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The Conscience of a Liberal

by Paul Krugman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9512117,368 (4.03)14
Today's most widely read economist challenges America to reclaim the values that made it great. Here he studies the past eighty years of American history, from the reforms that tamed the harsh inequality of the Gilded Age to the unraveling of that achievement and the reemergence of immense economic and political inequality since the 1970s. Seeking to understand both what happened to middle-class America and what it will take to achieve a "new New Deal," Krugman has woven together a nuanced account of three generations of history with sharp political, social, and economic analysis. This book, written with Krugman's trademark ability to explain complex issues simply, may transform the debate about American social policy.--From publisher description.… (more)
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English (20)  Italian (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
The book is becomming a little dated, in that it was written before the 2008 election, and his discussion of the policies of some of the candidates in that election are no longer relevant. However, that's a very minor element, since the more relevant discussions involving the New Deal and the Reagan years aren't changing. Krugman, as an economist, does a good job of describing his views, and may reinforce these ideas among liberal and progressive readers, but is unlikely to convert many conservatives. One thing that Krugman discusses is that income inequality is rising in recent years, and while Krugman may have a desire to see that reversed, which will resonate with his liberal readers, finding the limits and way to reverse that trend is more problematic. A public policy that sounds like redistribution of wealth from the richest to the poor will not win the hearts and minds of many conservative readers. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
I've been a regular reader of his always-interesting New York Times columns for years, but ever since I studied his work on trade and urban geography in grad school (coincidentally, the work that would gain him the 2008 Economics Nobel Prize), I've been a huge admirer of his serious economics work as well. The Conscience of a Liberal is a response of sorts to Barry Goldwaters's highly influential 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative, making the case that if the United States is to remain a country where everyone can pursue their own happiness in maximum liberty and peace, the Reagan-era policies that benefit the rich few at the expense of the poor many must be reversed, and a new New Deal - chiefly the establishment of universal health care - is the best way to encourage opportunity and ensure that everyone can fully participate in the ever-changing American economy. It's also an enlightening history of the modern liberal and conservative movements that does a great job of showing the direct lineage from historical states' rights segregationists to modern health care reform opponents, and how calm debate and careful thinking can and should win out over narrow self-interest and greed. A good way to tell a good book is by how much it gives you to think about after you've finished, and The Conscience of a Liberal had me thinking about it for months afterwards. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Political affiliation aside, this book makes some horrible arguments. ( )
  chiefchirpa7865 | Apr 12, 2021 |
An excellent resource to explain, especially the liberal view of the economy and why government regulation is necessary. In view of the current Bear Stearns crisis and why it happened, it's so very obvious. We deregulated banks and that caused this whole catastrophy! I think it will just get worse! ( )
  camplakejewel | Sep 18, 2017 |
A lot if this book is just ranting about how much money rich people have and how much better life was with stronger unions. Krugman sounds off his walker at some points in the book, for example he believes that the best way to explain the Monica Lewinsky scandal is that it was simply Newt Gingrich trying to get back at Clinton for losing the political battle of the 1995 government shutdown. Paul Krugman fully admits in believing in a "vast wight wing conspiracy" in this book and describes his visions of the republican party in great detail. He describes the republican party in pretty much the exact same way it is portrayed by The Simpsons. I stole the next paragraph from the Simpsons wiki.

The Springfield Republican Party Headquarters is frequently portrayed in the show as an ominous dark tower, with a thunderstorm always brewing above it, often accompanied by spooky mood music or the menacing cry of a falcon or howl of a wolf. Among themselves, the party members are sterotypes of Republicans often open about doing dastardly deeds and plotting nefarious schemes, as seen in "Brawl in the Family". It's meetings are often chaired by C. Montgomery Burns.)

He believes that the Republican party is simply the party bought and paid for by rich, selfish people. He also believes that these rich selfish people know that they would not be able to get enough votes if they actually told people their true agenda so they speak in "code" to get their message across to others without saying what they mean explicitly. He also states his belief that the only way that Republicans are able to ever have majorities is by implicit racism which other racists will understand.

Krugman thinks that the poorest 90 percent, of the US in particular, should vote to obtain the riches of the other 10 percent. He feels that this is how democracy should work and can't understand why the poorer people in the country don't envy the riches of the rich as much as he wishes them too and thus would vote for the redistribution of wealth in their direction.

He really thinks that the US should try to emulate European welfare states, and gives special attention to France in the last part of his book. He feels that the government knows how to spend money much better than private individuals and that government should use its power to redistribute as much wealth as possible. He feels that the Bush Tax rates should not be renewed, and the higher incomes should be taxed at an even higher rate to reduce income inequality. To sum it up he believes that all social problems can be 'solved' by an increase of taxes on the rich and an increase of spending by government on the poor. The only exception is that he does believe a VAT tax would be necessary to fully pay for the new expenditures but the middle class would need to be convinced that they were being taxed for their own good.

He believes the key to any liberal/progressive agenda is Universal Health Care. The four most important parts of his plan for universal health care are:

Community ratings (premiums are determined by communities rather than individuals)
Subsidies for low-income families
Mandated Coverage
Public-Private Competition

In the health care bill that was passed Obama got three out of the four in there (mandated coverage was included but its constitutionality is being challenged by the courts. The public option is the only one that didn't make it into the bill and I'm sure Krugman is disappointed, he explicitly said that a good public option would likely lead to single-payer health care coverage (which is what Krugman sees as most desirable).

My biggest complaint with this book is that he uses correlation to prove the points that he believes and rarely speaks about causation (excluding income inequality, where he does give some redistributive causation). The best example is where he talks about how great the economy was during the 50's and 60's and notes how their was also a strong union presence. He does mention that WWII destroyed many foreign economies leaving the US as the sole provider but doesn't seem to make the connection that maybe that was why the economy was so strong despite the fact of heavy unionization.

Paul Krugman is an economist but he doesn't seem to believe most economic theory in this book, excepting a few hand waves to classical economics while discussing Milton Friedman. He seems to think that smart enough people can avoid the pitfalls of a market economy and appears to believe that he is smart enough to control it all.

I don't feel like reading all this again so I hope my grammar and punctuation are acceptable. ( )
  JaredChristopherson | Nov 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
In all, Krugman has managed to pull together huge chunks of American social, political and economic history in a fairly brief space. He writes from a confidently liberal perspective, picking apart the "vast rightwing conspiracy" with considerable ingenuity.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Jay Parini (Mar 22, 2008)
 

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Paul Krugmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Křístková, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Today's most widely read economist challenges America to reclaim the values that made it great. Here he studies the past eighty years of American history, from the reforms that tamed the harsh inequality of the Gilded Age to the unraveling of that achievement and the reemergence of immense economic and political inequality since the 1970s. Seeking to understand both what happened to middle-class America and what it will take to achieve a "new New Deal," Krugman has woven together a nuanced account of three generations of history with sharp political, social, and economic analysis. This book, written with Krugman's trademark ability to explain complex issues simply, may transform the debate about American social policy.--From publisher description.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393060691, 0393333132

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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