Political conservatives have long believed that the best government is a small government. But if this were true, noted economist Jeff Madrick argues, the nation would not be experiencing stagnant wages, rising health care costs, increasing unemployment, and concentrations of wealth for a narrow elite. In this perceptive and eye-opening book, Madrick proves that an engaged government--a big government of high taxes and wise regulations--is necessary for the social and economic answers that Americans desperately need in changing times. He shows that the big governments of past eras fostered greatness and prosperity, while weak, laissez-faire governments marked periods of corruption and exploitation. The Case for Big Government considers whether the government can adjust its current policies and set the country right.
Madrick explains why politics and economics should go hand in hand; why America benefits when the government actively nourishes economic growth; and why America must reject free market orthodoxy and adopt ambitious government-centered programs. He looks critically at today's politicians--at Republicans seeking to revive nineteenth-century principles, and at Democrats who are abandoning the pioneering efforts of the Great Society. Madrick paints a devastating portrait of the nation's declining social opportunities and how the economy has failed its workers. He demonstrates that the government must correct itself to address these serious issues.
A practical call to arms, The Case for Big Government asks for innovation, experimentation, and a willingness to fail. The book sets aside ideology and proposes bold steps to ensure the nation's vitality.
Former New York Times economics columnist Madrick takes aim at what he perceives as a dominant American antigovernment ideology with this overly ambitious text. The author's decidedly left-of-center thesis rests on the argument that "active and sizable government" is "essential to growth and prosperity." To make his case, Madrick begins with a too brief history of the relationship between the American government and the economy, from Hamilton and Jefferson's attitude toward laissez-faire economics through Jacob Riis's famous documentation of urban squalor near the turn of the 20th century to the Great Society initiatives of the 1960s. The author details the country's economic problems since the 1970s, despite the relative prosperity of the 1990s. In elaborating these points, Madrick attacks both the right and the left, and he returns consistently to the persistent influence of Milton Friedman on the antigovernment bias in American politics. This well-researched but somewhat formless book concludes with an extensive progressive agenda for redressing the limited influence of American government, covering a wide range of issues, from same-sex marriage to universal pre-k education. (Nov.)
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Princeton University Press
October 05, 2008
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