Save Big On Open-Box & Pre-owned: Buy "The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned th...” from Amazon Warehouse Deals and save 51% off the $15.00 list price. Product is eligible for Amazon's 30-day returns policy and Prime or FREE Shipping. See all Open-Box & Pre-owned offers from Amazon Warehouse Deals.
- Explore more great deals on thousands of titles in our Deals in Books store.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too Paperback – Bargain Price, May 12, 2009
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Special Offers and Product Promotions
"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 --Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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. As a result, Regan's vision has been replaced by "the predator state," which he defines as (Page 131) ". . .a coalition of relentless opponents of the regulatory framework on which public purpose depends, with enterprises whose major lines of business compete with or encroach on the principle public functions of the enduring New Deal."
If that is the problem, what would the solution be? Galbraith suggests three components of addressing the predator state. One is to institute a system of planning, to think ahead and not depend on short term profit making motives of business enterprises. Another is for government to become more involved in setting wages and ensuring a more equal distribution of pay and income (his argument is that there is no evidence that letting wealthy people get wealthier has positive economic benefits). Three, the United States is part of a world economy, and that should help to discipline and inform our policy.
His policy proposal? If you want higher wages, raise them? If you want better jobs--create them. If you want safer foods and cleaner air, mandate it. Don't depend on the market. Just do it. That won't sit well, of course, with those who advocate markets as the answer. But, then, by the terms of his argument, the market will not do that since it does not describe how things work. The final chapter examines how one might pay for his policy choices.
Plenty of examples are mentioned. This is a book that is not always clear in what it argues, although that is not a major problem. It does provoke reflection on how things work, and that is to the good. I must confess that I am not convinced by what are, generically, referred to as conspiracy theories, and this book has a flavor of a conspiracy at work. Nonetheless, in the aftermath of the economic troubles that have beset the United States and other countries, it is useful to examine alternate perspectives and see if they add anything of value to discourse.
3 1/2 stars. . . .
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. will always have a trade deficit as long as the U.S. Dollar is the currency of choice for emerging market countries to hold as their reserve currency (which is it).
On free trade, Galbraith isn't exactly against free trade itself, but against the unfettered access we seem to have as a goal where environmental and labor regulations aren't part of our agreements. He seems to have a fairly typical liberal view on this point, and I agree as well. He aggressively debunks the notion that the free trade agreements are even remotely linked to job loss in the U.S. Instead, he blames deregulation and union-busting for the job losses.
Galbraith deftly points out the failures of the "open market" and, in many ways, foreshadows what happened in the weeks and months after his book was published in August 2008. He was right on almost every account on this point. Just this past week we saw Alan Greenspan admitting to the "flaw" in his own thinking about markets and monetary policy. Galbraith must have had a giggle about that. He points out that the countries where open markets were most vigorously applied were dramatic failures (Argentina, Brazil, Chile). He says that Milton Friedman's motto of "freedom to choose" is actually just "freedom to shop." He shows how the big industrial companies lost their brain trusts in finance and technology to Wall Street and Silicon Valley respectively, and he details the damage this has caused. He shows how extravagant CEO pay has been a destructive force in the economy.
He says that government "planning" is needed because "markets cannot think ahead." I like this point very much.
Galbraith saw the George W. Bush tax cuts as irresponsible and, in general, the trickle-down economics as a joke. I think most people would agree these days, including me. On financial inequality in general, he says that we must use government controls to close the gap between the rich and the poor, and if we do so, we will experience a better and better economy. He uses Denmark as an example of high equality and low unemployment.
With the importance of savings, I think Galbraith is of two minds. It seems that he is opposed to supply-side economics, which emphasizes the importance of savings, but he also, later in the book, says that he is in favor of the government having some control or influence over how/when people save money, so I ended up a little confused on this point. I, personally, am a crazy saver and I think Americans need to have more of a saving/investment mindset than we currently do.
I learned a lot. Perhaps only a handful of books I've read in my life have forced a bigger shift in my thinking than this book. I cannot say that I am a far-left liberal like Galbraith himself, even after reading this book. However, I can say that I've shifted left-ward knowing what I know now, and I'm sure my opinions have also been drastically impacted by the lurchings of the American economy this fall of 2008.