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The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement Paperback – September 30, 1997
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
It has a ton of tables and figures in the back that back up the (sometimes controversial) ideas. For example, most people are relatively happy with their life today, yet think that the majority is unhappy.
I found out about this book when I happened upon an old issue of Newsweek I had kept around, from 1996. Its cover story was an article made up of excerpts from it, and was titled "Great Expectations". I read the article and found Samuelson's analysis just as prescient today as when he wrote it. I wanted to see more of what he had to say, and so I got this book.
I was not disappointed, at least in the analysis department. The book is part economic history, and part sociological/political analysis. He starts with the Great Depression, describing what happened. I'm in my 30s, and I had not heard a detailed history of the Depression in school. Just that the economy was in the dumps for about 10 years, and that tons of people were poor, hungry, and unemployed, and it inspired FDR's New Deal agenda. He fleshes this out some, giving quotes from sources of the time, describing what conditions were like, and how people felt about their predicament and their future. He tries to give a psychological picture of what the Depression did to the people who lived through it. He also provides analysis about what caused the Depression, how the institutions of power groped for a solution to the problem, and that some of what they did worked, and some of it didn't. Interestingly, what he says worked was not necessarily what a lot of people thought fixed the problem.
Then he moves into the post-WW II boom, the world that the Baby Boomer generation grew up in, and the psychological change this caused in people's minds about what was possible. His main thesis is that this period of time, the economic expansion from the end of WW II to the early 1970s, produced an exaggerated, somewhat distorted view of economic expectations.Read more ›
I mention the highlights from this underappreciated speech because it serves as a perfect introduction to Robert Samuelson's thesis: that lavish and unrealistic promises from large American institutions (primarily government) have created a public -- not to mention a body politic -- weaned on entitlement. Roosevelt didn't exactly say who was going to provide all this employment, housing, health care and "protection", but I doubt his listeners had many doubts. I'm rather surprised Samuelson doesn't mention Roosevelt's address since the author places huge emphases on the Great Depression and World War II as the defining historical events of his "age of entitlement."
Samuelson begins this (1997) work by trying to address an odd -- and certainly still-relevant -- paradox: pollsters consistently show Americans fairly happy with their *individual* lot but witheringly cynical about the state of the country. How could this be? How did it come about? (Clues above.) And what does it mean for our future politics, culture, and industry?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read "The Good Life and its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement" way back in 1997, and thought it was a good book at the time. Read morePublished on August 13, 2010 by Kirk H Sowell
American society in general and living standards in the country have both improved phenomenally since World War II, but that fact has bred an entitlement psychology that has left... Read morePublished on September 9, 2009 by Eric Mayforth
I wanted a book to use in conjunction with Barbara Ehrenreich to examine modern American society from different viewpoints. I opted for this book, and regretted it. Read morePublished on May 25, 2004
If you are a conservative, you will enjoy this book. Samuelson truly believes in the system!
If Samuelson spoke with Chomsky:
Samuelson: I'm sick of hearing that there... Read more
Samuelson, an energetic and erudite writer, has a fascinating thesis: Amercian's standard of living has not declined, our expectations of life are unrealistic. Read morePublished on December 7, 1998 by Joseph E. Banfield (email@example.com
Samuelson covers the causes, history, effects and cures for today's entitlement mentality. He argues that we have come to expect to much from government and hence are doomed to be... Read morePublished on April 23, 1997