From Publishers Weekly
Scheduled for publication on the 75th anniversary of the Black Thursday stock market crash, this closely argued treatise from University of Maryland political economist Alperovitz (The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb) claims we are in the midst of another deep economic, social and political crisis. Capitalism, democracy, equality and liberty have disappeared from the United States, he says. Corporations and rich people control the wealth and government; their power destroys liberty and the entrepreneurial freedom necessary for capitalism. Traditional reforms are inadequate. Progressive taxation and social programs only redistribute income; we need to redistribute wealth. Easier voter registration and campaign finances miss the point; federal power must be reallocated to regional governments and local citizens associations whose scale makes participatory democracy possible. We need shorter work weeks, stronger labor unions, worker-owned or directed firms, less debt and more respect for the environment. The first six chapters could have been written in the 1970s. The statistics and quotes are current, but there is no discussion of recent global experience with many of the ideas. The remainder of the book combines these ideas into what the author calls "21st century populism" working toward a "Pluralist Commonwealth." The books strength lies in its integration of diverse populist issues into a coherent agenda rooted in deep American values from the Declaration of Independence.
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Alperovitz, an academic and political economist, calls on Democrats to "change the system," believing many Americans are searching for new policies as we face large deficits; unemployment; terrorism; and loss of belief in equality, liberty, and democracy. In his view, our unresponsive government, growing inequality, corruption, sprawl, and rising personal debt are reflections of a creative free market system that is no longer completely free or totally creative. Examining the extraordinary income and wealth controlled by elites and major corporations, he suggests that the future requires the development of a more community-centered, democratic market system. The author offers four fundamental suggestions to address current problems, including developing new institutions that hold wealth on behalf of small and large public groups (community-centered enterprises and worker-owned firms), and a regional rather than continental political system to appropriately represent a rapidly growing American population. His well-framed insight will appeal to a more liberal segment of library patrons during this presidential election year. Mary WhaleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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