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Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America Paperback – March 8, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

Onto 2004's already crowded political non-fiction bookshelf, comes Reason by former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich. It's a call to arms for liberals and progressives against what Reich terms the "Radcons", radical conservatives who combine the aggressive "neoconservative" foreign policy of Richard Perle and Robert Kagan with an insistence on interfering with private morality, all the while eliminating social safety nets. At times, it seems like Reich is trying to have it both ways: he condemns the Radcons for being judgmental and demonizing those with whom they disagree but, in the process, he often does some demonizing of his own in his summarization of their philosophies. Reich's arguments are most persuasive when he takes the approach of the Radcons but turns them around. Yes, he says, morality is crucial to the survival and prosperity of the United States, but instead of worrying about what people do in their own bedrooms, we should focus on public morality, especially as it pertains to overpaid CEOs, corrupt corporations, and the government's tacit approval of them. Despite his long history with the Democrats, or perhaps because of it, Reich saves some of his most pointed criticisms for his own party. He assails the Democrats for ceding the ongoing electoral struggle to the Republicans (and the Radcons, naturally). It's stupid, says Reich, to pursue a centrist approach to capturing the voting blocs necessary to achieve victory in the White House or congress because there is actually no such thing as centrism. Instead, there is a shift in the political dialogue as the right tacks further rightward and drags victory-hungry Democrats with it, thus alienating and ultimately disenfranchising the substantial liberal electorate. Reich ultimately sees good news for liberals on the horizon, however. While he thinks millions of Americans are fed up with the overly cautious Democratic Party that won't stand up for it's progressive principals, they are even wearier of the Radcons and "their intolerance, their mean-spiritedness, their moral righteousness, and their arrogance toward the rest of the world." --John Moe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Today's conservatives ("Radcons") are reckless, vituperative extremists, deeply at odds with the caution and civility of traditional conservatives like Edmund Burke, argues Reich (Locked in the Cabinet), Clinton's first secretary of labor. Liberals, he asserts, remain squarely in the tradition of Jefferson and FDR, not (as Radcons allege) the late '60s New Left. Yet liberals have ceded certain issues and qualities to Radcons that they should take back. Moral outrage is one: "There is moral rot in America, but it's not found in the private behavior of ordinary people. It's located in the public behavior of people at or near the top." Quoting liberally from conservatives like Robert Bork (who was Reich's law school professor and gave him his first job), Reich wholeheartedly approves of their moral indignation but disagrees with their targets. Referring to John Q. Wilson's "broken windows" argument for zero tolerance of petty vandalism, he writes, "The corporate fraud, conflicts of interest, exorbitant pay of top executives, and surge of money into politics are like hundreds of broken windows." Despite such well-made points, the good-natured Reich can't sustain outrage for more than a few sentences. His second main topic-reclaiming economic growth as a liberal banner-is more seriously compromised by his underdeveloped mix of neoliberalism and social democracy (despite his lucid critique of the Radcons' economic ideas and record). But he roars home with his last main subject, "Positive Patriotism," rejecting "chest-thumping pride" in favor of defining America by its ideals. Although his book is uneven, Reich's distinctive perspective provides insights targeted well beyond November's election.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400076609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400076604
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 171 people found the following review helpful By SK on May 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Right on target, bravo! The real threat to the values and traditions of the Republic comes not from liberals, as neo- and radical conservatives would have us believe, but from an alliance of secretive government, timid legislature, judiciary with little respect for constitution and big money controlling what most Americans hear and see every day through the media.
"Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims... From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion."
Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on the State of Virginia", response to query 17, (1781).
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135 of 156 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In this book Robert Reich continues to be the voice of reason in America. By exposing the dramatic attack tactics Republicans have used to bully, con, and seize America and by reminding us of the values on which we have built a magnificent and hopeful democracy, Reich provides both reason and hope for the future. Is it right that we should be condemning people for what they do in their bedrooms but ignore the atrocities and treasons committed in American boardrooms? Appendix A of 'Reason' illustrates how the American public has been surveyed as a very tolerant, rational, compassionate, open, and enlightened body but has been made to believe that it is unpatriotic to question and disagree with those who would give tax cuts to the rich and wage war without the support of a world coalition. More importantly than exposing Republican tactics, Reich instructs Democrats on how to shed the lethargy that has plagued them and gives hope that with organization and true, American passion we will restore our reputation and future as the great leader of the world-moral leader and not simply military leader. This book is what Americans need to hear and remember.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Don McGowan on July 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'd like to have liked this more, but there's two reasons I couldn't.

He starts strong, giving a litany of what he thinks is wrong with American politics and business life. But the more you listen to his positions on big business activities like Enron and WorldCom, you may find yourself thinking "but it's not like you were an outsider during all of this". Reich was in the Clinton White House. He was Secretary of Labor. He was there. Sure, Clinton didn't control the Congress, but people listen when a Cabinet Secretary talks. He didn't speak up then, so he waives a bit of his moral right to speak now.

2. This book isn't actually about Why Liberals Will Win. It's about what Robert Reich thinks is wrong with conservatism. That's fine, but you may find yourself waiting for the conclusion that never comes.

The book becomes a more interesting read today, with Barack Obama in the White House, than it was when it was released during the George W. Bush presidency and the liberal time in the wilderness. You can see how ideas like the ones Reich advocates are coming back into the national discourse. We'll see if it turns out he was right...
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199 of 244 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on May 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A good and noble project is REASON, but one which ultimately fails. Not because Reich is not reasonable. Not because he is not clear-eyed, prudent, and good-humored as well.
No, REASON fails because fair reason, that powerful engine of the Enlightenment and a mainstay of the Founding Fathers, has been short-circuited by 1) the socially corrosive bought-and-paid-for cant of the right-wing libertarian think tank crowd, 2) the intolerant and divisive fulminations of Christian Right and their self-appointed public scolds, and 3) the tendentious free-market fables told by the Chicago "School" to serve and protect the prerogatives of the wealthy. Perhaps most threatening of all to sweet reason is 4) the trillion megawatt transmission system carved out of the public airwaves that stuffs this quasi-philosophic farrago of half-truths and outright lies into the ears of a stunned American public.
Reich intends REASON as a kind of handbook for the politically moderate American who knows that the grand egalitarian tradition is under siege, wants to understand how the Radcons have done it, and wants to do something about it. Reich knows that many Americans who grew up in a more optimistic, yes, a kinder and gentler liberal America are at a loss in trying to understand and counter the manipulative rhetorical tricks and absolutist dogma of the Radcon crowd. (Radcon is Reich's shorthand for the new model conservative -- the radical conservative -- a species of political animal bearing little resemblance to either the traditional Burkean conservative,or to that moderate, fiscally conservative Republican who until just recently held the Radcon's revanchist tendencies in check.
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