Dour perspectives on the post-Reagan state of the union. As a practical matter, Galbraith (Balancing Acts, 1989, etc.)...



Dour perspectives on the post-Reagan state of the union. As a practical matter, Galbraith (Balancing Acts, 1989, etc.) charges, America has become the land of the fat, dumb, and happy. Drawing largely on anecdotal evidence, he asserts that a bipartisan majority of the prosperous and complacent now rules the nation ""under the rick cloak of...a democracy in which the less fortunate do not participate,"" mainly because they do not vote. For all their apparent heterogeneity, the author argues, the affluent share certain self-serving sentiments and penchants--including a belief that financial success is invariably the reward of merit, a preference for short-run serenity, a selective view of the state's role in the expenditure of public monies, and a remarkable tolerance for great disparities in income distribution. According to Galbraith, the consequences of these convictions are varied and lamentable. He contends, for example, that the federal government accommodates the affluent with tax cuts, plus sizable outlays for Social Security, Medicare, farm-price supports, deposit insurance, and military programs--all at the expense of a desperately impoverished underclass as well as a crumbling infrastructure. Nor does Galbraith put much stock in trickle-down theory, noting at one point that, if a horse is amply fed with oats, some will pass through to the road for sparrows. He warns that Washington's indulgent acceptance of anti-intervention and laissezfaire doctrine has given free rein to the self-destructive tendencies of modern capitalism--and whether the ensuant declines can be arrested, much less reversed, remains an open question in his mind. At a minimum, though, Galbraith insists that, if the US is ever again to commit itself to human needs within the framework of an equitable and dynamic society, political leaders must take vigorous fiscal, legislative, and regulatory action. Thought-provoking points of view from an elder eminence who can still abash not only stick-in-the-mud conservatives but also limousine liberals.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992