on February 13, 2012
I enjoyed this book. I thought he could have done more to explain why "loser liberalism" is a loser. The idea that obsessing solely with the tax code is a bad idea is probably true, but I'm not sure if he convinced me of that with this book. My other issue is that he complains about some of the current parts of the progressive agenda as being losers but then he offers some ideas that I felt were sort of on the small side compared to how big our problems seem to be. The example I will use is his discussion of work sharing programs as a solution to unemployment problems. It just seemed depressing to me that that might be the best answer we have to sustained unemployment. Of course, he has many other ideas as well and on the whole he makes a good case. I just felt at some times that when you attack the current progressive project as a "loser" you better come with the big guns or you just seem to be re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic. Definitely worth a read if you are interested in ideas about how to get outside of the current deadlocked debates.
on September 6, 2011
Dean Baker, co-director at CEPR, publishes the blog "Beat the Press." In BTP, Mr. Baker susses out poor reporting and faulty conventional wisdom regarding economic issues. This book, to my mind, both continues that good work and expands the frame.
Mr. Baker provides an intellectual blueprint for progressives. He argues, convincingly, that conservatives have dominated the economic policy debate. Progressives, on the other hand, have largely capitulated due to their misunderstanding regarding and acceptance of right-wing frameworks. For every liberal who's wondered aloud "how come we keep losing when our ideas are better," Mr. Baker provides the answer.
The book is unabashedly partisan and, thus, not likely to successfully convert anyone. But that appears to be the point. To counter what he sees as an all-out attack on middle- and working-class groups, Mr. Baker provides the best kind of polemic: smart, tough and based on sound economic fundamentals.
Expect conservatives to angrily respond in knee-jerk fashion. But can they counter Mr. Baker's logic and empirical evidence? Unlikely.
The End of Loser Liberalism
By Dean Baker
By Richard Edward Noble
Dean Baker is an economist. He earned his B. A. from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He is currently co-director of The Center for Economic and Policy Research.
He has written a bunch of books. I downloaded this one for free. It is the first book by Mr. Baker that I have read but it won't be the last.
Dean Baker calls himself a liberal progressive. Of late I have been referring to myself as a "progressive." Mr. Baker is far more progressive than I am. He's another "idea" man. And he does have ideas. At some points in this book I was laughing openly. Not at Mr. Baker but at his unique ability to turn the tables upside down and backwards on the smart crowd.
What a book this is!
The simplicity of many of his ideas makes a reader wonder why he never thought such things.
Mr. Baker is a free market man ... I think. But he takes these free market principles and turns them back onto the hands and heads that have been feeding them to us all for these many confusing years. He makes an art of "quid pro quo."
How many times have all of us worker types heard the sorrowful whine, But what can I do? The free market dictates.
When our paychecks are cut, it's the free market competition. When we lose our jobs it free market competition. When they close down the plant and take it overseas, it's the free market Global economy. When they take our home, it is simply the free market at work. When we can't afford medical care, it is once again a simple matter of free market competition. Next we will have to dig our own graves preemtively to save the cemeteries on labor costs.
It's the bottom line. It's the way things are. It's inevitable. It's the way the free market operates.
It's like the old Greek adage, "Magister Dixit, the Master has spoken."
Well the gods may have stipulated and the Master of the free market may have spoken but the Master has a new interpreter, Dean Baker.
The Professor, as a free market advocate, takes these so called free market aphorisms and applies them to rich and poor alike, to the humble and the powerful, to the panhandler and the professional.
There were times when I thought my man Baker was just putting the world on, kind of a tongue in cheek thing. But if the man is joking the joke is on the rich, the powerful, the established and the smug.
This guy is good. He is not to be taken lightly. He gives details. Some of his solutions are truly frightening but frightening or not they are often more than justified and long overdue. Many of the ideas suggested, for the most part, have already been used and used regularly with religious zeal and conservative vindictiveness ... but only from the top down, never from the bottom up. They have been applied to the working class, the poor and the middle class without compassion in a strict business, free market approach. Mr. Baker responds in kind. He's tough but very enlightening. He goes to the gut of the matter and dives in with some very heavy body blows. Lots of good stuff here for the liberal arsenal.
Mr. Baker is a progressive for progressives. He has published several other books that I am definitely interested in reading that deal with the truth about Social Security, the Consumer Price Index, how the rich manipulate the system to stay rich and make themselves richer. Looks like some great stuff.
I will close this review with a few paragraphs taken from the conclusion of "The End of loser Liberalism."
"It is not by luck, talent, and hard work that the rich are getting so much richer. It is by rigging the rules of the game: From a political perspective it is much better to say the progressive agenda is about setting fair rules for the market. The argument that highly paid professionals should face the same international competition as factory workers is a compelling one, and more arresting than the argument that we should redistribute money from the winners to the losers.
"Since public debate is so badly misinformed on almost all economic issues, most people will be hearing these arguments for the first time. Few realize that an agency of the government, the Federal Reserve Board, actively throws people out of work to fight inflation. Few know that the loss of manufacturing jobs and the downward pressure on wages of manufacturing workers are not accidental outcomes of trade agreements but rather the whole basis for them. (The enigma of trade is that it can make a whole country richer and yet most of its people poorer.) And hardly anyone understands that a higher valued dollar intensifies the hurtful effect of trade by putting further downward pressure on the wages of workers subject to international competition.
"Our Federal Reserve Policy, trade policy, and dollar policy redistribute income upward from the less advantaged to those who disproportionately control the nation's wealth and political power. Each policy is designed for this outcome. Knowing this economic reality is not the same as changing it, but it is an important first step.
"Progressives have to start playing hardball. The right is not just trying to win elections; it is working to destroy the basis of progressive opposition. Breaking private sector unions in the 1980's was not just getting lower cost labor; it was also a deliberate effort to undermine one of the pillars of progressive politics in the United States. Recent efforts at the state and federal level to weaken public sector unions are not about saving money for the government; they are deliberate efforts to destroy the strongest remaining segment of the labor movement."
The author also explains the foolishness for attempts to privatize Social Security and Medicare. With regards to Social Security the author matter-of-factly states, "The only value question here is whether it is better for workers to keep their money or for the financial industry to have it."
And Medicare: "The issue in this case is simply whether retired workers want to have 34 trillion pulled out of their pockets and handed over to the insurance and health care industries."
This author has the brains, the knowledge and a lot of in-your-face arguments for the progressive side of the political spectrum.
Read Dean Baker's "The End of Loser Liberalism" and load up. He's got the ammunition and the firepower, speaking Republicanly.
The Hobo Philosopher, Richard Edward Noble, is a writer and author of "Bloggin' Be My Life."
on May 21, 2012
From an Economics major, this was a fun read. I don't agree with everything he has to say (though a fan of Mr. Baker), but be puts his arguments in an eloquently fun manner. He doesn't push on an agenda, but more of a "get off your ass" type of argument. He has a lot of fun debunking "free market fundamentalists" and gives a good amount of footnotes. Albeit, personally, I would have enjoyed a bit more empirical evidence in his arguments and more footnotes to specific data. But again, good book. Especially for the common individual who is not beefy in their economics. If you want the free edition, look at his website.
I definitely recommend this book!
on June 26, 2012
Dean Baker--the first economist to spot the housing bubble and the danger it posed to the American economy--here gives a clearly written introduction to the current economic crisis and the long-term government policies that have the effect of enriching the One Percent at the expense of everyone else. Baker makes an overwhelming case that progressives interested in lessening inequality need to broaden their focus beyond the tax-and-spend issues that usually dominate political debates about the economy, and work to change federal policy in areas ranging from the Federal Reserve to currency rates, from financial regulation to patents and copyrights. His central message is that we need to understand how the economic game if we're to have any chance of winning--and I can't think of a better place to begin an economic education.
on February 10, 2014
Not too long ago, I was watching the news with a family member and there was a story about inequality. My family member - who has no particular affinity with conservative economic doctrine - took issue with the idea that curing the problem would require transferring wealth from the upper income groups. "Are we just supposed to take their money?" this person asked. Before reading Dean Baker's little book here, I would likely have left it at that. However, having recently read this title, I was instead able to have a dialogue about inequality and the way that markets and regulatory structures are rigged to distribute wealth upward.
Baker does a great job of unpacking some of our assumptions about "free" markets as they operate today, and showing how government policy in the post-Reagan era has reinforced the upward distribution. "Loser" liberalism, according to his theory, rests on policies designed not to fundamentally alter the nature of this system but on short-sighted wealth transfers. Such an agenda is destined to fail because it is both inherently unpopular and ineffective as a means to truly level the playing field. A winning progressivism is about promoting policies that reward hard work at all levels and provide a decent standard of living. Such an agenda is contrary to both current strains of liberalism, which tend to fall into the "loser" trap described above, and to contemporary conservatism, which uses the cover of free marketeerism to hide that its agenda has led to the government actively moving wealth upward.
The book is relatively short and doesn't contain a fully realized policy prescription, but it does lay the groundwork for an internal dialogue among progressives and provides some good starting points. For example, he points out that liberals can criticize U.S. intellectual property law for essentially establishing a system of "government-granted monopolies" (his words) on ideas and research, suggesting that there are other, better ways for financing innovation through market mechanisms. While he provides only the bare outlines of a policy response - direct government funding of research to support free market exchange of products - it is still valuable as a starting point for further discussion.
In any event, I'm not sure that a complete progressive agenda was the goal here; rather, the book seems aimed at informing so as to spark further discussion. To that end, I think the book largely succeeds. It certainly gave me a lot to think about, and for that it earns a solid recommendation.
on March 21, 2016
Definitely worth the read. Very simply put and concise. I would consider it a must read book for those looking for a brief intro in current economic debate. I will repeat "brief" since this book seems aimed at a more general audience and is relatively short an not very thorough. Certainly useful to get your feet wet.
on April 19, 2014
This book is an excellent example of progressive policies that make use of the market, rather than resisting it or attempting to impose an alternative logic. Barker 's argues that not only will this tactic be more effective, but it offers the rhetorical resources to broaden progressive coalitions. The book also acts as a nice crash course on the Fed, the Treasury, the crisis of '08, and economic thinking generally. Some of the ideas I liked best were:
1) subjecting highly paid professionals to the competitive imperatives of globalization, just like workers in manufacturing are. This would include, for example, encouraging more talented, foreign doctors to immigrate to and practice in the U.S.
2) an "artistic tax voucher" to fund intellectual activities without restrictive copyrights.
3) a detailed look at work-sharing programs.
If there is one issue I have with this book, it is that some of solutions Baker portrays as "free market" policies don't quite fit the bill. For example, having the government centrally fund and direct the bulk of scientific and medical research is not, under almost any definition, a market policy. One suspects at times such as this one that Baker 's ideal goal would might something more akin to schemes of "market socialism," but that he eschews mentioning the "socialist" aspect because it is politically unpalatable.
Nevertheless, the book is absolutely wonderful, and does indeed legitimately reveal many areas of real commonality between certain goals of progressives and sincere proponents of free markets. It is worth absolutely every penny of your 99 cents, and as someone who has taught political economy at the university level, I can assure you that it is more interesting and useful than many books making the rounds on syllabi today. It would make an excellent policy companion to John Tomassi's more philosophical book "Free Market Fairness."
on February 18, 2013
Baker gives many examples of how the economic board has been tilted towards the rich (mortgage deduction, SS caps, long term patents, lobbyists and subsidies, BoD/CEO mutual backscratching, regressive sales taxes at state/local levels......) . I wish he had contrasted it with how it is often tilted the other way (progressive taxes at Federal level, EITD. tax on properties). But the truth is those rich tilting factors are more unknown than the poor tilting ones. His many suggestions for improvements are clever. His talk of how progressives should frame issues is enlightening but please we do not have to resort to the dishonesty of the right. Fairness, transparency, and truth-telling must temper our freedom and freedom must be equally distributed.
on October 17, 2012
An excellent book, not just for liberal, but for everyone who wants to know how many of our financial problems came to be, and how to fix them. Over the years so many people had been told that government is the problem, well it isn't. You see we are the government, it is corrupt politicans, and our brand of capitalism that has wrought a kind of greed, which has twisted the view of many within corporate america, bankers, and wall street, and lets not forget the fed. Within capitialism there is an implied contract, between these corporations, bankers, wall street, and the fed. Well this contract was demolished back in the 80's, and wages and living conditions have been going down ever since. Read it and get truly informed.