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Having established herself as an authority on the problem of world hunger (Diet for a Small Planet, World Hunger: Twelve Myths), Lapp‚ now turns her attention to the crisis she perceives in American society today: ""deepening poverty, homelessness unseen since the thirties, educational decline. . .the loss of middle-class incomes for millions. . .and the loss of middle-class expectations for millions more."" Casting her work in the form of a dialogue between an advocate of what she terms ""the Liberal worldview"" and herself, Lapp‚ investigates such matters as ""big"" government, the role of economic and emotional security in the formation of political policies, and self-interest versus community interest. She defines ""liberal"" in a way that she admits might be enthusiastically endorsed by today's so-called ""conservatives."" The position she presents has been ""gleaned from. . .thinkers such as Hobbes and Bentham, on through to twentieth-century proponents, including. . .Milton Friedman. . .Robert Nozick, and the Hoover Institution's Thomas Sowell."" In putting together the ""liberal"" arguments, Lapp‚ confines herself to statements that have appeared in the proponents' writings; she wants no accusations of having set up a series of straw men. Her work is all the more successful for her strict guidelines, and her use of the dialogue format keeps the intellectual flow moving forward briskly. Lapp‚'s own position centers on the matters of justice and community. Rather than seeing human relationships as a Hobbesian confrontation between the individual and society, she believes that human individuality and worth are to be found within society itself. Universal human feelings make societal empathy possible. The position is an appealing one, and an effective argument against the self-absorption of ""the 'me' generation of the Seventies [and] the 'yuppies' of the Eighties."" No matter what the reader's political stance, however, this is a vital work, of interest to every American concerned about the future of this country.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1989
Publisher: Ballantine