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The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too Hardcover – August 5, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Galbraith, noted economist and son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, offers his views on the gap between conservative ideology and its use and abuse to cover up the George W. Bush administration’s Predator State, which takes advantage of the public sector and undermines public institutions for private profit. Galbraith reports that although most academics have abandoned conservative principles such as free trade, deregulation, and tax cuts for the wealthy, politicians from both parties continue to advance policies that, in reality, have turned regulatory agencies over to business lobbies, allowed the subprime mortgage foreclosures and banking crisis, and created Medicare’s drug plan, which legislates monopoly pricing for drug companies. Galbraith’s solutions include planning (contending that the U.S. does not plan); standards for wages, product and occupational safety, and the environment; and stabilizing financial and security policy. Not everyone will agree with Galbraith’s progressive beliefs, but he offers an important perspective in this thought-provoking book written in plain English. Excellent resource for library patrons. --Mary Whaley

Review

"James Galbraith has written an extremely challenging book. Although its principal target is conservative economics, it is no less critical of conventional liberalism. Galbraith correctly recognizes that today both approaches are intellectually bankrupt and incapable of addressing the nation's pressing economic problems. I hope The Predator State stimulates needed debate among both liberals and conservatives on the mistakes both sides have made that have gotten us to where we are now."-- Bruce Bartlett, author of "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy"
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Free Press Hardcover Ed edition (August 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141656683X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416566830
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,238,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I must say that this book turned what I believe about the economy on its head, but it also enlightened me about how the economy is connected to fairness and equality. I used to think that our biggest problem was deficit spending, but now I see the biggest problem is fairness. Galbraith, who is the son of the famous John K. Galbraith who wrote The Modern Industrial State, which I read 40 years ago and gave me my first insights into how the economy works, describes how inequity in wages has distorted the market and created an environment not unlike Alice in Wonderland where people disenfranchise themselves by believing that free markets are somehow all-seeing and lead to the greatest possible good. Galbraith makes a case against this hands-off approach to markets and argues that unregulated markets will lurch from one bubble to the next. Crises like global warming will never be dealth with because there is no financial incentive to do so. Planning is the only thing that can save us and will have to involve a serious political battle because the corporations have saturated the media with the belief that the markets work best when left alone, which prescription leaves most of us on the bottom level of the next pyramid scheme while the corporate executives accumulate vast fortunes for themselves at our expense. The writing isn't bad, but it can be a bit hard to see what he's driving at at times. The resolutions he offers at the end make the read worth while. This book came out in Spring of 2008. Given the financial meltdown here in the Fall, the warnings in this book are eerily prescient.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James Galbraith, this book's author, is the son of famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith. His father was an important figure in economics, with books such as "The New Industrial State" on his resume. I mention this since this volume mentions Galbraith pere approvingly on a number of occasions.

Galbraith begins by noting that our economic discussion is based on a fallacy--that free markets and competition govern our economic sphere. This idea is now the dominant view of how an economic system ought to function in the United States. He goes on to say that (Page xi): ". . .the doctrine serves as a kind of legitimation myth--something to be repeated to schoolchildren but hardly taken seriously by those on the inside." The guiding metaphor for this book, a predatory state, is outlined early on by Galbraith. He says that this refers to (Page xiii): "the systematic abuse of public institutions for private profit or, equivalently, the systematic undermining of public protections for the benefit of private clients."

He develops this thesis, beginning with a first chapter entitled "Whatever happened to the conservatives?" He begins by noting the elements of the Reagan revolution (or Reaganomics as it was then termed)--(1) tax reduction to trigger investment and economic growth; (2) tight money to halt the inflation that had sapped the energy of the economy; (3) deregulation and assaults on unions, to, once more, let market forces rule. He goes on to argue that, first, this perspective did NOT achieve what its supporters allege, and, second, that contemporary conservatives have in essence abandoned these principles to "take over" the government and use that power to enhance the interests of the moneyed and powerful class.
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Format: Hardcover
When I first picked up this book, I did so because the title and sub-title was threatening and abusive to my own thinking. I had to find out what an accomplished economist knew that I didn't know about my deeply held beliefs about capitalism and economics.

What an interesting book. The American Economy was in a much different state when I began reading this book (early Sep 2008) than when I finished it (late Oct 2008). I think what I learned from this book has helped me think about possible solutions for our economic meltdown.

Here are some points from Galbraith's (yes, Kenneth's son) book. I'll give indication of my opinions on his ideas as well.

I have a full review on my blog (do a Google Blog Search for Predator State).

Galbraith says that liberals who are for the following things should reverse their thinking: balanced budgets, free trade, open markets / monetary policy, tax cuts and the importance of savings. (Hey, that's me!!)

He attacks each idea with an obvious depth of economic prowess and an even more obvious bias towards true-blue liberal thinking.

His argument against balanced federal government budgets is perhaps his most compelling. He provides a simple equation that shows that the U.S. federal government (unlike all other countries) is positively incapable of balancing its budget and should not even try. To do so results in pain for consumers and business in the U.S. Galbraith actually won me over on this point.

The equation is that the U.S. must run a budget deficit each and every year or else private industry and consumer will have to run deficits themselves. The deficits we run collectively (government plus industry plus consumer) MUST equal our countries total trade deficit. And the U.S.
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