- Hardcover: 410 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (January 14, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394583922
- ISBN-13: 978-0394583921
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 7.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,149,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets 1st Edition
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From Library Journal
In this thorough, scholarly approach to current economics relative to the political scene, journalist Kuttner (End of Laissez-Faire, LJ 2/15/91), who writes columns for BusinessWeek and the Washington Post, examines in great detail the free-market economy. The free market he intends is that envisioned by libertarian thought, with less government intervention and deregulation. Kuttner offers comparisons with the mixed economy of previous decades back to the Roosevelt era. He demonstrates how government regulation, intervention, and other actions have affected the economy in the past and how they still do. The serious student of economic history and policy will glean from his work many thought-provoking and controversial ideas that reveal how the free market has changed in the areas of labor, healthcare, sports, and business practices, to name a few. Kuttner's research has produced a well-written tome that certainly has a place on the shelves of academic and large public libraries.?Steven J. Mayover, Free Lib. of Philadelphia
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
If you're ever challenged to name "just one thing" the United States Government has ever done right, you'll be fully prepared to answer after reading Everything for Sale. . . . Demonstrating an impressive mastery of a vast range of material, Mr. Kuttner lays out the case for the market's insufficiency in field after field: employment, medicine, banking, securities, telecommunications, electric power. -- The New York Times Book Review, Nicholas Lemann
Top Customer Reviews
Kuttner also includes a moral dimension to his discussion, where appropriate. As we all know, markets respond only to money. But as a society, we have decided that it would be immoral, for example, to deny health care to seniors who can't afford to pay; consequently we have Medicare and Medicaid to fix this fundamental market flaw. Similarly, Kuttner shows us where pricing models in certain industries fail to take proper account of environmental, labor and social costs and suggests common-sense ways to correct them.
Opinions about the value of Kuttner's work vary widely. Laissez-faire idealogues have charged that the work amounts to "socialism" (see one of the reviews below). To judge for yourself, take a quick look at just one of the industries that Kuttner critiques in the book: airlines.
Kuttner calls the deregulation of the airline industry a "failed experiment". He points out the many problems that have occured since deregulation, including: declining levels of passenger service, airline consolidation and monopolistic pricing, loss of service to small cities, circuitous routing of flights, declining safety levels, etc. I think most people would agree with the accuracy of Kuttner's assessment and that indeed, air travel has become much less appealing today.
Kuttner's solution is to create a system of "regulated airline competition". Fares would be set at levels that would allow sufficient funds to be allocated to properly maintain planes, better serve passengers, restore service to under-served areas, increase competition, and so on. I found Kuttner's ideas to be reasonable -- not ideological -- in that they balance the needs of business and the public in a fair manner.
Of course, Kuttner wrote this in 1999. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have only made a bad situation worse. Ironically, public funds were required to save the industry from insolvency. Therefore one could argue that Kuttner's recommendations for greater public accountability is far from unreasonable.
Again, the airline industry is just one example. Kuttner also has much to say that is useful about healthcare, energy, finance, labor, and more. As some of these industries currently seem to be imploding due to the excesses of laissez-faire (Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, etc.), Kuttner's thoughts on the dangers of unregulated behavior prevalent in these industries appears to be more valuable now than ever.
In the current climate of investor skepticism and high-profile corporate fraud, tighter controls over business behavior may be just the medicine our economy needs to heal itself, restore investor confidence and ensure that businesses become more responsive to people's needs. In that light, I don't view Kuttner's ideas as socialist at all; rather, I think Kuttner seeks to preserve capitalism by curbing its most destructive tendencies. To that end, "Everything for Sale" can provide guidance to citizens and policymakers who may be pondering how we can build an economy that works for everyone, not just the one percent.
I highly recommend this insightful book to everyone.
I found Kuttner's book to be a reasoned argument against pure laissez faire. Kuttner intentionally aimed the book at the educated general reader and has hit that mark well. His intention was to present empirical examples of non-market interventions that produced better outcomes than market alternatives and he has done that. I challenge the free market critics of the book to address these examples, the book's substance, rather than its theology.
Kuttner makes a fine argument through his comprehensive survey of most sectors of the American economy and the social effects of unregulated capital. Moreover, he points out that pure market efficiency is only possible in spot markets, and rarely occurs in reality. He further faults the free market ideologues on their notion that everything can be reduced to markets, citing that markets in certain items are contrary to public policy or unlikely to be produced due to the theory of free-riders, such as with public infrastructure. Kuttner explains that the corporate call for "pure markets," freed from regulatory constraints, is really a corporate call for liberation from its extra-market commitments to community and charity.
Kuttner's position for alleviating most of these problems that have arisen through the "pure market" myth is to increase the size and stance of government to a more socialist form similar to those of Western Europe, with a mixed economy. He calls for the government to intervene by taking over administration of extra-market commitments and universalities such as health care and pension benefits, and provide incentives to corporations that are socially responsible to their employees. Moreover, Kuttner seeks a redistribution of economic and political power through a return to a progressive tax system that weighs heavier on persons with greater wealth and income. He contends that Americans need to display the habits of a strong democracy in order to keep markets in their place.
After reading this book, it is obvious that Mr. Kuttner is very passionate about the subject for which he writes. My only critism of his work is that it is a bit cumbersome.
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