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25 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a worthy read, but totally misconceptualized and flying in the face of all historical facts, December 9, 2013
This review is from: The Myth of America's Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies (Hardcover)
Joffe is a pleasant and dignified person who is well-intentioned. Yet, the main thesis of his book is falsely conceptualized. The relative decline of America's economy has been with us and has been going on for several generations. It is proven, among other factors, by the constantly declining value of the dollar, which has declined by c. 75 percent or so against major currencies since the sixties. On top of this, all statistics, life expectancy, baby survival rates, educational achievement, even car ownerships and median family net worth, etc. show that the relative decline has been going on for many decades. These statistics did not just develop in the last few years.
On top of this, Joffe is from Germany. Let him physically and visually compare ALL medium and smaller towns, the infrastructure, housing, and even culinary and other cultural offerings of the least developed and poorest areas of former West Germany, such as East Frisia, with their equivalent across the U.S. and he will get the shock of his life. There are almost no slum houses in such areas of Germany and NO crummy trailer homes, and no junk and filthy billboards, etc. which have become the hallmark of a decayed U.S.
Joffe needs to focus on how American CEOs and Wall Street and military spending, etc. have all contributed to slumerica and how aggregate demand overstimulation even caused asset destruction through reverse mortgages, home equity loans, etc. and credit card debts, etc. all for consumption. No surprise that even a corrupt, mismanaged, crowded and resource poor Italy has attained a median family net worth THREE times higher than the U.S. Speaking of future decline is an absurdity since the relative decline has already been with us for many decades. Also, Joffe needs to examine what the negative impact has been of allowing the national savings and investment stream to be concentrated and collected into ONE locality, Wall Street, while Germany retained savings and investment far more locally and regionally. Our pattern has maximized distances, minimized transparency and maximized fraud and massive theft unknown in any adv. European economies. It also demolished family owned businesses while spreading repulsive chain fast food, chain stores, chain restaurants and chain hotels, v. family owned businesses in Germany which are 75 percent responsible for its massive trade surplus.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 9, 2013 1:15:09 PM PST
Mary says:
Re Sutterlin's review of Joffe's book: I read the review to get a synopsis of the book in question not an argument containing the reasons the reviewer thinks the author is wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2013 1:55:07 PM PST
Mary, I appreciate your response, but isn't it justified to evaluate the crucial theme of the book if, as an economic historian, one believes it to be going into a totally wrong direction, a direction which actually allows the economic situation of the U.S. to fester some more? Check, for example, Joffe's notion that immigration will sustain America, though that issue raises the subtle question whether or not people upon increasing Americanization may become less economically productive? Isn't it worrisome if America cannot sustain itself without immigration, though I am not against immigration.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2013 12:31:19 AM PST
olyjan says:
Then you don't actually understand a "review". There is always a synopsis of every book listed right under the pic of the book. Arguing the validity of an author's thesis is perfectly fit for a review. As I reader, I know I can suss out the clues that will persuade me or offend me. This review was informative in that I would be a little more skeptical, ask more questions, and be less willing to just buy into the author's thesis. This is a good thing. Saying you want just a synopsis is like asking for a description of the cookie you want to bake instead of a recipe.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2013 11:48:43 AM PST
Chris says:
In my view olyjan is totally correct (regardless of whether I agree or disagree with Mr. Sutterlin ... disclosure: my view is more nuanced as I don't resonate with Joffe's America booster view, even while self admitting as a proponent of the kernel of U.S. historical success). A review should NOT be simply a summary of the book. This tells the review reader virtually nothing about why the book may or may not be worth reading. There are a plethora of sources to read summaries. Amazon reader reviews should not be one more.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2013 12:34:53 PM PST
Chris and Olyjan, I appreciate your views and agree of course. The issue is one of relative decline of the U.S. and not an absolute decline. All statistics offered even for ordinary readers in the annual booklet provided by The Economist will prove the U.S.'s relative decline and those stats did not just happen yesterday but over the years and decades if one has followed them. We are not anywhere close to the top in education, median family net worth or life expectancy or upward mobility, etc. but in pathological obesity, per capita mental health problems, violent crime rates, per capita imprisonment, and highest number of hours worked per year and working the longest past retirement, etc. We also rank on top for giant Wall Street crimes and actually rewarding those who commit them.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2014 11:59:17 AM PST
With all due respect Mr. Sutterlin, it seems to me you are conflating some measurements of social dysfunction with geopolitical power and economic vitality. These concepts are not exactly identical. If all it took for a nation to be considered powerful was an absence of social problems, then Finland would be ruling the world right now. As it stands, it clearly isn't. The countries most commonly hyped as up-and-coming superpowers, like the BRIC nations, are no sane individual's idea of paragons of social harmony either. Simply put, your own conceptions of social and economic justice, as well as your cultural ideals, do not have as much to do with the often brutish realities of economics and geopolitics as you seem to think. Nowhere is it written that the nation at the top of the world power game needs to be the most well-adjusted.

BTW, violent crime in the US has been steadily declining for the last 20+ years. Just sayin'.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2014 12:11:31 PM PST
William, I appreciate your comment and it does have a tiny bit of truth in it, but you are actually conflating my mostly economic comparative statistics as being social dysfunctional ones, which is quite wrong. Infrastructure, human habitation, especially the exponentially growing number of marginal trailer homes and massive theft and fraud on Wall Street, etc. are all economic problems. Read my review closely. The decline of the dollar tells volumes.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 6, 2014 7:50:38 AM PST
SuperGlue says:
Pointing out where the author went wrong is perfectly appropriate and expected in a book review. A synopsis is provided by the publishing industry reviews that Amazon provides for every book.
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