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The Conscience of a Liberal Paperback – January 12, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Economist and New York Times columnist Krugman's stimulating manifesto aims to galvanize today's progressives the way Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative did right-wingers in 1964. Krugman's great theme is economic equality and the liberal politics that support it. America's post-war middle-class society was not the automatic product of a free-market economy, he writes, but was created... by the policies of the Roosevelt Administration. By strengthening labor unions and taxing the rich to fund redistributive programs like Social Security and Medicare, the New Deal consensus narrowed the income gap, lifted the working class out of poverty and made the economy boom. Things went awry, Krugman contends, with the Republican Party's takeover by movement conservatism, practicing a politics of deception [and] distraction to advance the interests of the wealthy. Conservative initiatives to cut taxes for the rich, dismantle social programs and demolish unions, he argues, have led to sharply rising inequality, with the incomes of the wealthiest soaring while those of most workers stagnate. Krugman's accessible, stylishly presented argument deftly combines economic data with social and political analysis; his account of the racial politics driving conservative successes is especially sharp. The result is a compelling historical defense of liberalism and a clarion call for Americans to retake control of their economic destiny. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Paul Krugman is the recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics. He is a best-selling author, columnist, and blogger for the New York Times, and is a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (January 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393333132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393333138
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (210 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Krugman is the recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics. He writes a twice-weekly op-ed column for the New York Times and a blog named for his 2007 book "The Conscience of a Liberal." He teaches economics at Princeton University. His books include "The Accidental Theorist," "The Conscience of a Liberal," "Fuzzy Math," "The Great Unraveling," "Peddling Prosperity," and two editions of "The Return of Depression Economics," both national bestsellers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

244 of 295 people found the following review helpful By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on November 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As baby boomers, we grew up with products "Made in the USA" and scoffed at trinkets from Japan. Our parents enjoyed life-long employment, health care, affordable education, Social Security and pensions that made the golden years more golden. This is what author Paul Krugman describes in his new book "Conscience of a Liberal." He calls this the "Great Compression" where the politics of equality was borne from the New Deal in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defied the laws of Adam Smith and his invisible hand, and redistributed the wealth of a nation, effectively killing the "Gilded Age" where society was comprised of the very wealthy and the poor.

FDR's New Deal saw the minimum wage becoming half of the average wage earner, the rise of unions, and the mansions of the nation's wealthiest becoming museum attractions. This was the creation of the middle class that was vehemently opposed by Republicans who believed that government intervention would turn the country communist and ruin the economy. It didn't.

By the time Dwight Eisenhower, Republican, became president most in the party had made their peace with the New Deal and only a fringe of an extremist element, known as movement conservatives, still opposed it.

These conservatives made a brief, unsuccessful surge with the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964. They got a break when Democrats embraced civil rights, which broke the Solid South away from them. Racism and the wrath of the angry white male were exploited, and the message of Ronald Reagan could not be missed when he launched his campaign in Philadelphia, MS. Sound familiar?
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292 of 356 people found the following review helpful By Betty on October 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Krugman does it again with an impeccably reasoned history of the interaction between US politics and economics. I wasn't expecting much new, but Krugman repeatedly opened my eyes by putting our current political conflicts in the context of 140 years worth of economic and political history. He documents how the distribution of economic resources are guided not only by Adam Smith's invisible hand but also by politics. He describes how we achieved relative equality with high productivity growth during the 1940-60s, analyzes how political decisions led to our current moderate growth with most of the benefits accruing to a small fraction of the population, and discusses the way movement conservatives have achieved and maintained political power while furthering the economic interests of a small minority. The second half of the book suggests a modest plan for liberals to achieve when they regain political power--beginning with universal health insurance.

I've often found it hard to understand what motivates conservatives. I now understand their history and ideas much better. Compromising with them isn't going to work. It will be interesting to see how conservatives respond to this book. They will clearly quibble, attack, and distract, but it is hard to see how they could counteract Krugman's carefully documented main points.

This book is a must read for everybody concerned about the direction our country is moving. The timing is propitious as it arrives just as the radical conservative movement is beginning to falter. It refutes essentially every argument radical conservatives use to advance their cause and distort discussions.
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113 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Ann Arbor on January 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a very interesting read, and being somewhat of a libertarian and leaning rightward on all things fiscal or economic, I walked away from reading "Conscience of a Liberal" with a greater understanding of the liberal viewpoint. In fact, I would also say that I have greater tolerance now for liberal policies and the welfare state in general. (However, perhaps part of that is because I also just finished George Lakoff's "Moral Politics", which was interesting and highly recommended).

Krugman definitely lambasted a handful of prominent "movement conservatives", but did so in a way that didn't offend me. Maybe that's because I share Krugman's disgust at the takeover of the republican party by the religious right. Also, I found this book to have perhaps the most clear and succinct distillation of the healthcare issue that I've been able to find anywhere. I feel I have a better handle now on what the "problems" really are. Lastly, I agree with the author that our country could tolerate somewhat higher taxes on the "ultra-rich" without significantly impairing market-based incentive forces and the entrepreneurial spirit. I am all for Krugman's ideas to clean up the tax loopholes that allow hedge fund managers to pay a lower rate. Thankfully, Krugman doesn't hint at raising corporate taxes.

However, despite all that, there are a number of important areas where I disagree or take issue with some of the author's assertions:
1) Krugman seems to yearn for the day when "A worker protected by a good union, as many were, had as secure a job and often nearly as high an income as a highly trained professional". Several times he hints at the need to achieve salary parity between high and low skilled workers. Why?
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