Everything For Sale
is an erudite reprieve from the deluge of books written in praise of free markets. Robert Kuttner fires back with a book that documents relevant, real-world examples of market failure and makes the case for intelligent intervention to attain more desirable outcomes. His exhaustive litany of successful (some, even cherished) government interventions in the market--from National Public Radio to the Internet--creates a persuasive case for a mixed program of political and market-based approaches in the shaping of public policy. When Kuttner pushes his argument for a culture with less commercial emphasis, his preferences exhibit an anti-market bias. But overall, his argument is clear and compelling, exposing blind adherence to market outcomes as largely arbitrary, ideological, and often, an affront to democracy. Academic economists who ignore the political desires of the people in order to protect the purity of their mathematical models draw Kuttner's fire in particular. He writes about ideas and economic details with great verve and ability. Kuttner's book is certain to be a touchstone of debate, if not reform, among public policy makers.
From Publishers Weekly
Challenging the prevailing conservative doctrine that an unregulated, self-correcting, free-market economy is the ideal, Kuttner (The End of Laissez-Faire) argues that in a humane society, whole realms of activity necessarily depart from pure market principles because market norms drive out nonmarket norms?civility, commitment to the public good, personal economic security and liberty. In the workplace, a growing tendency to treat human labor purely as a commodity has led to an increasing polarization of wages, erosion of standards of fairness and greater worker insecurity, he maintains. Overreliance on market mechanisms is ruining the health care system, contends Kuttner, a contributing columnist to Business Week, because of enormous hidden costs engendered by opportunism, fragmentation, underinvestment in public health and prevention, and inefficient use of home care and nursing care. Arguing that deregulation of financial markets leads to offsetting inefficiencies, he casts a skeptical eye on hostile takeovers, junk bonds and derivatives and advocates "stakeholder capitalism" to make shareholders more accountable to employees. In a benchmark for future debate, Kuttner brings, clear, pragmatic thinking to complex, thorny issues, reclaiming a middle ground between champions of laissez-faire capitalism and statism.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.