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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reclaiming America
Why is it that the most powerful nation in history, one capable of landing men on the moon, is incapable of providing 15 per cent of its populace with little more than the most basic of healthcare? Why does it not provide a more generous welfare system? Why does it have such a massive gulf between its richest and poorest citizens?

A key reason, according to...
Published on 8 Feb 2009 by Steve Keen

versus
2 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Verbal Diarhhoea
My second Paul Krugman book of the week and I think likely my last', The conscience of a Liberal, reclaiming America from the right.

I knew it was a mistake reading this, the political bias is there from the get go, as I mentioned in my previous post, I was recommended Krugman, time I will never get back.

Those firmly entrenched on the political left...
Published on 14 May 2011 by Den


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reclaiming America, 8 Feb 2009
By 
Steve Keen "therealus" (Herts, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
Why is it that the most powerful nation in history, one capable of landing men on the moon, is incapable of providing 15 per cent of its populace with little more than the most basic of healthcare? Why does it not provide a more generous welfare system? Why does it have such a massive gulf between its richest and poorest citizens?

A key reason, according to Paul Krugman in this well-argued polemic, is the "movement conservatives" who, starting back in the sixties, conspired to conscript the organisational muscle of the Republican Party in order to elect into power a number of placemen whose role was to wipe out the gains of the New Deal. This process was by no means straightforward. The job would have been much easier had Dewey won his expected landslide presidential victory in 1948. Instead it was Truman who triumphed and was thereby able to consolidate the gains of the New Deal to the extent that his successor, Eisenhower, a Republican, inherited well-entrenched institutions which were difficult to dismantle.

As a result, during the period from the mid-forties to the sixties or early seventies the US underwent what Krugman refers to as the Great Compression, when through a combination of New Deal legislation and union activism lower end wages rose as those in the higher bracket were more or less frozen.

In the fifties, he points out, the largest employer in the US was General Motors, and the mean wage of its workers was the equivalent then of $40,000 now. The movement conservative insurgency changed all this, starting with the Reagan presidency which saw, for example, striking air traffic controllers handcuffed and sacked, with the result that today's largest US employer, Wal-Mart, pays the equivalent of $18,000 at the mean. Just think, he muses, what would be the impact of even a small rise in that mean. One thinks, for example, of the positive impact of Henry Ford's philosophy of paying his assembly line workers well above the norm.

Unfortunately he omits to mention the role of the unions in undermining the stability of GM and the other Detroit former-leviathans, and there is space here for a plea for the unions to be a little more responsible and less selfish themselves, but he is nevertheless right that unions can be and have been a force for good, raising the bar for everyone, not just their own members. This is not an opportunity available at non-unionised and anti-union Wal-Mart.

But though there could certainly be a little more soul-searching in that vain, generally there is little to fault in Krugman's argument.

History, as it turns out, has been pretty generous to him. True, perhaps it's a little early to proclaim, as he does on page 264, "we're not in the midst of a great depression". But he at least called the outcome of the 2008 elections right (though this is by party, not by candidate; at time of writing the book, John Edwards had not yet had to excuse himself from the running, and Barack Obama was just another candidate).

Time will tell whether Obama takes up the challenge of using universal healthcare as the vanguard of the new New Deal, as Krugman proposes. Still, perhaps the very fact that we can ask that question is proof at least that Krugman's contention that the US is at last moving into a post-racial politics where it will become increasingly difficult to employ the kind of "dog whistle" tactics the movement conservatives were able to exploit in the past in order to divert a critical fraction of the popular vote away from progressive policies.

Nevertheless, he is ultra-realistic about the challenges inherent in such an undertaking, not least in overcoming the vested interests which have in the past been able by a variety of means to prevent change, particularly the exploitation of the residual prejudices of slavery and segregation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging, accessible and thought-provoking work, 14 Dec 2010
By 
C. Collins (Austin, TX) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
'The Conscience of a Liberal' is an engaging, accessible and thought-provoking account of how the United States became a 'middle class' nation, following the deprivations of the Twenties and Thirties, and of the forces that have subsequently eroded the achievements of the post-World War II years. The book goes on to elaborate the policy measures that can be taken to reverse the damage done, during recent decades, and the reasons as to why liberals might have cause for optimism on this score.

I first encounted Paul Krugman's writings, on his subject of special expertise - international trade - as a postgraduate student in the mid-late 1990s; this is the body of work that lead to Krugman's becoming a Nobel Laureate in 2008. Krugman is a prolific writer and, as anyone who is familiar with his books, essays or Op-Ed columns in the NYT (since 1999) will know, he has a gift for expressing sometimes complex ideas with great clarity and concision. Whilst he has carved out a niche, in recent years, as a populariser he has not sacrificed rigour and this book provides plentiful references to academic journals and other works - many of which are available over the Net - to build and to support his case. So, this is a work of popular economics, rather than a textbook, but Krugman provides a solid, coherent account of the forces at work that lead, first, to large reductions in inequality following the period 1870-1930 then, subsequently, to the current long-term trend towards increasing inequality; a trend that has continued largely unabated, in the United States, since about 1973.

'The Conscience of a Liberal', therefore, is about inequality - economic inequality and the social inequality to which it gives rise. There are good reasons for believing that inequality 'matters' - i.e. that the greater the inequality, the greater the negative consequences that arise as a corollary. In Krugman's own words, inequality "imposes serious costs on our society that go beyond the way it holds down the purchasing power of most families.... It corrupts our politics" (p.249). After sketching for us the situation during the period (1870-1930) to which he refers as the 'Long Gilded Age', early chapters provide evidence of the sharp reduction in economic inequality that took place under the presidency of FDR - a tendency that was maintained under the presidency of Harry Truman. These chapters explain how the New Deal, and its gradual acceptance by politicians of both major parties, brought about something little short of a revolution. Again, to use Krugman's words, "despite the limitations of the data, it's clear that between the twenties and the fifties America became, to an unprecedented extent, a middle-class nation."

As an undergraduate, in the 1990s, I learned a startling fact about the American economy, post-1973. Although the economy had grown significantly in size during the intervening period of 20-25 years, the fruits of this growth had accrued - overwhelmingly - to only a small (and decreasing) proportion of the population. During this period of time, it is highly questionable whether the 'real' (i.e. inflation-adjusted) income of the 'average' American family actually rose at all. Evidence suggests that it may, in fact, have declined - a situation that put the United States at odds with most other developed economies, so far as one could tell.

Approximately 15 years after I first learned of this phenomenon, Krugman reiterates the statistical evidence and, in so doing, highlights that little or nothing has changed to avert this trend - a trend Krugman calls 'The Great Divergence'. Now, Conservatives generally see nothing worrying in this return to a time of massive inequality and Krugman provides a fascinating dissection of the role that Movement Conservatism has played in maintaining this trend, via reference to a well-known book by the left-wing social commentator Thomas Frank (also author of 'One Market Under God' and editor of left-wing magazine, 'The Baffler') entitled 'What's the Matter with Kansas?'. In the first instance, Krugman found the thesis behind Frank's 2004 book (relating to the so-called 'values voter') to be persuasive but subsequently changed his mind, once further evidence became available. His conclusions about the actual reasons underlying rising inequality, however, are scarcely reassuring. Despite this, Krugman does see reasons for optimism and the book's final chapters provide valuable discussion as to why 'progressives' should not yet despair. He also sketches the kind of program, and the key policy items that a progressive government of the 21st Century ought to pursue if the current trend is to be halted and eventually reversed. Obviously, many books contain prescriptions for action - plans which we know will never come to fruition - but, given Krugman's high profile and caliber as an economist, his policy prescriptions can be expected to carry some weight, at the highest levels, for at least somewhat longer than it will take one to read this absorbing book.

To conclude, anyone interested in the economic and social history of the United States, during the Twentieth Century, and anyone wanting to understand some of the primary forces at work behind the major political and economic trends, in the United States, of the last hundred years, or so, would do well to read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear , incisive , damming, 13 July 2009
By 
A. J. Sudworth "tonysudworth" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
This book has one central tenant - the USA has a huge issue on lack of healthcare for all its citizens and that its the Republican party that has systematically blocked attempts to create this.
Its a damming inditment of 'movement conservatism' and its roots in inequality of income that had got worse in the US in the last 20 years.
He also lambasts the racism that has helped perpetuate this inequality.
Its clear also that he regards FDR as possibly the most liberal of all Presidents with the introduction of the 'New Deal' that systemtically raised incomes for the poorest and took income in the form of taxes from the wealthy - and yet helped cause the biggest , sustained growth in US history which critically was shared out so that people all felt they had gained.
It is also striking that there was a level of bi-partisanship in government and unionisation in that time that helped this happen - unlike the almost hatred that exists today.
Krugman believes that universal health care is the primary goal of the new Democratic president - it will be a crucial test to see if the vested interests can stop that
The cross over to the UK is striking - we have the greatest icome inequality in our history and Krugman belives that this helps the disengagement of people from society .. makes you wonder if the Labour party really are different to the Tories in that respect
An excellent . clear account , good not just for economics but for social history in the US
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well articulated political argument, 7 Sep 2009
This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
The conscience of a liberal is a very interesting read on the economic and social evolution of XXth century America. The language is clear and the thesis well articulate.

It is, as actually stated by the author, a partisan book which helps explain how democrats can and should regain power. The author uses two main arguments:
1. The society as it is today has not evolved as a natural reaction to technology changes, immigration or development of international trade but it is the fruit of a conservative political will.
2. The resulting model is actually less American-friendly than the more egalitarian model democrats put in place after the New Deal. It has created a large income gap and on average has impoverished the population.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Democracy first, 21 Aug 2009
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
As a true liberal, Paul Krugman pleads in this mightily important book for a new `New Deal', a new agenda for the expansion of social safety nets (universal health care) and for the reduction of social inequalities.

He gives in this hard-hitting book a brilliant analysis of US elections, which until F.D. Roosevelt took the presidency, were con trolled by a plutocracy.
Under Bush II an authoritarian, fundamentally anti-democratic and unacceptably violent (`liberals should be physically intimidated') clique (movement conservatism - MC) took all political powers. It is financed by a handful of extremely wealthy individuals and major corporations (drug, energy). Their agenda comprised the undermining of government safety nets, regulation restraints, the breaking of union power and the privatization of nearly all government institutions and services.
FDR created with his New Deal the US middle class. The MC destroyed it and created (enormous tax cuts) a new plutocracy (in a particular US state some representatives can be controlled by 20 individuals).

But, why could a small movement monopolize political power in the US and attack the welfare system?
For Paul Krugman, race (racism) is at the heart of US politics. Welfare distribution goes foremost to minorities. The GOP could exploit the white backlash against civil rights. The MC could take the GOP in a stranglehold, steal elections and rule by cronyism and corruption.
But, there is hope. Demographics (immigration) and mentalities are changing: the US becomes less white and less racist.

Paul Krugman is a staunch defender of liberalism and concomitantly of true democracy, civil liberties, the rule of law and the preservation of the social fabric.

This fascinating book, written by a superb free mind is a must read for all US historians and for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How America became such an unequal society and what is to be done to create new New Deal policies, 18 Feb 2011
This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
This book is a history book about America's politics and economy since the second world war. The argument is that the inequality since the 1980s is not the product of inevitable market forces but that of political decisions instigated by movement conservatives. Today's Americans with median income does not enjoy as much material well being as their father's generations did. This is almost a scandal considering during the period the GDP of the US increased enormously. The economic inequality also reinforces political inequality as ever small number of executives put money and efforts to maintain current unfair system.

The author began his argument by reexamining pre-New Deal America. This is quite relevant as the level of inequality of the time is very similar to that of current period. This is new Gilded age in which the rich and powerful live in the sunshine of fabulous riches while the majority, even the middle class families, face job insecurity and uncertain future. Revisiting the politics of welfare state, the author proves that America's welfare state was not the result of gradual evolution but the result of sudden political decision making taken by Roosevelt administration. The great compression, the great equality among the masses, was the product of progressive politics such as giving unions great power in political activity as well as in wage negotiations and income tax increases.

The movement conservative began to rear its ugly head in the 1960s and found its public face in the person of Reagan when he waged a fierce battle against Berkley University students. Racial prejudice was used to corrupt the minds of southern Democrats. Finally the movement conservative captured the southern conservative Democrats in its wing.

As soon as the power of America was fallen into the hands of movement conservative, the gap between the rich and the ordinary began to increase. The tax cut and deregulation helped the executives and powerful people to consolidate wealth and power. The great inequality since the 1980s is the direct result of political decisions and choices by the rightwing politics in the US. The glaring inequality is especially clear when we compare the difference in income between the haves and the more haves. The median Americans just enjoy as much as or less than their fathers in material well-being while the 1% of the population enjoy as much as or more than their counterparts in the Gilded age.

The movement conservative gained power in the 1980s and created fabulously unequal society within a very short period. However their base is on the deception and divergence. New democratic majority can be forged to revitalise the New Deal spirits. The author particularly emphasise the importance of establishing universal healthcare by which the government makes sure every citizen in America get access affordable health care. The new democratic majority will revitalise unions and introduce policies to reduce inequality.

This book was written before the Great Recession of 2008. After the Recession, it is very clear that the rightwing politics of unlimited deregulation is a very dangerous gamble on the lives of many ordinary people. This book will be useful to understand America's political economy.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable- maybe a little facile?- but definitely worth buying., 6 Sep 2009
This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
Krugman's clarity and wit are themselves worthy of a Nobel prize. Since he is presenting his thesis so directly, doubts cross one's mind as to whether some of his arguments are facile. However, Krugman -presumably- has already thought through the objections. After all, as a top Economist, he spends his time working through the dreary details.
I think it is worth buying Krugman's books- especially at this sort of price point- because in a few years time we can come back to them and see how well his thinking stands up.
My guess is he will come out well- perhaps way ahead of the competition.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written,Cleary Explains concepts and ideas, brilliantly referenced in laymens terms, 30 Aug 2009
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This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
Would reccomend to everyone, exposes the'movement conservatism ' which has come to take over America and our media something not healthy for our democracy,
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2 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Verbal Diarhhoea, 14 May 2011
This review is from: The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right (Paperback)
My second Paul Krugman book of the week and I think likely my last', The conscience of a Liberal, reclaiming America from the right.

I knew it was a mistake reading this, the political bias is there from the get go, as I mentioned in my previous post, I was recommended Krugman, time I will never get back.

Those firmly entrenched on the political left will love this book, page upon page of waffle and diatribe about how everything on the political right is evil and everything on the political left is so good for a country.

When I read political books written by economists I hope to get at least some middling ground, some evidence to support their spurious claims, but this is just Krugman mouthing off to any one that wants to listen to his extreme left politics.

I did finish the book, but it was a painful read. Not because I am far right as he is far left, I prefer evidence based economics and politics as far as possible, but simply because reading page after page of nothing but mudslinging and verbal assault gets very tiresome and you keep thinking I could have done something useful with my time, like washing the dishes!
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The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right
The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America From The Right by Paul Krugman (Paperback - 29 Jan 2009)
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