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The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century Hardcover – August 17, 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 225 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Great Unraveling is a chronicle of how "the heady optimism of the late 1990s gave way to renewed gloom as a result of "incredibly bad leadership, in the private sector and in the corridors of power." Offering his own take on the trickle-down theory, economist and columnist Paul Krugman lays much of the blame for a slew of problems on the Bush administration, which he views as a "revolutionary power...a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system." Declaring them radicals masquerading as moderates, he questions their motives on a range of issues, particularly their tax and Social Security plans, which he argues are "obviously, blatantly based on bogus arithmetic." Though a fine writer, Krugman relies more heavily on numbers than words to examine the current rash of corporate malfeasance, the rise and fall of the stock market bubble, the federal budget and the future of Social Security, and how a huge surplus quickly became a record deficit. He also rails against the news media for displaying a disturbing lack of skepticism and for failing to do even the most basic homework when reporting on business and economic issues. The book is mainly a collection of op-ed pieces Krugman wrote for The New York Times between 2000 and 2003. Overall, this format works well. Krugman writes clearly about complicated issues and offers plenty of evidence and hard facts to support his theories regarding the intersection of business, economics, and politics, making this a detailed, informative, and thought-provoking book. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

This selection of three years of New York Times op-eds by economist and Princeton professor Krugman document his opposition to the governance of George W. Bush and his "bad economics wrapped in the flag." In his introduction, Krugman asserts that Bush is a radical and that America's right wing is "a revolutionary power... a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system." The core of the book's 100-plus columns is dedicated to eviscerating Bush's fiscal policies, uncovering the administration's hidden agendas, as well as castigating the media for letting him get away with it. A handful of articles advocate the globalization of free trade. Much of the material will be familiar to Times readers, but reading the items together reveals Krugman's growing anger at the hubris he sees exhibited by the extreme right wing and its seeming defiance of logic. At first, Krugman is a numbers man, methodically parsing the data (demonstrating, for example, how the heartland is not, statistically, more committed to family than people on the coasts), but over time he arrives at the conclusion that "Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy" and "it works a lot like a special-interest lobby." Krugman is one of the few commentators able to sound both appalled and reasonable at the same time as he provides an alternate history of the last three years to that penned by conservative pundits. Many readers will find Krugman very persuasive as to how our present government has done us wrong.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 426 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393058506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058505
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add comment and links.

New Comment: the author was ahead of his time. See new links below.

The book is worth buying for the Preface and Introduction alone. The rest of the book is a somewhat irritating replay of every column the author has ever written, and not nearly as well done or as riveting as, say, Tom Friedman's replays in "Longitudes & Attitudes". However, if you have not read the author's columns, his bite-size descriptions of irrational exuberance, crony capitalism, the failure of the Federal Reserve, fuzzy math, how markets go bad, and global spoilage, then they are all certainly worth browsing.

The Preface has three core ideas: 1) the elites are ruling badly and not beneficially for the majority of the population including all the voters and most of the stockholders; 2) politicians and corporation chiefs are getting away with blatant lies to the public because of a media that avoids critical inquiry; and 3) open sources of information--all that lies in the public domain--are more than adequate for anyone to get a grip on reality.

The Introduction is a bit scarier and more pointed. The author joins Mark Hertsgaard, author of The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World in suggesting that the radical right is creating nothing less than a Reichstag in America. In the author's view, and he quotes Kissinger in chilling terms, the radical right is a revolutionary power that is very deliberately and with malice at all times, rejecting and undermining the democratic rules of the game.
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Format: Hardcover
Krugman is a godsend. As a Princeton economist, he has the training, the time, and most importantly, the job security to take on the huge job of analyzing the Bush administration's policies and exposing them for what they are. The corporate-owned mainstream press must bow to many masters, including popular opinion, and must placate the administration officials they cover for fear of losing the most precious thing in news: access. Krugman has the luxury (if that word applies to the daunting task he's taken on) of assiduously digesting the Bush camp's proposals and actions, including complicated economic plans that most of us have neither the training nor the time to study in detail, and point out in clear language how they differ not only from many of the administration's own statements but from what most people (i.e., the majority of us who aren't millionaires) want out of our government. I've been reading his Times columns faithfully, and find that they have done some of the best work widely available of demonstrating factually just how socially retrograde and economically dangerous the Bush policies are. He details the frightening arrogance and irresponsibility of those at the top of this government, facts that are only now beginning to be brought to the attention of the general public. If you're now surprised by the titanic budget deficit and what it has done and will do to the economy, the huge mess in Iraq--including the deceits that got us involved there in the first place--and the White House's cluelessness in dealing with it, the jobless 'recovery,' critical cuts in basic social services like schools, police and fire houses, health care and more, and revelations about continuing domestic security vulnerabilities, well, none of this is news to Krugman readers. Simply put, he's one of the best.
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By Shihounage on September 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It is a shame that Krugman, a first rate economist, MIT grad, and award winning professor at Princeton will be excorciated by the right as shrill and hackneyed. He is none of those things, nor is his book. The book is an investigation of the economic collapse of America since 2000. It is a 'liberal' book only so far as Krugman can point to the policies of the adminstration which have gotten the US to the point of economic collapse. And he wield numbers mightily. It is his own homework, his own number crunching, his own math based on the economy that leads him to his conclusions. The book does not rely on his opinions of the people that he likes and does not like, so it's difficult to compare it to a Coulter or Franken book.
The book is important and outstanding. It should be required reading for every one of the 3,000,000 Americans who has lost a job in the past three years. It is an argument against supply side economics and deficit spending of the best calibre.
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Format: Hardcover
Academic economists are by their nature non-partisan (they would not survive professionally otherwise), which is why it is so telling to see a serious economist like Krugman writing what amounts to a diatribe over the Bush administration's policies. Careful reading will reveal that what makes Krugman so upset are not the Bush administration's particular stands (e.g. tax cuts over deficit reduction, privatizing social security, subsidizing the energy industry, selling off national forests, etc.) but rather that, instead of openly declaring their intentions and engaging the public in an honest policy debate over priorities, they consistently "mislead" the American public about the goals and effects of their policies. My colleagues in government - even the conservatives - lament that while Clinton allowed economic analysis to guide his policy choices, the Bush Administration employs their economists largely to concoct justifications for their policies, and have little interest in any actual policy debate.

Krugman, by highlighting the impact of the Administration policies is not "left-wing" (in fact, far from it). He would be the first to admit that properly-designed tax cuts can be used to stimulate the economy or to promote incentives to save and invest. He simply points out that the Bush Administration's policies claim to do things they are not designed to do, and that while eliminating taxes on capital income may increase America's low saving rates, they are unlikely to boost consumer spending (as claimed) and overwhelmingly benefit the super-rich. Whether such a policy is "good" or "bad" is an individual voter's choice - but voters cannot make those decisions for themselves if the Administration doesn't present the choices honestly.
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