American Amnesia

American Amnesia

How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper

Book - 2016
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Baker & Taylor
In the past, government and business were as much partners as rivals, resulting in broad-based growth and healthy social development. But advocates of anti-government market fundamentalism are intent on scrapping the instrument of nearly a century of unprecedented economic and social progress. Hacker and Pierson examine why what's good for American business elites and what's good for Americans have become misaligned.

& Taylor

The team behind the best-selling Winner-Take-All Politics argues that the interests of American businesses and citizens are currently misaligned, contending that political elites are enabling plutocracy at the expense of the mixed economy that previously made the nation strong.
"A spirited examination of why what's good for American business elites and what's good for Americans have become misaligned"--Front jacket flap.
Argues that a mixed economy, a capitalist enterprise supported, supplemented, and regulated by government, is what made the United States the most prosporous nation in the world.

Simon and Schuster
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. Now in American Amnesia, 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.

Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2016
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781451667820
Branch Call Number: 973.932 H115a
Characteristics: vii, 455 pages ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Pierson, Paul


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Feb 10, 2019

This book was published in 2016, before the 2016 election. As I was reading it, I kept thinking about how much worse things have become in the past two years. The recent lengthy government shutdown was an illustration of the issues discussed at length in this book.

The book is divided into two parts: The Rise of the Mixed Economy, and The Crisis of the Mixed Economy.

In Part 1, The Rise of the Mixed Economy, the authors argue that the prosperity of the mid-20th century was due to a robust “mixed economy: private business and capitalism supported and regulated by government. During this time, business and government were more like partners than rivals. Massive pubic investments in education, science, transportation and technology laid the foundation for prosperity. Regulations kept private markets from distorting or capturing government.

The authors lay out a compelling case that the “mixed economy” was the most important innovation of the 20th century, which enabled large increases in income, wealth, education, health, longevity, opportunity and security.

In Part 2, the authors describe the disintegration of this successful model, and what that means for Americans and American society. The mixed economy, and government in general, have been under attack for decades in a myriad of ways. Business groups, nonprofit organizations, followers of Ayn Rand, the Republican party and very wealthy donors (including the Koch brothers) have banded together to undermine government and people’s faith in government. And “robber barons” have returned with a vengeance.

All this history is laid out in depressing detail. Those of us who have been around a while will remember the more recent events discussed in this book. This book ties them all together and shows how damaging they have been to our nation and the vast majority of Americans who are not super-wealthy.

If you are dismayed about the direction this country is heading, this book could help you see how and why it happened, and how it all ties together. Sometimes when we live through events and are so close to them, we do not see all the ramifications.

And if you have been convinced that government is always at fault, and that the best government is the least government, I recommend this book to challenge that thinking. If you are willing to read this book with an open mind, you may think differently about the value of government, at least to some degree.

This is not always the easiest book to read, but it is important information to know. I recommend it for its content.

Nov 19, 2018

A wide-ranging and well-researched argument for government's necessary role in creating economic prosperity. The book documents the history of the "mixed economy," with large roles for both markets and government, in the U.S. from the 1930's up through the early 1970s. Makes a persuasive case that government can effectively address the things that markets cannot, such as externalities and market failures, and furthermore that doing so promotes economic growth and prosperity. Also persuasively, and alarmingly, lays out the heavy costs of the Republican Party's "war on government": defund government so that it can do less and do it less well; then brand government as ineffective, thus justifying a push for more reduction in government's activities, repeat. A very useful book for understanding how we got to a point where Congress is unable to work productively on long-term solutions to pretty much any major problem (such as climate change or crumbling infrastructure), why markets can't solve these problems, and why restoring the scope of government's former role in the mixed economy is pretty much our only hope.


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