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The Predator State: How Conservatives…
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The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why…

by James Galbraith

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Galbraith opens his book by making the case for a number of conservative shibboleths (free markets, tax cuts, and even balanced budgets) as belonging to the realm of mythology, rather than reality-based policy. Some of his discussion in this section raises questions that don't get answered until later in the book.

He goes on to examine the rise of inequality in the American economy and the development of what he calls the Predator State: a coalition of interests that want to maximize short-term profit at the long-term expense of widespread prosperity. This section gives useful perspective on many big issues on Capitol Hill.

The final section is a discussion of solutions; as such, it is a starting point rather than a source of detailed policies. Galbraith points out a number of policy mechanisms that could be used to better make the American economy serve the American people. This section is full of useful seeds, but it will require more work to develop it into detailed proposals.

Overall, a well-worthwhile chance to get perspective on the contentious policy debates in American politics, and a good book to bring out when someone asks if liberals have any "new ideas". ( )
1 vote slothman | Mar 24, 2009 |
Galbraith presents a convincing argument and historical narrative of how policy makers have gradually come to recognize the bankruptcy of traditional tenets of economic conservativism, while still paying lip service to the idea of the "free market." Definitely worth reading -- at very least you'll get a better perspective on US economic history from the 60s on.

My only pseudo-criticism is that I wish the idea of the "predator state" had been both introduced earlier and developed further. There needed to be just a bit more political economy on how conservatives have cynically manipulated the economy and governmental regulation thereof to enrich themselves and their fellow elites. This has been done very well elsewhere (see Naomi Klein's Disaster Capitalism) so perhaps Galbraith felt less of a need to go into great depth on this topic. ( )
  lukeasrodgers | Jan 22, 2009 |
I have almost no background in economics, and little understanding of it. My interest in it has increased with my interest in politics. To understand it better, I've tried finding someone knowledgeable that I trust, and the first economist who served this purpose for me is Paul Krugman, economist and columnist in the New York Times.

I also like the work of James K. Galbraith's brother, Peter Galbraith, whose book The End of Iraq is excellent. So I was prepared to take a chance on James Galbraith's The Predator State, which is supposed to be written for the layperson.

Now I've read it, and have to admit there's a lot in it I don't understand. He also turns a lot of conventional wisdom (at least as I perceive it) on its head, saying, for example, that deficits aren't all bad. I better understand it when he says free markets are a myth - it seems to me they are always acted upon by a variety of forces that mean they do not have perfect freedom.

Galbraith explains how we got to the predator state, in which the interests of a narrow band of rampant capitalists with no checks on their power have taken over government for their benefit during the Bush administration. He does, however, think it is possible to take back the state (and he does say that there are many business people for whom the predator capitalists are anathema). His discussions of the predator state also interest me because it provides someone with a legitimate academic background whose discussion supports much of what was said in Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine.

Galbraith thinks the way out of the current economic mess is a planned economy in which spending to create environmental jobs is more important than paying down the deficit.

Sadly, I can't explain well what he says, but did find his arguments pretty convincing. This is a book that I want the next President to take with him to the White House, and so I am encouraged to see that, on a web site Economists for Obama, Galbraith is listed as an economic adviser to Barack Obama.

Read it for yourself in order to get an idea of how we got to where we are and how we can get out of the current mess. ( )
2 vote reannon | Oct 4, 2008 |
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Epigraph
If liberty of speech is to be untrammeled from the grosser forms of constraint, then uniformity of opinion will be secured by a moral terrorism to which the respectability of society will give its thorough approval.

—Charles Sanders Pierce, The Fixation of Belief, 1877
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 141656683X, Hardcover)

For nearly three decades, Washington has been in the grip of an economic orthodoxy defined by Ronald Reagan and embraced ardently by George W. Bush. It rests on four pillars: 1) Cut taxes on the wealthy, 2) Reduce regulation, 3) Fear inflation above all else, and 4) Insist on free-floating currency rates. Yet mainstream economists have spent much of the past decade examining the results, and declaring them rotten. Supply-side stimulation is a mirage. Deficits matter. Inequality matters. The disasters in Latin America--bread riots in Argentina, inflationary madness in Brazil - and Africa - bankrupt governments and capital flight - were a direct result of the Reagan-Bush agenda. James Galbraith is fed up, and determined to close the gap between what the economists know, and what the politicians ignore. In plain English, the Republican Party has been hijacked by political leaders who long since stopped caring if reality conformed to their message. Galbraith exposes the crumbling pillars one by one, naming names and pulling no punches. If you thought you should vote Republican for the sake of the economy, think again. Here's the "j'accuse" that the Bush economic agenda richly deserves - and a plan for what should replace it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:20 -0400)

The cult of the free market has dominated economic policy-talk since the Reagan revolution. Tax cuts and small government, monetarism, balanced budgets, deregulation, and free trade are the core elements of a dogma so successful that even many liberals accept it. Meanwhile, conservatives like George W. Bush have abandoned it, and the Reagan true believers have abandoned Bush. Here, James K. Galbraith, the iconoclastic economist, dissects the remains of Reaganism and shows how Bush and company had no choice except to dump them. He then explores the true nature of the Bush regime: a "corporate republic," bringing the mentality of big business to public life, and a predator state, intent not on reducing government but rather on diverting public cash into private hands. The real problems and challenges--inequality, climate change, the infrastructure deficit, the subprime crisis--cannot be solved by free markets. They will be solved only with planning, standards and other policies that transcend and even transform markets.--From publisher description.… (more)

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