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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abundant Praise for Age of Abundance
Brink Lindsey is neither an ideologue nor a cultural warrior. He is an especially gifted storyteller whose enthusiasm for his subject is obvious, genuine, and endearing. The Age of Abundance is the product of an objective inquiry, and its conclusions about where America is and the implications about where it is heading are refreshingly nonpartisan and hopeful.
In...
Published on May 19, 2007 by Daniel J. Ikenson

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent but flawed libertarian perspective of post WW2 America
In some respects I consider myself a libertarian, but the main problem I have with the party and the movement is that it seems like a cult religion in some ways. Once people drink the libertarian 'kool-aid' they say anything to defend their viewpoint, especially manipulating statistics or historical legislation.

Regarding this well-written but flawed book:...
Published on June 1, 2010 by S. Riley


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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abundant Praise for Age of Abundance, May 19, 2007
Brink Lindsey is neither an ideologue nor a cultural warrior. He is an especially gifted storyteller whose enthusiasm for his subject is obvious, genuine, and endearing. The Age of Abundance is the product of an objective inquiry, and its conclusions about where America is and the implications about where it is heading are refreshingly nonpartisan and hopeful.
In the book's subtitles, Lindsey promises to answer two questions: How prosperity transformed America's politics and culture? Why the culture wars made us more libertarian? He fulfills his obligations with compelling data, anecdotes, pop culture allusions, and sundry vignettes from each of the post-WWII decades.
The driving theme of the book is that, in the aftermath of 15 years of economic depression followed by world war, America, with its accumulated wealth and pent up demand was on the verge of a socio-economic big bang. With human sustenance all but assured for most Americans, the realm of material necessity (where all of life's energies were devoted to fulfilling life's basic requirements), which had defined the human condition for millennia, was relegated to history. The possibilities for human enterprise, association, expression, and actualization were about to change.
Providing the locomotion for the vast and rapid social change and its echoes was the dawn of the Age of Aquarius (the countercultural emergence) and the subsequent Evangelical Revival in response. One of Brink's gifts is his capacity for succinct interpretation. Thus, the essence of the culture wars boils down to this: "one side attacked capitalism while rejoicing in its fruits [the Aquarians, broadly defined]; the other side celebrated capitalism while denouncing its fruits as poisonous[...]."

Putting aside the thesis and Lindsey's explanation of how the data and events comport with that thesis, the book is rich in its recounting of recent history, and some of the colorful, emblematic characters of those respective decades. As a baby boomer myself (born during the last year of the official boom, 1964) I was somewhat nostalgic, even wistful until it dawned on me how absolutely silly and naïve we have been at times during our cultural journey.

Lindsey's conclusion and its implications are compelling. Instead of the polarized, bimodal, red state/blue state socio-political characterization of the American political landscape (the framework that Tim Russert and Chris Matthews will use to explain everything this upcoming political season), Lindsey sees a purplish bell curve, with the red and the blue relegated to the respective tails. Among other sources of support for that conclusion, Lindsey cites survey data that finds 66 percent of Americans consider themselves moderate, slightly conservative, or slightly liberal, while only 21 percent consider themselves conservative or extremely conservative, and only 13 percent call themselves liberal or extremely liberal.

Accepting Lindsey's interpretation does not require fealty to any particular creed. He is not argumentative or defensive. If he is trying to sell you on his interpretation, it is a soft sell. Here are the data; these are the events; this is how it all fits into the big picture. You can almost hear Lindsey whispering, "Isn't that cool?" He enjoys discovery, and I could picture him reading his own book again and again wearing an expression of wonderment as he turns the pages.

(By the way, in recognition that there is even more to tell in excess of what can be bound between book covers, Lindsey has devoted his website to the project of keeping Age of Abundance a "living document," by introducing interactive materials devoted to the themes of the book, and post WWII history generally. Check it out at [...])
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Wealth Created Modern America, May 18, 2007
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In an increasingly complex world, books that distill meaning out of all the noise -- that give us a strong sense of where we are and how we got there -- are both rare and precious. Brink Lindsey (my colleague at the Cato Institute) has written one of those books. The Age of Abundance tells the story of how the economic success of post-WWII America created space for a renewed quest for meaning, and how that quest reshaped our culture. The new material abundance created rapid and sometimes frightening change, which helped motivate the resurgence of fundamentalist Christianity. But the same abundance also enabled young baby boomers -- chafing under the constraints of "square" business-as-usual conservative America -- to undertake new experiments in living, producing the cultural convulsions of the 1960s. According to Lindsey, the rise of Christian fundamentalism and counter-cultural liberation were reactions to the same root causes, and today's "culture wars" faintly echo the original dynamic. But for the most part, the culture wars are over, and American society has produced a soft libertarian consensus -- you know, "socially liberal, fiscally consrvative" -- that blends elements of the conservative religious right, and the radical countercultural left. This doesn't make the arbiters of either left or right orthodoxy very happy, but it suits most Americans just fine. In conclusion Lindsey persuasively lay out a moderate libertarian politics that transcends the tired "red state/blue state" dialectic.

But Age of Abundance is less an argument and more a story. This is a historically rich book, bulging with fascinating historical detail that explains how we got from there to here more plausibly than any book in recent memory. Lindsey is a vivid writer, with a real gift for punchy formulations, and an excellent storyteller, able to keep a gripping narrative rolling while at the same time marshalling data to support his case. If this book has a weakness, it may be that it is overloaded with information. In places, Lindsey piles on more facts and historical detail than it is really possible to absorb. But, incredibly, the story never seems to bog down.

This is an important book that will leave you feeling like contemporary America has suddenly snapped into crisp focus. More importantly, it's a good read full of great stories and great ideas that both entertains and provokes.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mass Affluence and Libertarianism, July 24, 2007
By 
Izaak VanGaalen (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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Brink Lindsey of the libertarian Cato Institute recounts the story of American prosperity that followed World War II. Although countless others have written about this phenomenon, Lindsey's take of these events is fresh and insightful, and, not surprisely, vindicates his libertarian worldview.

According to Lindsey, the mass affluence that ushered in after World War II lifted us out of "the realm of necessity" and into "the realm of freedom." For the first time in human history the vast majority no longer struggled to obtain the basic necessities of life. Many would debate this point, but statistically one could prove that even the poor were better off than in previous time or place.

Leaving the age of scarcity and entering the age of abundance, Americans were suddenly faced proliferation of choices, arguably turning them into a different kind of people. Not only did this unleash a quest for material wealth, but also a desire for political and cultural change. The age of abundance produced two antithetical social movements that upended the peaceful harmony of the 1950s. For the left of the 1960s and 70s, mass affluence created new possibilities for personal growth and greater tolerance and opportunity for women and minorities. The left, however, was dismissive of business culture and traditional family values, and failed to see how they were in fact responsible for the prosperity that they were enjoying. On the other side was the evangelical Christian right who was more protective of capitalism and tradition, but who were very intolerant of the newfound freedoms and lifestyles that were being explored.

During the 1980s and 90s, the cultural wars between these two camps raged, especially on election years. The blue-staters calling for greater political freedoms and the red-staters holding the fort on traditonal family values. Lindsey argues that these two camps are of late coming around to seeing the merits of the other's point of view. He writes that "today's typical red-state conservative is considerably bluer on race relations, the role of women, and sexual morality than his predecessor of a generation ago." And likewise, "the typical blue-state liberal is considerably redder than his predecessor when it comes to the importance of markets to economic growth, the virtues of the two-parent family and the morality of American geopolitical power." According to Lindsey, we are now living in a period of "libertarian synthesis."

This book could be called a feel-good libertarian parable. It praises the wisdom of the broad middle-class that not only reveres tradition but also tolerates greater freedoms than previous generations. The majority now feels comfortable with libertarianism. During election years hot-button issues are still ignited and battlelines are still drawn, but this has more to do with the media and electioneering than the real viewpoints of the majority. The reality is more complex and less divisive than the media would have us believe. We now have social peace because there is a greater tolerance for alternative views and lifestyles.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly new idea...., January 16, 2008
By 
J. Harris (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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For someone who closely follows news and politics, reading this book was a refreshing experience. Its central premise is a truly unique idea, in a field filled with redundant writing.

Lindsey's main insight is that both the evangelical revival and the countercultural left arose in response to America's unprecedented prosperity after World War II. Through his libertarian worldview, Lindsey is able to expose the contradictions within each of these movements. The Christian right defends capitalist principles of hard work, delayed gratifcation, and planning for the future -- but condemns the personal freedoms, choices, and lifestyles that are made possible by the new prosperity. In contrast, the countercultural left embraces a more culturally permissive society that emphasizes self-realization -- but condemns the market institutions that create the prosperity that makes this self-realization possible.

Ultimately, Lindsey argues that we must follow a new course that captures the benefits of both the Christian right and the "Aquarian" left. We should firmly embrace capitalism and market institutions, which have produced astonishing growth and prosperity over the last century. But we should also embrace the fruits of this prosperity -- with more time and money than ever before, Americans should be free to choose the lifestyles, religions, products, and experiences that make them happiest. This book argues that we are moving towards a libertarian consensus in the United States that will capture the best of both worlds. This is a highly cogent and persuasive work of history and political science, and I strongly recommend reading it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh perspective on some familiar history, September 29, 2007
By 
Amazon Customer (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
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Brink Lindsey seems like a really average American guy, which is surprising not because of his unusual name but because he's the Vice President for Research at the libertarian Cato Institute. When so many Libertarians (large L) seem like wackos to most mainstream Americans, Mr. Lindsey does his movement a favor by offering this book. He presents a compelling case that libertarianism (small l) not only makes sense as an ideal for mainstream Americans, but in fact that mainstream America has been moving steadily in that direction since the culture wars of the 60's erupted and left most Americans wondering where all the weirdos -- left and right -- came from. He's much too respectful of both the Aquarians (a useful nomenclature that he seems to have coined) and the Evangelicals to call them "weirdos", but, as is typical of libertarians, he is very comfortable offering criticisms of both movements while at the same time acknowledging the beneficial contributions of both. The book retells the post-WWII history of the United States with some wonderful details added to the stories and personalities most Americans know well. Along the way, he offers his perspective of how mainstream America has adopted most of the libertarian leanings of these two political extremes while rejecting most of the more freedom-reducing elements. It's a refreshing presentation of recent history, and his main argument is compelling and enjoyable to read.

An short adaptation of the book is available online at [...] , it offers a decent taste of the book as a whole.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable and revealing read, May 31, 2007
Allows one to step back and see and understand some of the social and political events of his lifetime. Being part of a social phenomenon, characterized by abundance of leisure time and expendable moneys, but not recognizing its bigger pattern until superbly described and documented by Brink Lindsey. The book provides an eye-opening, enjoyable, easy to read historical perspective that allows an understanding of the origins of the conservative/religious right and the liberal left. An intriguing and logical account of what we experienced, from the fifties until today, that influenced the creation of the existing two political/social movements of our time.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chronicled Change, August 9, 2007
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Provided an excellent explanation of our country's current social and political situation by chronicling how the nation's political center re-balances extremes on the left and right.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Age of Abundance, May 24, 2007
By 
Peter Gordon (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This is the best modern American history that I have seen. The author presents an intriguing theme and makes his points via an eminently readable tour of our cultural, political and economic history. He makes his case (in my view) quite persuasively. Even if you do not agree, you will feel refreshed and exhilirated.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent but flawed libertarian perspective of post WW2 America, June 1, 2010
In some respects I consider myself a libertarian, but the main problem I have with the party and the movement is that it seems like a cult religion in some ways. Once people drink the libertarian 'kool-aid' they say anything to defend their viewpoint, especially manipulating statistics or historical legislation.

Regarding this well-written but flawed book:

Page 47 - "the rise to mass influence was anything but a smooth and pleasant journey" --...That admission is one problem with ultra-conservative monetary and fiscal policy. As John Maynard Keynes famously said '..in the long run, we're all dead' (meaning human lives are put into turmoil during periods of recession, depression, correction, reaching 'equilibrium' etc. while the free market works it all out). A couple recent good books on that topic are The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street and The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too. These periods of disequilibrium and recent examples of corporate greed, corruption, exploitation and scandals aren't emphasized enough and show how imperfect the market is and how regulatory oversight is always needed.

The book has way too many boring statistics of post WW2 America, but what makes it worse is that the author doesn't illustrate their relevance to his arguments. Yeah, x% bought houses and washers/dryers, but how did the Holy Grail free market do that? The author doesn't make it clear.

Discussing Reagan (conseratives' messiah) and his economic policies in the first year of office, the author conveniently changes into passive writing, stating "Japan was forced into a 'voluntary restraint agreement' to limit its car exports to the U.S." (which was Reagan really meddling in the free market where he shouldn't be - at least in purist libertarian ideology) and "By 1984, a similar agreement was shielding American steel producers from a host of foreign competitors after import market share exceeded 25%" (meddling again...protectionist tactics to help inefficient American producers compete against cheaper better quality steel from Japan). Of course, politics are what they are, but any libertarian should agree that what these policies do is punish American buyers of cars and steel. There was a reason Japan penetrated the American market so successfully - i.e. buyers wanted their products for whatever reasons and it's not the government's job to get involved.

A good note: the middle portion of the book is quite interesting when the author discusses 60s & 70s counterculture and related topics and people of the time.

But overall it was ok. If you've already drunk the libertarian kool-aid, you'll probably like this book. If you're a socialist, you won't.

***I bought this book at the local 'dollar store' where - ironically - the magic of the free market sent this author's work.

S. RILEY
CHICOPEE, MA
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very stimulating, tries not to be shallow but glides over big problems!, August 12, 2010
This review is from: The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture (Paperback)
Mr. Lindsey has a nice way with words and as a libertarian isn't angry or divisive. His premise is that after WWII, America entered a new type of society, a society freed for the first time from basic material needs. This was an era of affluence.

A previous reviewer was unfair and mentioned Sahlins' affluent primitive as disproof of the novelty of American's post WWII boom. That's hardly an apt comparison - the fact that foragers 'work' for 20 hrs/week is small potatoes compared to the awesome surge in wealth and comfort that America experienced when the war ended. It was something, to hear my Dad talk about it.

The 50's were an era of bland prosperity, and led to its children rebelling and challenging them in the 60s on every level imaginable (the hippies and counterculture). This in turn led to a counter-counter culture of squares, of the Silent Majority who were in favor of family values and bourgeouis values and religious fundamentalism.

Lindsey has set the stage: affluence has sired two children that will punch and counter-punch for the next several decades, alternately winning and losing and compromising in the hearts and minds of Americans up to the present day.

What has resulted, in true emergent, unintended consequences-fashion in complex adaptive systems, is a synthesis that is relatively resilient of the best of both - the cultural and social tolerance of the left (civil rights and gay rights and feminism) coupled with the economic freedoms of the right (appreciation of the potency of the free market and utter failure of top-down central planning of socialist governments).

This hybrid of social and economic freedom has created the libertarian synthesis that is a neither red nor blue but purplish zone in the middle that most Americans comfortably inhabit, to the frustration of partisans on both sides.

It's a fun, rich book with many stats. He tries not to be a glibertarian, and acknowledges the stagnant incomes for those left out of the shift from manufacturing to information economy, and so forth. Like most libertarians, it doesn't really ring true, but he tries to make it sound like he cares.

The biggest fault I have with this stimulating book is that it's published in 2007 - a year before the crash! He writes about affluence the way Shyamalan wrote about blockbusters - as if the code has been found for all time.

No. America's consumerist ways are debt-financed and now we can see that the media was full of it - the financial press is a joke, cheerleaders-all. No WMD, No critical press on the rush to Iraq, no awareness that the USSR would fall, no sense that the financial system is a joke - over and over we see that our media our completely out of touch and laughably incompetent.

Our 'affluence' is not real, and he seems to glide right over that huge, huge observation. See Andrew Bacevich on Bill Moyers website - the Empire of Consumption - starting in the late 60s we just can't stop consuming.

A deeper analysis of our affluence would be that at first we earned it - but then we grew addicted to it and then were willing to borrow endlessly to pay for it to the point of insanity - no matter what our addiction to foreign oil, trade deficits, interest payments, entitlements, and the inability to provide our own citizens with health care. America is bankrupt, broke, and inept. He glides over this. That's the real problem.

That's my editorial, that's a huge problem with his approach to affluence. Affluence is not some wonderful accomplishment (it was - once, for the US0, it is now an addiction and pathological state of denial for us. We're deluded.

But his discussion of how the experience of affluence affected us culturally, is wonderful stuff. We just differ on what is underneath the experience - or, at a certain point, the reality of that affluence changed.
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