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The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 5, 2008
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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
"Shows how to break the spell that conservatives have cast over the minds of liberals (and everyone else) for many years." -- Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences (2001)
"James Galbraith elegantly and effectively counters the economic fundamentalism that has captured public discourse in recent years, and offers a cogent guide to the real political economy. Myth-busting, far-ranging, and eye-opening." -- Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley
"With a combination of erudition, insight, and wit worthy of John Kenneth Galbraith, Thorstein Veblen, and John Maynard Keynes, James K. Galbraith offers a critique of the conventional unwisdom about the economy that is as compelling as it is provocative." -- Michael Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow at The New America Foundation and author of The American Way of Strategy
"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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In "The Predator State" James K. Galbraith has attempted an explanation of this phenomenon. It is, he said, due to the concept of "economic freedom." This may be an older concept than one realizes. I remember it being the motivation claimed for a young woman who had emigrated to the United States from Sweden in the mid-1970s. She had immigrated, I was told, because there was no "economic freedom" in Sweden. "Indeed, the conservative concept of economic freedom actually stands opposed to to any measures that commit the state to raising the standard of living of the broad population. It opposes such ideas as universal health care, free public education, and public subsidies to the arts (sound like Sweden?). It particularly opposes these measures if they are to be financed by redistributive and progressive taxation. Social welfare implemented by democratic decision, as in Roosevelt's New Deal, or Lyndon Johnson's great Society, let alone the Chile of Salvador Allende or Venezuela of Hugo Chavez (both of whom were democratically elected in fair and free elections and ruled according to law), is, to this was of thinking, intrinsically unfree." However, the "free market" regime of Augosto Pinochet brought "economic freedom" to Chile even though he was a brutal dictator. "Economic freedom" obviously has nothing to do with "Political freedom."
"Economic freedom" thus consists in the ability to live one's economic life - and that alone - in a sphere separated from state control. As Milton Friedman defined it it is the "freedom to choose." You could say that it is the "freedom to spend" but to put this idea into perspective, we should call it what it really is: "the freedom to shop."
This idea is so palpably absurd that we are inclined to look past it. It is a perversion of the language to treat "shopping" as freedom. It is easy to scoff at an idea that is so remote from our liberal conception of freedom as bearing the lofty realms of political and social decision taking. However to scoff is a mistake since it is surprising how many people think in this manner and how deeply the concept has penetrated modern life.
The concept of freedom to shop has been extended, insidiously, from its origins in the realm of goods to the realm of carreers where it plays even greater havoc in the use of words. In a "free" capitalist society with private schools and universities able to admit whom they please and charge what the market will bear (have you seen the astronomical cost of tuition these days?), the freedom to choose one's profession becomes, in part, the freedom to become what one can afford to become., The choice is "free" because it's mainly a matter of money. Money, is this respect and from this perspective is a Leveler - not a source of class distinctions but a way of breaking them down. In this respect it is why Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan and even George W. Bush could present themselves as democratic and even egalitarian "regular guy" forces in America. They did this through an inversion of perception that economic progressives and political liberals never got, but that resonated powerfully with at least part (10-20% ?) of the American public.
A great many people, not merely the rich, accept these ideas: a freedom to shop, a "freedom" to buy a career that you want, the freeeom to merge and acquire. This, of course, liberates them from any standard other than wealth and also from the political process. In this world any policy that reorganizes or constrains the allocation of money beyond the minimum policing required to keep markets honest is in essence and by definition an asaut on freeedom. Even elections are not "free," unless those who have the money are free to buy them (I once saw Mitch McConnel defending the Citizens United case on the basis of "free speech." It might have been my imagination but I got the distinct impression that he had a hard time keeping a straight face).
"What is amazing, of course, is that the meaning of freedom in every normal sense - of speech, association, faith, assembly, and the press - should be replaced by "market freedom." It is amazing the the freedom from fear and from want are also replaced by it. It is amazing the the public role in art and culture and science should be subordinated to it and suppressed by it. It is amazing that any associastion between markets and freedom should have taken such a firm root in so many minds. It is amazing that such nonsense could go so deep, and last so long."
It is good to read an economist who believes in government for the people and explodes other myths like those about the efficiency of PRIVATE healthcare and social security.