This book is about how America come to be in the current economic mess caused by capitalism, why alternatives to capitalism such as socialism and communism have failed, and how to solve the mess.
In America as business profits increased so did workers' earnings but in the 1970s this stopped, this was caused by the following
1) Computers allowing businesses to become more efficient which results in them needing less workers.
2) More women entering the job market creates more competition for jobs.
3) Globalization means that factories can be moved to cheaper locations abroad.
Business profits and pay for the upper classes continued to soar but for the above mentioned reasons the middle and working classes stopped seeing any improvement in real earnings.
With all the extra profits made by not passing the increasing profits on to workers the money got put in the banks. The banks had to figure out how to use it to make money. One way was in easy credit on credit cards. Because workers had no improvement in their wages they were forced to borrow heavily on the credit cards running up massive dept. The sub prime mortgage mess was also the result of banks desperately trying to find ways to loan out all that extra money and resulted in giving mortgages to people that could not afford the repayments.
The massive profits also allows business to corrupt politics resulting in politicians no longer serving the general public and being nothing more than puppets to corporate interests.
The end result of all this is that Americans are working longer hours for no improvement in real earnings, they have massive credit card dept and the dream of owning their own home has turned out for many to be nothing more than a scam. They cannot turn to politicians as they have all been bought by big business. In such a environment people's mental health and family life has taken a beating.
The book explains that Russia was never actually communist, communism was a goal they were working towards but never got even close to achieving. Russia was in fact state controlled capitalism. In private capitalism (what American currently has) the surplus (profit) is controlled by the directors/ share holders and the worker gets no say. In state controlled capitalism the state controls the factory and surplus and the worker still does not get any say.
What we call socialism here in Europe is again not actually socialism but a more moderate version of state controlled capitalism.
The solution to this problem is to introduce democratic control by the workers of the business in what the author call workers' self-directed enterprises (WSDE).
Under WSDE workers own the business and control the allocation of surplus, a truly democratic solution to worker exploitation. The Spanish Mondragon shows that worker control of business actually works, it is not a pipe dream but a real democratic alternative to private/state capitalist control.
The pros and cons of WSDE vs private capitalist are addressed and how governments could help with the development of WSDE is suggested.
My only complaint is that this book is a bit lacking in detail (but it does point you towards more detailed books for specific subjects), it is a wonderful potentially revolutionary book and I am surprised it is not more well known.