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Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future Paperback – May 24, 2005
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
That is why it was with considerable excitement that I opened Michael Barone's Hard America, Soft America: Competition Vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future. The book was just over 160 pages long and proved nearly impossible to put down. In this extended essay, Barone pounces upon one of the most important questions of our day and his work overlaps public policy, politics, history, philosophy and education. In short, it is a text that just about everybody should be able to relate to if not appreciate.
The theme of Hard America, Soft America is that from the ages of 6 to 18 Americans grow up in a downy world that is largely devoid of competition and accountability, but from the ages of 18 to 30 the texture of their lives radically changes as it becomes rocky and subject to the laws of nature. One either produces or they are fired. It is this world, this cauldron of struggle, that forges the Americans who awe the world with a never-ending parade of inventions and discoveries.
Barone gives us a tour of our own history and concludes that much of our illustriousness was created by the rigid and unforgiving forces of Hard America. Men like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan may not have been able to release their inner child or give group hugs but they were able to employ thousands and provide the means for mass production that made us the victors of war and peace.Read more ›
Barone initiates the discussion by asking a simple question "How does a country which produces such a large amount of statistically inferior teenagers create such capable adults?" His answer is that our youth are brought up in "soft" systems, like education, but are quickly thrown into the "hard" world of our brand of capitalism.
Barone goes through several examples of how our systems have turned harder over the years, and how that hardness has served to make America more competitive and prosperous than our European counterparts, and more prospersous than we were before.
He points to a couple of main trends. The first is the transformation in the 50s and 60s to a more math and science based education system (althought this has changed in the last 20 years). The second is deregulation in business. He argued before the deregulation movement, big business was almost governmental in their approach to the markets and competitiveness, and they fought to maintain the status quo of an uncompetitve marketplace and lifetime employment. After the deregulation movement, businesses had to grow leaner in their business practices to survive competition from both internal and external forces, and he argues this "hardening" is what is chiefly responsible for our prosperity over the past 25 years.
His overall premise is that "hard" and "soft" America are constantly competing against eachother, but we need both to survive.Read more ›
Michael Brone's perspective on trends and problems in American society may be worth 20 IQ points. He looks at many areas in America and breaks them down into "Hard" or "Soft". For the purposes of the book "Hard" is where there is competition and accountability; people suffer or reap the consequences of their actions. "Soft" is when people are protected from competition and not held accountable; they are coddled.
The book explores changes in Education, Big Business, Government, Big Unions, Crime, Military, and other areas. One of the interesting points made in the book is that there is constant change. For example Big Business was soft 50 years ago and has grown harder; however, Education has only grown softer over the last 50 years. Michael Barone shows the consequences of what happens when an area is hard or soft. While he acknowledges there are reasons for softness, Michael Barone clearly believes that it is best for all parts of society to have some degree of hardness.
The book is well written and the material is well presented. It is a quick read; the main part of the book is only 162 pages. I would have liked it to be longer. It was very thought provoking and gave me a number of ideas to think about. I found it worth reading, and felt it was a good investment of my time.
The approach of looking at issues in terms of Hard or Soft does provide some good insights. Michael Barone has provided a unique perspective on life in America over the last hundred years. If you want to improve your understanding of many of the important modern issues, this is a good book to read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I personally think the author is right with most of his conjectures, but the book is more of a long essay with anecdotal evidence than it is a real test of a scientific hypothesis.Published on January 3, 2014 by Jim Musumeci
Although intended to jolt us out of complacency, Hard/Soft is just a scare tactic designed to make us into tools for the projection of power across the globe. Read morePublished on March 22, 2013 by Reed Fort
Overall a very thought-provoking book. Could have been a magazine-length essay, but still worthwhile. I have recommended it to several others.Published on October 8, 2012 by Marc D. Graff
It walks through the American history in 20th century and the dawn of 21st. Contrast the balance between policies showing tough side which wins the margin in competition, and those... Read morePublished on June 15, 2012 by Guannan Chen
In this highly readable, remarkably eclectic book, author Michael Barone reveals a problem with seeing the world in terms of polar opposites: "For many years I have thought it one... Read morePublished on February 7, 2012 by Philip Vassallo
I borrowed this book from the library for a school report about one year ago, and the memory of what I read in it stuck with me. Read morePublished on May 22, 2010 by J. Fordham
Michael Barone is justifiably considered one of our most prominent political commentators. He is also one of our most perceptive. Read morePublished on January 20, 2010 by Jerry Saperstein
The basic theory of this book is as follows: When government actions are taken to make life easy or "soft" for general public then America suffers, if it is made soft for a... Read morePublished on September 30, 2008 by Jacqueline M. Thompson