any kind of government “interference”; • The parallel emergence of more conservative politicians within the Republican Party who married this economic theory to the radical individualism advanced by Ayn Rand; and, • The political development by wealthy business leaders of various think tanks and surrogate organizations intended to advance the policy consequences of such economic and societal views, such as lowering taxes for the super-wealthy, downsizing government at all levels, and dramatically reducing outlays for social programs. In addition, two other occurrences greatly contributed to today’s hyper-partisan divide: the flight of Southern white voters from the Democratic to the Republican Party, and the scorched earth political tactics advocated by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Very quickly after the Congress adopted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – one of the greatest achievements of the civil rights movement born in the 1950s that overturned the segregationist laws in force throughout the South since shortly after the Civil War – Southerners left the Democratic Party in droves. This shift seriously diluted the already declining influence of moderate Republicans in the Northeast (where the party had a long tradition of producing such enlightened, progressive leaders as Nelson Rockefeller and John Lindsay) and turned the “emancipation party of Lincoln” into a party that has for decades played the “race card” in local, regional and national elections. But it was the deliberate incorporation of a “politics of division” championed by Newt Gingrich that created the final capstone for today’s powerful – but also powerfully adrift – Republican Party. This form of “either/or” politics had no room for compromise of any sort, nor did it recognize shades of grey. One was either “with us” or “against us,” “right” or “wrong,” a “true principled American” or a “liberal elitist who has forgotten his roots.” This stark black-white method of framing issues contributed to eroding many public and private partnerships that had long worked on important issues enjoying broad support. Reasoning with those with whom one disagreed was replaced with the cold shoulder, harsh denunciations, and often-impossible demands. The train wreck resulting from all these factors was predictable, but ignored. Among the consequences are: • A wealthy business class that has again assumed the elitist hierarchical and anti-statist views of their predecessors in the late 19th century’s Gilded Age; • A Republican Party that has assumed a radical, anti-government stance akin to that of the anti-Federalists who fought against the adoption of the Constitution; • A barely functioning federal government because a bitterly gridlocked Congress continues to severely underfund multiple important federal agencies; and • The decline in the numbers and fortunes of the middle class, with accompanying increases in both the wealthy elite and people living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, those responsible for this mess – and, make no mistake, they are pronounced enemies of “the government” –point to the widening gaps in service delivery and infrastructure maintenance as proof of the inability of government to do anything well. At the same time, they tiresomely preach their illusionary “solutions”: ever greater cuts in taxes, continued shrinking of government, and the “privatization” of what were once recognized as public commitments, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, even schools and prisons. Hacker and Pierson observe that “our present crisis bears an unfortunate resemblance to that which the Founders endeavored to overcome [in their creating a more vigorous government through the Constitution]: chronic stalemate, eroding government capacity, weakened accountability, declining trust, and increasing accommodation of the narrow interests that flourish when effective public authority wavers.” (P. 315) They urge us to break through our “American amnesia” in order to recapture an accurate memory of the great strides the United States was once able to make when a healthily empowered government, supported by adequate resources through fair taxation, was able to work in partnership with civic-minded business leaders to accomplish great things for all, rather than enabling the continued enrichment of a tiny few as we have today. Then they somberly conclude, “There is no magic bullet. The problems are too complex, too interdependent, and too entrenched to make any single “solution” plausible. [Rather, we need to understand that] serious but not sweeping changes, guided by the right diagnosis, can cascade into larger transformations. There are some big reforms to rally around” that will begin to restore the proper balance, including: • Restoring and expanding the right to vote; • Restricting the flow of money into politics and lobbying, while publicizing all sources of it; and, • Amplifying the voice of moderate corporate interests. (P. 339) May we have the wisdom – and courage – to begin!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Justin Harnish

    Likely the best explanation for the current state of hyper-partisanship and a government and country no longer chasing efficiencies but instead in a steep and steady tailspin. American Amnesia covers the rise and fall of the mixed economy: markets and governments working in synergy to progress with equal opportunities and minimization of rent-seeking (the above profitability enabled by crony capitalism). The major contributors to the decline of the mixed economy (modern CEOs, Department of Comme Likely the best explanation for the current state of hyper-partisanship and a government and country no longer chasing efficiencies but instead in a steep and steady tailspin. American Amnesia covers the rise and fall of the mixed economy: markets and governments working in synergy to progress with equal opportunities and minimization of rent-seeking (the above profitability enabled by crony capitalism). The major contributors to the decline of the mixed economy (modern CEOs, Department of Commerce, legislative Republicans) are contrasted to their forebears of the middle of the 20th century, including in one case, a father-son combination, George and Mitt Romney. The father was a statesman of the mixed economy, the son "flip-flopped" famously between positions as corporate raider and someone willing to get policy done with liberal legislatures in Massachusetts, but ultimately following his party to its present day state of "black-is-white" cravenness in following Trump. The mixed economy was one that slowly bent toward justice, cleaner air, cleaner water, and operational and safety and labor standards, while progressing in first a space-age and then an Information Age economy, with R&D funded by government and industry bringing products and spinoffs to market. Today's government labs, hamstrung by an electorate that has bought--hook, line, and sinker in my experience--a strong-Randian naivety about the role of government (see M. Lewis's "The Fifth Risk" as another excellent example) fails to deliver important insights and direction on two existential risks--climate change and untreatable superbugs. You will have to squint to find a silver lining in American Amnesia. There are a few prescriptions but they require power structures to shift away from a "no-government Catch-22" power structure feeding a smaller, more nationalized Republican base and representative government. If you want to understand how we got here, American Amnesia is the book for you; if you want to understand the path forward, I am not sure that book has yet been written.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Channa

    I loved some parts of this, some not so much. I accepted that America has begun stagnating, and that we're doing terribly in comparison with rich capitalist democracies, and even that a mixed economy played a central role in our previous prosperity... but I wasn't sold on their solution. Why give power to a government that is failing us in hopes that it will return to its former glory? Something bigger needs to change, methinks. I loved some parts of this, some not so much. I accepted that America has begun stagnating, and that we're doing terribly in comparison with rich capitalist democracies, and even that a mixed economy played a central role in our previous prosperity... but I wasn't sold on their solution. Why give power to a government that is failing us in hopes that it will return to its former glory? Something bigger needs to change, methinks.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    The successful narrative of the right in recent decades that "government is the problem" has led to a collective amnesia about the positive role that has historically been played by government as the foundation to our prosperity. Consensus surrounding the value of a mixed economy has been shaken by this narrative and the ascendance of a laissez-faire ideology has fundamentally undermined the idea that a vigorous governmental presence is necessary to that prosperity. The successful narrative of the right in recent decades that "government is the problem" has led to a collective amnesia about the positive role that has historically been played by government as the foundation to our prosperity. Consensus surrounding the value of a mixed economy has been shaken by this narrative and the ascendance of a laissez-faire ideology has fundamentally undermined the idea that a vigorous governmental presence is necessary to that prosperity.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    Among a handful of the very best works of contemporary political-economy that I have read - & I've been reading a great deal of contemporary political-economy! Champions the principle that & healthy balance between business of government - both dealing from strength - is responsible for shared prosperity. Details the largely successful long-term & carefully orchestrated attack on government by elite business interests - soft-Randians & hard-Randians - & the increasingly sociopathic GOP & the neg Among a handful of the very best works of contemporary political-economy that I have read - & I've been reading a great deal of contemporary political-economy! Champions the principle that & healthy balance between business of government - both dealing from strength - is responsible for shared prosperity. Details the largely successful long-term & carefully orchestrated attack on government by elite business interests - soft-Randians & hard-Randians - & the increasingly sociopathic GOP & the negative effects of this campaign. Hacker & Pierson name names & provide some detail on the exploits on several of the lesser known actors (mostly villains) in this ongoing drama. A few eminently reasonable & pragmatic counter strategies are suggested very few if any of these are new or radical. This is an important work of scholarly literature & at the very same time it's a delightfully fun read altho I should state that soft & hard Randians may not agree.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dell

    This is an excellent book. We are about to begin a general election campaign that promises to be almost completely devoid of meaningful content, full of media reports on nonsensical issues and celebrity gossip. How did we get here? Read this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    NVTony

    Interesting take on subject matter.

  21. 4 out of 5

    D.L. Morrese

    What has government ever done for us? Quite a lot, actually, but we seem to have forgotten that. In American Amnesia, two political science professors, Jacob Hacker from Yale and Paul Pierson from UC Berkeley, argue that there has been a concerted effort to cause us to forget and, more insidiously, to get us to regard our government not as the facilitator of our prosperity, but as a hindrance. It seems obvious to me that the benefits of government don't stop with things like roads and bridges. Bec What has government ever done for us? Quite a lot, actually, but we seem to have forgotten that. In American Amnesia, two political science professors, Jacob Hacker from Yale and Paul Pierson from UC Berkeley, argue that there has been a concerted effort to cause us to forget and, more insidiously, to get us to regard our government not as the facilitator of our prosperity, but as a hindrance. It seems obvious to me that the benefits of government don't stop with things like roads and bridges. Because of governmental regulations, we can be fairly sure that the food and medicine we buy isn't toxic; that our appliances, cars, homes, and other purchases are reasonably safe to use; and that whatever else we buy will function almost as well as the sellers claim it will. Our air and water are cleaner, our workplaces are safer, our workdays are shorter, and our pay is better than in the not-so-distant past because of government. If we are in the fortunate position of having a fulltime job, we may enjoy some kind of insurance or even paid holidays because of governmental policies. These benefits did not emerge from the invisible hand of market forces. They came about through governmental actions required to curb abuses of consolidated wealth in its pursuit of selfish interests. But that's history, and American Amnesia is not a lesson about the Depression, the Progressive Era, or the New Deal. It's about the ongoing effort to make us forget them. Hacker and Pierson don't claim this is a conspiracy, exactly. The people behind it are not united enough for that, but there is a common ideology at the heart of it that is impervious to facts and immune to rational argument. It's a simplistic, good guy versus bad guy fiction in which government is always bad and private enterprise is always good. It's the imaginary world portrayed in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Real world history doesn't matter. Facts are irrelevant. The fiction is clear and compelling, and adherents are determined to prove its validity by undermining the U.S. government's ability to succeed. After all, if government is bad, any action it takes to improve things will end up doing the opposite, right? To those who subscribe to this dogma, government failure is a forgone conclusion. There is, however, a tiny grain of reason behind this fantasy. Governmental policies and regulations can be a hindrance to accomplishing narrow, short-term monetary goals. If next quarter's profits are a factory owner's main concern, he may not appreciate the government compelling him to address what Hacker and Pierson call 'externalities'. The pollution caused by his factory can be one of these. Spewing toxins into the environment doesn't factor into the business owner's decision-making process because it doesn't affect his ability to produce and sell his products. He may not like seeing dead fish floating on the river outside his corner office, but the fish aren't his customers, and the river isn't his problem. Any effort he might take to reduce his outflow of noxious sludge would undoubtedly cut into his profit margin. If the costs of reducing his pollution were passed down to the buyers of his products, it could harm his business because companies that don't clean up after themselves will have a cost advantage. The best thing for him to do from a purely private business perspective is to ignore this negative externality. He is also likely to ignore positive externalities. These are a bit less intuitive, but they are no less a part of the environment in which he does business. Like the polluted river, they don't have a spot on his balance sheet, so he doesn't want to pay for them if he can avoid it. The government provides many positive externalities that befit our factory owner. It provides the framework within which he negotiates contracts with other business, and it provides him with legal recourse in the event of contract violation. The government helps him by restricting monopolies from eliminating him as a potential competitor (e.g. through a hostile takeover, dumping goods, or intimidating his suppliers). It provides the roads on which his company distributes its goods. It educates his workers. The government also helps him sell what he produces because it instills consumer confidence. Customers feel safe buying from him because they can assume that governmental regulations require him to produce safe and effective products. Between the early 1940s and the mid-1970s, America was in the heyday of what the authors call a mixed economy. This was a time of unprecedented national achievement and growing prosperity. Under a mixed economy, private companies acknowledge that government has a legitimate, possibly even a beneficial role to play. Businesses continue to do what they do best—produce and sell products and services—but they accept the legitimacy of governmental policies that compel them to pay some attention to negative externalities and to pay their fair share for positive externalities. As long as all businesses operate under the same rules, they, their workers, and their customers benefit. It turns out that a nation of healthier, freer, more secure, and better-educated consumers is an externality that is good for business. Things have changed since then. Many people now see Business and Government as adversaries rather than as partners working toward a common goal. This change in attitude, and the erosion of our formerly successful mixed economy, doesn't have a single cause. Individuals and organizations motivated to preserve their relatively privileged positions were part of it. The rise of ideological market absolutists were another. But whether prompted by selfish interests or honest but misguided beliefs, the opponents of government have been largely successful. They have accomplished what their preconceptions told them was true to begin with. They have created a dysfunctional government. They gutted regulations, installed regressive tax policies, allowed the dangerous deterioration of our national infrastructure, and they have enabled the rising wealth disparity between the extremely rich and the rest of us. They have also institutionalized political gridlock that handcuffs the government from taking effective actions to resolve any of these problems. They said government was bad, and they worked hard to make it so. The authors attempt to end their tale of economic sabotage on an upbeat note. Government, despite attacks over the last four decades to hobble it, can still accomplish much, they claim. Once we realize "how badly we are served by the misleading juxtapositions that dominate public debate: markets versus the state, freedom versus tyranny, free enterprise versus big government", we'll once again see government as it really is, a facilitator of a free and prosperous national economy. All it takes, they say, is to establish "a more realistic and historically grounded starting point [from which] we can have vigorous, reasoned, fact-based debates…." Now who's mistaking fiction for reality? The authors' trust in the power of rational debate is admirable, but judging from political soundbites I've seen in the news, and from infrequent, painful glimpses of CSPAN, Congress is not accustomed to reasoned, fact-based debates. I have a difficult time imagining a serving member of Congress, especially a Republican one, deviating from his or her party dogma because of reasoned debate or, for that matter, hard data. Doing so, in fact, seems to me as if it would be political suicide. Members of Congress are there to drink their party's Kool Aid, parrot the sanctioned rhetoric, and oppose any efforts of their political opponents. They behave as if they view the legislative branch of our government as some kind of zero-sum game in which they must be good team players and do whatever their coaches tell them, not so much to win but to ensure that the other party loses. If they have goals beyond this, they seem to be matters of faith, not unlike those of religion or any other fervently held ideology. Objective facts don't matter. Party dogma provides absolute truth. It trumps the lessons of history, the opinions of experts, and even objective evidence. Questioning the faith is tantamount to a political sin. Any who succumb to rationality, ethics, or a sense of personal responsibility, will likely find themselves metaphorically burned at the political stake. I know my attitude is showing, but I've become more than a bit cynical about Congress. Apparently, I'm not alone. According to Gallup polls, it's hasn't topped a 20% approval rating since May 2011, when it briefly hit 24% before slipping back to 17% a month later. But this may be because 80% of the people responding to the polls assume that the role of Congress is to address societal concerns by creating, debating, and passing effective legislation. If so, it has most certainly failed. But for those who see the role of Congress as a means to cripple effective government, it has done quite well. Perhaps it is these people who account for the almost 20% who say they approve of it. I can understand why they would be pleased. American Amnesia provides an excellent example of how an uncritically accepted ideology can harm a great nation. Such things have happened before. And I agree with Hacker and Pierson. The way to overcome this slow economic suicide is to examine issues based on facts rather than through the distorting prism of economic or political dogma. I just can't see that happening. In our culture, well-financed special interests have a great deal of influence over our government. They fund political campaigns, they draft legislation, and they control the popular media, which means they can shape public opinion. There may be ways to overcome political polarization and get the government working again, but I don't know what they are. I do know it won't happen soon and it won't be easy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Myles

    That Americans increasingly question the value of collective action is well documented. This manifests itself in a fear that big government acts as constraint on their freedom. This book turns around that equation and says big government is and has for decades worked to make America a prosperous nation. It goes on to say that Congress has moved in the opposite direction and is starving government of much needed resources. Who is to be believed? According to usgovernmentspending.com, Americans will That Americans increasingly question the value of collective action is well documented. This manifests itself in a fear that big government acts as constraint on their freedom. This book turns around that equation and says big government is and has for decades worked to make America a prosperous nation. It goes on to say that Congress has moved in the opposite direction and is starving government of much needed resources. Who is to be believed? According to usgovernmentspending.com, Americans will spend $7.56 trillion on government in 2019. About one quarter of that goes to operate state government, another quarter of it goes to operate local government, and roughly one half of that will go to operate the national government, including almost $1 trillion toward national defense. Another $1.69 trillion will cover health care and $1.45 trillion pension and social security benefits. Combined from all levels of government. The American people would have to be blind or dumb or both not to know what their national priorities actually are. When their houses burn, when law enforcement acts, when ambulances scream through their streets, Americans must know they, indeed, are paying for it. Fully one-half of government spending is not directed by Washington, and I don’t hear many cries for the dissolution of cities or state governments. Much of the propaganda generated by libertarian businessmen, by pro-business lobby groups, and not a little by FOX television, is admittedly propaganda directed at national institutions. Government spending isn’t going away anytime soon. This book ably documents many of the reasons why people mistrust their national government, as does Jane Mayer in her “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” which came out at roughly the same time as this book. Government could be bigger or smaller depending on your perspective. On a purely operational basis, government could be a lot smaller, in my opinion, and get the same amount of work done. In the US, 52 state governments duplicate many of the same services and administration, and a hundred or more cities also do the same things. The barrier to this sort of institutional change would undoubtedly be the compromise in sovereignty people would have. Would uniformity in building standards, or highway construction standards, or even kindergarten curriculum be such a bad thing? Really. I’m sure there are better commentators than me who argue for less defence spending. Does $1 trillion guarantee no attacks by foes? Does it guarantee fair access to foreign markets? Not likely. Not even $2 trillion would do it. Part of the inertia built into the American system of government came from the founding fathers themselves who confounded popular sovereignty by including a Senate that answers to all states equally regardless of population. Not to mention an Electoral College who chooses the President by similar means. If Americans could once agree to dilute their sovereignty in favour of a national government that helped propel them to superpower status, surely it is not such a leap that they could do so again to help peoples around the work contain carbon dioxide emissions, eliminate tax havens for the ultra rich, and curb the power of international crime syndicates.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dan Downing

    This escaped my notice for a few years, then Ben Fountain called it "indispensable" and referenced it several times in his terrific "Beautiful Country Burn Again". I acquired the book and soon began one of the most difficult on paper journies I have had. It is not that the writing is full of academic slobbering. Quite the contrary, it is written without jargon or obfuscation. It is well annotated. There are a few patches where new ground---for me---was broken. Mostly it covered matter I knew abo This escaped my notice for a few years, then Ben Fountain called it "indispensable" and referenced it several times in his terrific "Beautiful Country Burn Again". I acquired the book and soon began one of the most difficult on paper journies I have had. It is not that the writing is full of academic slobbering. Quite the contrary, it is written without jargon or obfuscation. It is well annotated. There are a few patches where new ground---for me---was broken. Mostly it covered matter I knew about, going back a couple of centuries and hurtling right up to the beginning of 2016. All together in one place, at one time: a potent brew. I imagine the authors are writhing every time our President opens his lie dispenser. I had to overcome ire and disgust and outrage every few pages. The theme involves our once great country, a country which led the world in many areas because we had a . That is, a democratic government of moderate to great strength which oversaw a free capitalistic engine. When the coal companies became too greedy and violent, the government eventually stepped in. When our air became acid and unbreathable, the government stepped in. Time and again the 'market' and the freebooting barons of industry went too far in trampling on human rights. Our history is rife with examples. The government provided health laws, stopped sewage from being dumped raw into drinking water. Government fostered the internet, the cell phone, antibiotics, advanced weapons, education, and on and on. Hand in hand with responsible or coerced business forces we forged the biggest and best: educated, healthy, wealthy, sheltered, free. Our revered and often misquoted founding fathers scrapped the Articles of Confederation of 1781 for the Constitution of 1786 largely because the articles were clearly too weak to keep a Union together. The government was DESIGNED to have suasion over the states and the economy. Then, having pushed too far and too hard, having stifled Jim Crow, freed homosexuals from the yoke of hatred (not abolished the hatred), led Hispanix to educational opportunities, and so on, the irresponsible, greedy rich took advantage and set out with intent to destroy our government and our society. They have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, although in their dreams they have a long way to go. We have made this possible because we forgot our history, we ignored our education; we embraced ignorance. Pierson and Hacker trace the ways and means and after agonizing chapters, give a plan for how we can win back our great nation. Nothing will come quickly or easily: it is a long game. I think the education between the covers of this book is worth the stress of reading it. And I recommend HBO's opening to "Newsroom" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPHSX...) as a dramatic although factual recitation of where we stand (not very high) in the world rankings. By now we probably lead the world in having the most politically active billionaires. For them, you can never have too little, or they too much. Highly Recommended

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ob-jonny

    This book does a terrific job of explaining why America has gone on a totally different path from the rest of the modern world regarding the role of government and the free market. It seems like almost the entire country has been brainwashed regarding government by the conservative movement. Generally in the rest of the modern world, big prosperity goes with big government and in successful countries like Norway the government plays a major role for stimulating business and providing the framewo This book does a terrific job of explaining why America has gone on a totally different path from the rest of the modern world regarding the role of government and the free market. It seems like almost the entire country has been brainwashed regarding government by the conservative movement. Generally in the rest of the modern world, big prosperity goes with big government and in successful countries like Norway the government plays a major role for stimulating business and providing the framework through a strong educational system. This is how America was between the 1930s and around 1980. All of the technological breakthroughs achieved by American companies like Apple and Google were made possible by government funding for the tools needed to make those companies successful. All these entrepreneurs did was find a unique application for existing technology, and though the entrepreneurs were essential they could do nothing without the tools developed by government funded research. This includes all of the components of computers, the infrastructure allowing data transfer, and the internet itself was created by a government program. Without government funded research, Steve Jobs would have been sitting in a garage without any of the computer parts and other related tools to allow him to invent anything. Government is also responsible for most of the big changes responsible to the radical transformation of quality of life since the 1800s. Vaccines, purification of water and milk, development of antiseptics, seat-belts, taking lead out of gasoline changed everything for people but none of these breakthroughs were driven by the free market. In fact the free market fought each of these changes because it would temporarily hurt their profit. These are examples of market failure. The market wouldn't develop vaccines for instance because there is no incentive for entrepreneurs to develop such things because they can't make money off of it directly and it would be easier if everyone else fixed the problem (e.g. free-rider). People have to be forced to take the vaccines and only the government can accomplish this. America is still riding on the high government involvement from before the 1980s because there are still well-educated people from that earlier time in the workforce. But America's de-funding of research and education is like shooting ourselves in the foot and it is laying the roadmap for countries like China and all over Europe to outperform the US in the future.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Feng Ouyang

    American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker, Paul Pierson I read the first chapter. This does not seem to be the book I want to read. The starting part of the book is highly repetitive. It talks around and around about the good things that a government can do or has done. Therefore, it seems the book is arguing against a position that all governments should be abolished. As far as know, no reasonable people have held such a position. It American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker, Paul Pierson I read the first chapter. This does not seem to be the book I want to read. The starting part of the book is highly repetitive. It talks around and around about the good things that a government can do or has done. Therefore, it seems the book is arguing against a position that all governments should be abolished. As far as know, no reasonable people have held such a position. It is commonly perceived that conservatives are “against the government.” In fact, while conservatives may be against government overreach in areas such as regulations and income redistribution, they advocate other government functions such as defense and social values, such as regulating abortion and stem cell research. The recently emerged tea party does want a much smaller government. However, this is the reaction to the perceived government expansion in the early Obama years, primarily Obamacare. The tea party does not represent long-standing conservative views. The author boasts support to science and technology development as a primary benefit of the government. However, spending on science, as a percentage of total Federal spending, remains approximately constant during Democratic and Republican administrations. Therefore, such government role is not a point of contention to start with. In short, this book argues against a strawman. The argumentative tactics are also questionable. For example, the book cited George Wills’ words that (I paraphrase) inefficiency and gridlock are built-in features of our government, as designed by the founding fathers. The book then argued against such a position by pointing out that one of the founding fathers, James Madison, advocated for a powerful Federal government as a way to create a prosperous country. In my view, such an attack has two significant flaws. First, James Madison was just one of the founding fathers. The US Constitution was a product of intense struggle and considerable compromise between the federalists and their opponents. The “inefficiency” and “gridlock” mentioned by Wills are the results of such interactions, not the view of an individual founding father. Second, whether we need a powerful Federal government and whether such government should be made to run efficiently are two different questions. Overall, from the first chapter, I don’t consider this book as worth reading any further.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    Hacker and Pierson present a striking, convincing, and important argument for the American electorate: government has and continues to be an important facet of growth, success, and improvements for individuals, businesses, and society as a whole, but a sustained and broad-sweeping effort by conservatives over the last 80 years has left many Americans blind to this. They structure their argument first by delving into history to show the ways in which a prominent government that played an active r Hacker and Pierson present a striking, convincing, and important argument for the American electorate: government has and continues to be an important facet of growth, success, and improvements for individuals, businesses, and society as a whole, but a sustained and broad-sweeping effort by conservatives over the last 80 years has left many Americans blind to this. They structure their argument first by delving into history to show the ways in which a prominent government that played an active role in a mixed-market (as opposed to free market) was the foundation of the United States and the ways in which it has done so through from the 1800s and the expansion of the railroads to providing increasing balance and protection for citizens against the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age and then, of course, in the Post-WOrld War II boom in which they funneled money in research, medicine and the like, creating inventions, technologies, medical breakthroughs from which all Americans benefitted. They identify historically how different leaders of industry understand and even appreciated the role of government. They highlight how Republican leaders from President Wilson to Vannevar Bush to President Eisenhower to even Richard Nixon saw that government has a key role to play the mixed market and it creates more opportunity for growth. However, by the mid-20th century, conservatives have worked tirelessly undermine government through dark money, think tanks, media, and intentional obfuscation. One main method the authors go into substantial depth with is identifying how often conservatives create the problem in government and then point to the problem as evidence of government as a failure. Often, they do this by slowing down the governing process (when they are the minority) so that nothing gets done or by defunding or restricting government entities (when the majority), the resulting failures that result become the proof that such endeavors are wastes of taxpayers' money. It is a powerful and frustrating book, more so when one gets to the end and think about how much of this has gotten worse under the Trump administration (published in 2016, some of their conclusions and points anticipate the ways in which conservatives have behaved in the time since).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    While this might be an important entry point to the conversation, for a defense of the mixed economy I felt like it could have been much stronger. At points, it seemed like a mash-up of many concerning happenings in the political sphere that have lead to our collective amnesia on the necessity and usefulness of government. I also noticed it leaned much more on political science than an economic perspective, which could have been helpful. Missed opportunities: - Complicate Keynesian projects like t While this might be an important entry point to the conversation, for a defense of the mixed economy I felt like it could have been much stronger. At points, it seemed like a mash-up of many concerning happenings in the political sphere that have lead to our collective amnesia on the necessity and usefulness of government. I also noticed it leaned much more on political science than an economic perspective, which could have been helpful. Missed opportunities: - Complicate Keynesian projects like the New Deal and GI Bill: they did uplift many Americans but also created huge disparities through race and gender-based discrimination - No doubt Ayn Rand’s writings have been hugely influential, but more than providing the ideological underpinnings for modern libertarianism, they helped bring about the paradigm shift to neoliberalism, which was never named - Speaking of neoliberalism, its more current manifestations like austerity and financialization were discussed but the preceding iterations, entrepreneurialism and privatization, weren’t? It discusses the political context a lot, specifically how the GOP enabled and powerful actors/industries bankrolled this shift, but it doesn’t do justice I think to the actual retooling of gov in relation to markets that took place - The authors suggest that the nonprofit sector has an important role to play in bringing about reform, which I think at this point is true, but shied away from a discussion of the nonprofit industrial complex, wherein corporations use philanthropy to avoid paying taxes and route their money through nonprofits instead and are left to fill the vacuum of services that gov is unable to provide, particularly as austerity agendas strengthen - The authors, in my opinion mistakenly, think the government plays zero role in redistribution

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I know that a book must be good if I consider buying it to keep. I've rounded up to 5 stars from the 4.5 I would give it if possible. One review chided it for being "too academic" - for me it was not academic enough. The authors' point is well taken that truth and rhetoric are ever-increasingly at odds these days, which is why I am so wary of rhetoric. And whereas this book was incredibly well-researched and referenced, it descended to rhetoric upon occasion. Perhaps it would be impossible not to I know that a book must be good if I consider buying it to keep. I've rounded up to 5 stars from the 4.5 I would give it if possible. One review chided it for being "too academic" - for me it was not academic enough. The authors' point is well taken that truth and rhetoric are ever-increasingly at odds these days, which is why I am so wary of rhetoric. And whereas this book was incredibly well-researched and referenced, it descended to rhetoric upon occasion. Perhaps it would be impossible not to, in learning the facts the authors present in this work. As I told a friend - this book makes me want to bite people. And that's because we know. We know what's wrong and we know what could be done to fix it, and it simply isn't happening. And in many cases, that is due to narrow-minded self-interest that ignores the enlightened self-interest that characterized previous (and more prosperous) decades. There is absolutely no reason to be traveling downhill at this point. We have the resources, we have the talent, we have the knowledge. The fact that much of all of this is lying fallow... is simply criminal. I will continue to seek out works that include the data but not the rhetoric. And then I will campaign to have the best of them as Oprah's book of the month. The truth will set us free.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brandy

    In this book the authors take us on a tour of American politics. They touch the founding fathers ideas and purpose, but their focus is really the last 75 to 100 years or so. Their argument is in support of government regulation and its obligation to focus on the long view. Their argument is that a mixed economy of capitalism checked and regulated by the government is the best thing for America. They say that it is the government’s role and obligation to protect the minority, ensure future health In this book the authors take us on a tour of American politics. They touch the founding fathers ideas and purpose, but their focus is really the last 75 to 100 years or so. Their argument is in support of government regulation and its obligation to focus on the long view. Their argument is that a mixed economy of capitalism checked and regulated by the government is the best thing for America. They say that it is the government’s role and obligation to protect the minority, ensure future health and well being of its citizens, and to invest in the future. They make the case that this happened in the past and this is why we enjoy clean water, education, medicines, and etc. They say the market looks for short term wins and that private interests are also best served and benefit from government action. They make a strong case. It is worth the read. However, if you are a libertarian or a Republican, be prepared to read a very strong statement against what you believe. If you cannot tolerate hearing other opinions and you get angry easily, this book will make you mad and you probably won’t finish it. However, if you like to hear opposing views and want to understand more than just your side of things (even if you don’t agree), this is a strong book to read and I think worth your time. It’s just a little long. I wish they had been a bit more conservative with the word count.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ron Lavery

    Old, white, middle class males (myself included) pine for "the good old days". For good reasons. In the mid 20th century, we led the world in virtually everything: life expectancy, education, science, economic power and growth, and wealth and opportunities of the middle class. Even to the extent that Americans had a height advantage over the rest of the world. Why? Why were we so successful? Hacker says it is the results of a healthy mixed economy. A private business sector and a strong governme Old, white, middle class males (myself included) pine for "the good old days". For good reasons. In the mid 20th century, we led the world in virtually everything: life expectancy, education, science, economic power and growth, and wealth and opportunities of the middle class. Even to the extent that Americans had a height advantage over the rest of the world. Why? Why were we so successful? Hacker says it is the results of a healthy mixed economy. A private business sector and a strong government to both counterbalance capitalism's excesses, provide infrastructure so that business could flourish but would not fund themselves. FDR started building roads, electric power grids, agricultural research etc as part of the new deal and later massive spending for the military research culminating in the atomic bomb. Truman continued the research and spending on education. The Republican Eisenhower fought his party from the beginning who wanted to repeal the New Deal. He expanded infrastructure with the interstate highways and airports and river transport systems. He pushed further government spending on research in pure science, technology and health. Obama was blasted for saying "you did not build this" when referring to all of the things that others had provided that made a business successful. Steve Jobs is the icon of successful entrepreneur who created the I phone. Without all of the government funded research it would not exist. No GPS, no satellites , no touch screen, no internet connection, no lithium battery etc. Since Reagan's "the government is the problem" right wing ultra conservatives have done everything they could to diminish government power and sell the idea that only the free market can solve our problems. Now we have a crumbling infrastructure, decimated middle class, greatly diminished world rankings in education, health, science skills etc. We have destroyed our mixed economy and our politics are now dictated by the narrow interests of the super rich elites with the greatest wealth (and power) inequality since the era of the Robber Barons. This ideology has led us to drastically cut spending on scientific research, infrastructure and education. In the name of large short term profits for a small group of people by cutting investment in the future of everyone.

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