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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
VINE VOICEon November 28, 2007
It is a myth that the rich, or market conservatives in the author's lexicon, unremittingly favor the operation of free markets with absolutely no government intervention. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. The author examines several key areas that show the lie of the idea that the rich favor free market outcomes. What they favor is governmental protection of their status and privileges. For example:

1. Both the gov and professional organizations limit the numbers of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals including the entry of foreigners. At the same time, rampant and/or illegal immigration floods lower-wage employment markets and some technical jobs. On the one hand, wages are artificially high, but suppressed on the other to the detriment of the greater good.

2. The Federal Reserve uses monetary policy to increase unemployment and thereby lower wages of the lesser skilled, while limiting the inflation detested by bankers.

3. Corporations are entirely government creations, yet conservatives obscure that point which permits unchecked CEO pay. In actuality the government could mandate governance rules that would likely curtail CEO pay excesses.

4. Copyright and patent laws in essence grant monopolies to the detriment of the free flow of goods and services, which can in fact be harmful as in the case of restricting the availability of needed medicines.

5. Conservatives support legislation to restrict the ability of individuals to seek redress in courts for harm under the name of tort reform. In actuality law suits are a market form of regulation in lieu of government intervention. Obviously, protecting the rich trumps market principles.

6. Free market advocates supposedly advocate choice. So why is there such fear on the part of private enterprise of people choosing Social Security and/or signing up with Medicare for both health care and prescription drugs? The fact is that private business is highly inefficient compared to those programs and can't really compete. Therefore they look to government to limit choice.

7. True conservatives have always had low regard for gambling and certainly insist on its being heavily taxed. But when it comes to Wall St speculation, which is what day-trading is all about, they turn a blind eye to taxing and thus limiting the undisputed harmful impact of speculative transactions.

There are a few more examples by the author, none of which can be seriously disputed. The book has the tone that things could be different: just point out the hypocrisy of the rich and reform will follow. Really?

The author can hardly be unaware that we live in a class society in which the major institutions with the task of inculcating the idea that markets are neutral and work for us all, namely educational and media institutions, are basically owned or financed by the rich. A few dissenting, fringe views are permitted here and there, but basically major dissent concerning the justness of our society is dealt with swiftly: removal or exclusion from school or job, or flagrant suppression.

The situation is more than just setting forth the facts before the public. Probably never before in our history has market ideology so permeated our society and given the rich so many effective tools to disseminate information favorable to their class interests. As far as any effective forces opposing this situation, can anyone honestly say that the Democrats at this point are willing or even want to reverse any of what the author points out any more than do the Republicans. The answer is "No".
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on August 11, 2007
You'd have to be the proverbial ostrich not to know that in i-pod America, the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, while the middle class qualifies as an endangered species. What is not so well known is how redistribution is aided and abetted by government policy. Conservatives, as Baker notes, have been very successful in dressing up their windfall as the unbiased workings of the marketplace. Thus the citizenry accepts unfavorable results as the outcome of the glorified market god, in whose name things ultimately turn out for the best. Baker's slim volume (100 pps.) aims at showing how despite the smoke and mirrors, the god actually resides in Washington DC, in enumerated programs and policies directed toward funneling wealth upward. These measures and their rationale are kept in place by governmental machinery he dubs the "conservative nanny state" (cns).

Far from opposing government intervention in the economy, the cns uses intervention effectively in behalf of established wealth. The quarrel between liberals and conservatives is usually framed in terms of a liberal welfare state vs. a conservative free market. But, as Baker points out, these terms are seriously misleading. Both sides favor government intervention. Where they differ is over who gets the benefits, while the success of the cns lies in their ability to deflect public awareness from govn't actions that benefit the rich at the expense of the rest of us.

Baker examines a number of these biased policies showing how they funnel wealth upward. These prove to be enlightening discussions. However, what's unusual about the sections is his proposed remedy, which is essentially to let the markets operate free of the cns. For example, crippling health care costs have been sky-rocketing. They can be reduced, he points out, by allowing a greater supply of foreign physicians to immigrate. Or, consider long-depressed wage hikes. These can be resurrected, he argues, by curtailing the Federal Reserve's power to pump up depressing interest rates in the name of fighting inflation. Similar market-based solution are recommended for other cns biases.

It would be easy to assume that the author is a libertarian insisting on free market principles. But he's not, at least from my reading. For he proposes letting the govn't compete in the marketplace with private business, a definite anathema to classic libertarians. Hence, in his view, govn't should offer medical insurance to compete with private insurers for the consumer's buck. How well all this would work out is up to the reader to decide. Still, it's educational to examine how far cns policies depart from the hallowed conservative principle of non-intervention, and how effectively these measures are masked from public awareness.

One important arena not examined is the defense industry. It's a multi-billion dollar complex, the proceeds from which largely funnel upwards and, it would appear, a mother lode the cns regularly taps into. Why Baker doesn't examine cns activity in this highly significant sector is unclear to me. Perhaps, it's because solutions are not as amenable to market operations, or maybe because the topic is simply too big to be included with the others. Anyway, don't expect an expose of Lockheed-Martin et. al. and the cns in these pages. Nonetheless, the book is well worth the read, particularly for Chapter Five on bankruptcy and the cns's little-known role as both national and international debt-collector.
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VINE VOICEon August 4, 2007
"The Conservative Nanny State" by Dean Baker is a concise, 108-page book that seeks to change the popular debate about economy policy in the U.S. Mr. Baker's principle argument is that conservatives use market rhetoric to conceal the fact that the wealthy frequently depend upon government intervention to help protect and preserve class privilege. The author suggests that liberals should stop trapping themselves in the conservative play book and instead loudly promote alternative policies that use market mechanisms to distribute wealth in a more socially equitable manner. While not wholly convincing on all points, overall the book succeeds in demonstrating that progressives should not be intimidated into accepting conservative heterodoxy when a sane and just socio-economic future for all may be possible.

Mr. Baker makes three major proposals that effectively turns the table on conservative free-market ideologues. The first pertains to eliminating protections that are currently afforded to professionals; he believes that this would drive down medical and legal costs and, by extension, increase the purchasing power of the working class. The second is to democratize the Federal Reserve so that its bias towards creating excess unemployment in order to protect the profits of the banking industry is curbed. The third is to reduce health care costs by opening the industry to government competition, allowing individuals and businesses to purchase coverage through Medicare. In all three cases, the author suggests that free marketeers would have nothing to fear in these proposals if they truly believed their narratives about the supposed superiority of the markets and the private sector to government-run programs.

One only wishes that some of the author's arguments were laid out in greater length. While Mr. Baker occasionally cites the experiences of other nations as points of comparison -- such as when comparing health care costs in the U.S. with other countries -- he does not go into any detail about the trade-offs or unintended consequences that might emerge as a result of pursuing these policies. For example, one might imagine that many of the private insurance companies that currently provide health care coverage could fail if they had to suddenly compete with more efficient, government-managed entities. The disastrous Town Hall meetings of 2009 which became a platfom for those defending the status quo makes the point that the author could have done much more to prepare us to anticipate and address at least some of the most obvious objections and counterarguments to his proposals.

Still, Mr. Baker has performed a great service by showing how we might pursue policies that can begin to restore economic justice in the U.S. I recommend this thought-provoking book to everyone.
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on August 15, 2010
The author has made a case.However,the case he brings and successfully argues would not apply at all to conservatives like Adam Smith,Edmund Burke,Alexander Hamilton,George Washington,Abraham Lincoln,Theodore Roosevelt,Dwight D Eisenhower,Douglas MacArthur,Richard Nixon,Pat Buchanan,Lou Dobbs or Ross Perot.It applies to the type of thinker coming out of the economics department-business school of the University of Chicago. Arthur Laffer and Milton Friedman would be excellent examples.Friedman is a libertarian.His goal was to deregulate and privatize every aspect of the economy based on his Benthamite Utilitarian views that all citizens are able to accurately figure out all of the outcomes and measure the odds of their occurrences .All citizens are able to make fully informed , probabilistically accurate assessments of all decisions impacting their future.This approach regards financial decisions and decisions to invest in future durable capital goods to be identical to the decision to purchase bananas from a market in the present.

This theoretical perspective is very valuable to the Wall Street speculators(investment banks,hedge funds,private equity firms,etc.).Such an approach leads to the view that speculation in financial assets helps to create real goods and services over time because arbitrage by speculators leads to equilibrium positions.Unfortunately,such an argument applies only to commodities.It does not apply to financial products because financial products are subject to uncertainty. The Friedman and Laffer approach is based on the Benthamite Utilitarian gospel that there is no uncertainty about the future.The future is only risky .This means that there doesn't need to be any regulation because one can use the normal probability distribution(log Normal)to figure out all of the risks.Economists trained by the economics department of the University of Chicago and/or economists taught by economists from the University of Chicago were hired by the 1000's to serve in the Minerals Management Service, FRS,SEC,Fannie Mae,Freddie Mac,Office of Thrift Supervision,FTC,Justice Department,etc.The deregulated agencies then allowed the large Wall Street corporations to loot and pillage the economy with their speculative policies.In conclusion,it is " How Wall Street used the government to stay rich and get richer " that should have been the subtitle.All of the individuals mentioned earlier in my review were wealthy.None of them would support the looting of American that has taken place under the University of Chicago's libertarian,not conservative, approach to public policy.
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on August 30, 2009
Baker's analysis, while interesting, reads like it was done quickly and without the kind of depth that the subject deserves. I've heard him speak a number of times and always find him thoughtful, incisive, and fearless in his critique of the nanny state conservatives.

The book has too few subject areas that are examined, particularly when it comes to the military and its ties to the corporate welfare system.

The book's available as a PDF download from Baker's web site, and a synopsis of the book is in the 15-page introduction as a chapter-by-chapter explication of what he intends to cover. The introduction is, unfortunately, all you need to read in order to understand his arguments.
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on March 18, 2015
Breaks down a lot of good information and provides some reasonable solutions. I may not Agree with everything, but I learned a lot from the audio book.
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