If you’ve lived through a period of unfettered market forces like Thatcher’s Britain then you’ll know all about the bankruptcy of that ideology and the social misery it unleashed.
Here in the American oligarchy of 2017 the same failed economic dogma holds sway: get government out of the way and let businesses get on with the business of making money. All boats rise on a tide of wealth creation, right?
Except, of course, they don’t. We’ve seen wealth flow into fewer and fewer hands, the ‘trickle down’ theory exposed for what it is and economic polarity widen to unprecedented levels.
The American Dream, exalting a meritocracy in which anyone can make it if they work hard enough, has become a nightmare; just ask any one of the 43m citizens living in poverty, or those living in “food Insecure” households (feedingamerica.org).
The amnesia of the book’s title references political memory loss about the period and the conditions that created America’s greatest prosperity, 1945 through to the 1970s.
During that time the mixed economy delivered the steepest increases in income, wealth, education, health, longevity, opportunity and security the country has ever seen.
Hacker and Pierson demolish the idea that small government is good government and show with sober, statistical analysis that it is an essential partner in capitalist enterprises.
Their examination of the country’s recent history shows the foundations for prosperity came from public investment in education, science, technology and transport.
Government, done right, serves societal needs, not just shareholder value. It intrudes on rampant capitalism with regulations in areas such as pollution, safety and health.
That these kinds of argument need to be restated given the boom and bust scandals of recent times is profoundly depressing.
Anti-government economic fundamentalists are more of a threat to America’s future than any of the inflated menaces of Moslem terrorism, illegal immigration and democratic socialism.