An audit of America's socioeconomic condition, which effectively refutes the protestations of latter-day Jeremiahs that the country's best days are behind it. Without gainsaying the existence of problems in many areas of US life, McKenzie (The Home, 1995, etc.; Graduate School of Management/Univ. of California, Irvine) makes a persuasive case for the upbeat proposition that the promise of the nation's tomorrows is appreciably greater than the considerable achievements of its yesterdays. Disarmingly, he first concedes the perils of prophecy, reviewing wide-of-the-mark predictions made for 1990 by 70-odd commentators a century earlier at the Chicago Columbian Exposition. Getting down to business, the author documents the gains Americans made during the past couple of decades in terms of living standards, creature comforts, and opportunity. Addressing the paradox of progress (i.e., angst in the face of prosperity), McKenzie concludes that technology has given Americans young and old a host of new frontiers to explore and develop. He goes on to reckon the frequently high price (corporate layoffs, diminished job security, the need for individuals to adapt to convulsive change) that must be paid to keep the US competitive in a global marketplace. Covered as well is the slow pace at which political institutions have responded to potent new forces, the accelerating shift of government power to local levels, and (in aid of restoring what the author calls the moral infrastructure) a trend to impose community standards of behavior and personal responsibility on willful renegades whom victim theology has hitherto excused. Winding up (not down) in a burst of enthusiasm, McKenzie urges aging Baby Boomers and Generation Xers to stop whining and start taking advantage of the bright prospects he envisions for post- millennial America. A useful, timely, and forceful reminder of what's right with the US, from a scholar who's more Polonius than Pollyanna.
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