- Hardcover: 464 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 29, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1451667825
- ISBN-13: 978-1451667820
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper Hardcover – March 29, 2016
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
In this lively,engaging, and persuasive book, Hacker and Pierson explain how much of our health and prosperity rests on what governments have done. American Amnesia will help slow the intellectual pendulum that is currently swinging towards ananarchic libertarianism that threatens more than a century of American progress.”—Angus Deaton, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 2015
“The best business book of the year on the economy.”—Brad DeLong, strategy+business
“This is a fascinating and much-needed book. America once invented universal public education and sharply progressive taxation of income and inherited wealth, and has shown to the world that strong government and efficient markets are complementary—not substitutes. But since 1980 a new wave of anti-governmentideology has prospered, and is about to make America more unequal andplutocratic than Europe on the eve of World War I. If you want to understandwhy this great amnesia occurred, and how it can be reversed, read this book!”—Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century
If you are curious about why our infrastructure, our roads and bridges and water systems, is falling apart—then read American Amnesia. Curious about why the U.S. spends almost 18 percent of our GDP on medical care, but has health outcomes that are at levels of many developing countries—then read American Amnesia."—Inside Higher Ed
Progress and prosperity in the United States, they demonstrate, have rested in no small measure on a constructive relationship between an effective public authority and dynamic private markets. We are now paying a terrible price for "forgetting this essential truth."—The Philadelphia Inquirer
American Amnesia provides chapter and verse on why the public has good reason to be angry..."—The New York Times
About the Author
Jacob S. Hacker is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University. A Fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, he is the author of The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream, The Divided Welfare State, and, with Paul Pierson, of American Amnesia: The Forgotten Roots of Our Prosperity; Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class; Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. He has appeared recently on The NewsHour, MSNBC, All Things Considered, and Marketplace. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
Paul Pierson is the John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Politics in Time, Dismantling the Welfare State?, and (with Jacob S. Hacker), American Amnesia: The Forgotten Roots of Our Prosperity; Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class; Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in Berkeley, California.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
In recent decades the balance of the mixed economy has tipped, largely due to the infusion of antigovernment ideology into our politics. Instead of cooperating in perpetuating what has worked well, we have become highly polarized with control being assumed by the plutocracy whose primary tool has become government obstructionism. By suppressing the government role in public programs and regulation we are seeing a deterioration in incomes, retirement plans, health care affordability, infrastructure maintenance, and a failure to improve our education systems, just to mention a few.
A well balanced mixed economy works for everyone - individuals and families, and businesses. It even works well for the plutocracy, although it would slow, though not eliminate, the transfer of wealth from hard working American families to the billionaires at the top. Libertarians who live in the Ayn Rand fantasy world (Hard Randians) would continue to complain, never quite understanding the important complementary role that government does play in making this a better society for all of us.
On reading “American Amnesia” you will understand why we have to abandon the politics of polarization and join together in supporting the appropriate roles of markets and our government in incentivizing a properly balanced mixed economy that in the past had served us so well. It can do so again.
In the 1980s Ronald Reagan convinced many Americans that the country’s problems were the fault of the government. Reagan was born in 1911 and seemed to believe that there was once a golden age which existed before the post-war era when laissez-faire capitalism ruled supreme and we had limited government. The authors produce data which prove that Reagan was wrong or suffering from amnesia. In 1900, per capita income (in 1999 dollars) was $4,200; it was about $33,700 in 1999. In 1900, Americans who were not both white, and comparatively wealthy, were almost certain to be living in what today we would call a third-world country.
In 1900 the average American lived only about 45 years. Over half, the population lived in poverty. The public health revolution that took place in the early 1900s cleaned up the water, milk and drastically improved life expectancy. The infant mortality rate in New York City in 1900 was three in ten, three in ten, out of every ten babies did not make it to their first birthday. Only the rich had access to adequate healthcare.
For much of the population, few schools existed, and where education was available, it was often limited to the most rudimentary skills of basic reading and arithmetic. The authors believe that the secret to American greatness in the twentieth century was education. Having a well-educated and well-trained labor force was an essential foundation for economic prosperity. The US was the first country to have universal high school education. After 1900 it underwent a massive expansion. The US later expanded college education with the GI Bill. This was down to the government, not the market. US education was ahead of the rest of the world until relatively recently. In basic literacy and numeracy, studies show that younger Americans are now at or near the bottom of the standings among advanced countries. As college becomes more expensive rates graduation rates are falling behind other advanced countries.
Another example of the role of government is environmental protection. The main villains in this book are the Koch brothers and Ayn Rand. The authors claim that the Clean Air Act of 1970 introduced by Richard Nixon has improved the life expectancy of Americans living in Wichita, Kansas by 4.3 years. It just so happens that Wichita is where Koch Industries is based. Ironically, the Koch brothers want a return to limited regulation and free markets. However, it seems even they have benefitted from government regulation.
We forget the ways in which government invested in research and development and created new industries. The following started as government funded programs: microchip, GPS, Internet, barcode, the touch screen, infant formula, Google’s algorithm, fire-resistant clothing, penicillin, and many others. Government backed technological innovation has helped business to flourish.
Most people have recently noticed the growing inequality in America. The authors argue that policies that helped make America prosperous are being reversed. Wages have stagnated since the late 1970s. The life expectancy of white males is starting to decline. It's accepted that the U.S. has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, but studies show that we don’t get better health (or better health outcomes). The United States has a higher infant mortality rate than any of the other 27 wealthy countries. America spends twice as much per capita on health care as other developed countries yet Americans are living shorter lives than many countries that are spending a lot less on health. The authors mention that during World War II the American soldiers were on average two inches taller than the Germans they were fighting and we are now way below Western Europe in average height.
The authors argue that much of the country has been brainwashed by a powerful alliance of forces hostile to government: mostly big business, especially Wall Street. There is also a new wealthy elite propagating wrongheaded Ayn Randian notions that free markets are always good and government always bad. The Republican Party seems desperate to turn the clock back to 19th-century laissez-faire capitalism. The authors argue that the original United States Constitution contemplated governments that were heavily involved in economic development. The authors also point out that there are almost no rich, successful countries with small governments.
They examine so much illogical nonsense that it made me fear for the country's future. Right-wing commentators Glenn Beck and George Will apparently blame Woodrow Wilson for destroying America’s century by expanding the role of government. Some of the biggest opponents of the federal government are to be found in South Carolina. However, the state receives $7.87 back from Washington for every $1 its citizens pay in federal tax. The red states tend to be takers and the blue states tend to be givers.How does that make sense?
The authors show that most Republican leaders through the first half of the 1970s were to the left of many Democrats today. Nixon adopted Keynesian economic policies and founded the EPA. Back in the 1950s, Eisenhower tried to introduce universal health care, built the state highway system, supported trade unions and applied a top tax rate of 91%. The authors believe that effective public authority is necessary to achieve and sustain broad prosperity and that the exercise of such authority in the twentieth century was central to the United States’ spectacular economic rise.