STARTING WITH THE PEOPLE by Daniel & Sidney Harman Yankelovish


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A gently argued book that examines the impulses of the American public concerning military and economic policy in order to intuit a publicly acceptable strategy in both areas. Yankelovich, a well-known public opinion analyst, has authored New Rules: Searching for Fulfillment in a Worm Turned Upside Down (1981). Harman is a pioneer in high-fidelity electronics who served as Undersecretary of Commerce in the Carter Administration. The authors' basic thesis is that, vis-á-vis both the Soviet political and military challenge and the Japanese economic challenge, experts have co-opted the agenda by default, the public having become discouraged by overcomplexity. Thus, policy alternatives are couched in terms acceptable to the experts (mutual assured destruction, or ""MAD""; short-term profitability, etc.) while the public turns its back on the political process. The authors demonstrate that there is a four-sided boundary of political acceptability on both the military and economic issues. On the military issue, these four values reflect the public consensus that the risk of nuclear war be reduced, that our military strength not be weakened, that we not overly trust the Soviets, and that we negotiate in good faith. After testing various policies against these four values, the authors conclude that MAS (mutual assured security) should replace MAD. MAS includes radical reductions in nuclear warheads, elimination of first-strike threats, and building conventional NATO strength nonprovocatively. Similarly, in economics, Americans are seen as having four nonnegotiable values: to protect American job opportunities, to produce quality at competitive prices, fairness in foreign trade, and adopting a will to succeed competitively. The authors are good at pinpointing what Americans want, but they offer no proper solution to the problem of getting masses of American workers to cooperate as do their Japanese counterparts. Still, good food for thought here as the hourglass of American supremacy continues to empty.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1988
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin