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The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics Hardcover – October 2, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

This bold book proposes to take American politics in a totally new direction--away from "our rigid two-party cartel" of Republicans and Democrats, and toward a centrism that currently doesn't exist in an electoral sense. "Our nation's politics are dominated by two feuding dinosaurs that have outlived the world in which they evolved," write Ted Halstead and Michael Lind. Both men are affiliated with the New America Foundation, and Lind is the provocative author of The Next American Nation and Vietnam: The Necessary War. They believe the ongoing technological revolution will transform American politics in fundamental ways, and most of The Radical Center advocates specific shifts across a range of issues. The result is a mishmash that isn't so much a set of new ideas as a blend of existing ones. Halstead and Lind want to enact private-school choice for students and parents (a conservative idea), for instance, and also to equalize funding by essentially abolishing the states' role in education (something that might appeal to liberals). Their goal, they say, is to increase personal choices where possible and minimize class inequalities where feasible.

Much of The Radical Center reads like a wonk's fantasy; Halstead and Lind identify policy problems everywhere they look--from voting rights to health care--and suggest solutions with the confidence of technocrats who believe they can remake the world. What they produce is a grab bag that will simultaneously fascinate and frustrate readers who start off ensconced on either the right or left of the political spectrum. How many people will favor both their idea of abolishing all corporate income taxes as well as their notion of implementing a new nationwide tax on consumption? But that's the point: Halstead and Lind try to forge a new politics that takes the best parts of today's left and right and abandons the rest as so much dead weight. The Radical Center is at once jarring and invigorating; readers willing to engage with it will wrestle with hard questions. Many may come away persuaded by large parts of Halstead and Lind's argument. And if the whole project sounds a tad ambitious, there's a reason: "Major political change in the United States, in short, tends to be revolutionary, not evolutionary." If that's true, then consider The Radical Center a manifesto for a new age that's right around the corner. --John Miller

From Publishers Weekly

The U.S. is in crisis, contend Halstead and Lind (Vietnam: The Necessary War; etc.). While revolutions in information technology and biotechnology are fundamentally reshaping the American economy and society, the two major political parties remain stuck within old ideas and policies. More and more Americans have become alienated from the political status quo and yearn for change, say Halstead and Lind (director and senior fellow, respectively, of the think-tank New America Foundation). In this subtle, clear, and provocative work, they offer a comprehensive blueprint for such change. America has succeeded by adapting to new circumstances while maintaining, albeit imperfectly, a balance among its three constituent parts: the market, government and community. All of the authors' wide-ranging reforms aim at strengthening these spheres. If the new economy is typified by high turnover of employees, employer-based health insurance makes little sense. Better would be mandatory individually funded health insurance, with government provision for the truly needy. So, too, should Social Security be replaced by individual retirement accounts, as the graying of America makes the current generational transfer of funds more and more tenuous and contentious. To confront growing inequality in the U.S., the authors believe, all Americans should be given $6,000 at birth as a means of assuring true equal opportunity and a stake in the system; k-12 education should be funded equally on a per pupil basis by the federal government rather than relying on highly unequal property taxes or regressive state and local sales taxes. Politically, new electoral processes should open up the system to new parties and candidates. There is something here for everyone to cheer or jeer, but in carefully tying together their myriad reforms, the authors present a remarkably coherent vision for the renewal of America. Agent, Kris Dahl, ICM. (Sept. 18)Forecast: The authors will promote this book in N.Y. and D.C., and thanks to Lind's reputation as someone who defies the usual right-left split, it should get attention on the news talk shows and from the pundits.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (October 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385500459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385500456
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,974,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Those who have bought "The Cultural Creatives" by Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, or "IMAGINE: What America Could be in the 21st Century", will not only be thrilled by this book, they will understand that the "citizen-centered" system of governance is finally achievable and imminent--we should all try to buy, read, discuss and relate this book to the Congressional elections in 2002 and the Presidential election in 2004.
This book is *loaded* with common sense. It is absolutely not a political spin manual, a manifesto for revolution, or a ponderous think tank "blue sky" prescription for curing all the ills of the world. This book has three simple focal points and they are powerful:
1) More Americans identify themselves as Independents than as either Republicans or Democrats, and the way is open for a new "radical centrist" choice of leadership;
2) The original social contract that placed highly educated experts in charge of everything (government, corporations, even non-profits), taking care of the largely ignorant masses, is *history*. The people are smart, the people are connected, and the people want *choices* rather than ideologically-contrived menus.
3) Young adults are the key to the future and will decide the next few major elections, but only (a huge caveat) if leaders of vision and charisma can come forth with truthful options grounded in reality--the authors are carefully critical of political "triangulation" that seeks to manufacture false representations of common interest, only to betray those the moment after election.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The meat of this book is not so much the specific proposals that the authors offer. Instead, the real point of this book is: Our nation has undergone three revolutionary transformations -- from colony to independence (1770's to Civil War), from agrarian to early industrial (Civil War to 1930's), and from early industrial to full industrial (Depression to 1970's). We are now in the throes of a fourth revolution. Unlike the previous three revolutions, our political system is not up to the challenge because our two parties, who have a stranglehold on the levers of power, are each controlled by the most extreme elements within their parties -- at a time when we need consensus and cooperation, not extremes. You may disagree with their specific proposals, you cannot disagree with their analysis of the situation.
Here's my recommendation: Buy TWO copies of this book. Keep one, pass one on to someone you know who is in a position of power and influence -- senator, representative, newspaper editor, state legislator, and the like.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a quick read but still offers up many thought-provoking discussions covering a wide range of issues facing America today. What I enjoy most about the book is that it objectively confronts many issues (like Social Security) that would be considered untouchable by current politicians. Their ideas are refreshing and definitely not a regurgitation of old-school thinking.
Although I would agree with some of the other reviewers in the respect that the authors tend to throw out some statements without backing them up, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in domestic policy and the future of American politics.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Vandal from St. Paul on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Ted Halstead is one of the all to rare voices representing the next generation of politcal thought in America. Halsted., a baby buster, finds himself equally disgusted by the politics of both political parties and their extreme political bases.
Radical Center is an apt term because the proposals he offers are far from the mundane centrist politics that have been incapable of sustaining a true political movement (ex. Perot's Reform Party). His ideas marry some of the most salient and relevant ideas from both ends of the political spectrum namely the left's belief that government should provide a safety net to those who are most in need and the right's commitment to market forces; particulary people's desire to exercise choice in healthcare, retirement and education.
My only concern is that he does not offer inspiring words or practical strategies for how his agenda can take hold in a political landscape that is and will continue to be dominated by the aging baby boomer generation and their increasing reliance on Medicare, Social Security and the other programs from the New Deal and the Great Society.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Halstead and Lind have done a fantastic job of setting out a centrist manifesto for the new century. This book is recommended reading for anyone in politics who wants to understand the ideas that can be used to build new coalitions.
Keep an eye on these two and The New America Foundation. They're writing about the things that everyone else will be discussing in ten years.
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