A few years back, economic growth acquired a bad name, but no sooner had stagnation and high unemployment set in than...

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PROGRESS WITHOUT POVERTY

A few years back, economic growth acquired a bad name, but no sooner had stagnation and high unemployment set in than progressive economists took alarm (for an assessment of the worldwide problem, see Heilbroner, below); as an advocate of growth, then, Peter Albin is battling a straw man. He is also pedantic and self-congratulatory (""the basic view taken in this book, however""), overfond of arguing against the ""misperceptions"" of others, and unable to write a structured paragraph or formulate a clear, direct statement. And his analysis of the American economy is seriously limited by his failure to weigh extra-national factors, whether short-term (the Arab oil-price hike) or long-term (the decline of the dollar). But he is not mistaken--if not, again, original--in positing two economic sectors, one technologically ""progressive"" (Galbraith's ""technocracy""), the other ""stagnant,"" and in seeing the growth of the first and the decline of the second as increasing the disadvantage of the unskilled poor. Thus his central argument: for ""control over the character of technological change and continued support to education as a vehicle of social transformation."" Disputing the trend to de-education, he is at his most persuasive, arguing--to cite two examples--that costly ""transformational education"" (as essayed in New York's open enrollment program) will inevitably succumb to budgetary pressures in a no-growth, no-job economy and, secondly, that the ""pool of unexploited talent is not yet exhausted,"" lower SAT scores notwithstanding. He proposes reverse manpower planning: i.e., structuring development to support a stipulated work force (in terms of education and skills), not vice versa. This, as he notes, is characteristic of planning in less developed countries, and it stands out among his many ""intentionally vague"" suggestions for a managed growth economy. Albin is pro-growth because he sees no other way to wipe out poverty and secure social advancement; he favors managed growth to avoid the unbalanced development of the past. Fair enough--but most tryingly presented.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1978