THE COMING BOOM: Economic, Political and Social by Herman Kahn

THE COMING BOOM: Economic, Political and Social

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The latest update of Kahn's optimistic outlook is predicated, riskily, on the success of Reaganomics and a Reagan-led return to ""an ideology of progress""--and also risk-insured: we can expect an economic, political, and social ""revitalization of America,"" beginning shortly with an economic upturn, ""barring some perverse combination of bad luck and bad management."" On those terms, ""the coming boom"" seems an iffy proposition. But one has other options, in reading Kahn, besides accepting his prognostications because they promise a newly powerful, prosperous, and un-permissive America, or rejecting them as unrealistic and/or unappetizing. Irrespective of Kahn's values, in short, there is value in some things he has to say. One does, however, have to pick and choose. Thus, while a return to American economic predominance may not be in the offing (Kahn's rosy view of US technological standing, and virtual disregard of other competitive factors, undermine him on that score), some of the specific fixes he suggests for the US economy--accounting to engender a long-term perspective, indexing to eliminate a vested interest in inflation--have concrete, domestic advantages. And while he gives no credit to the limits-of-growth pessimists for the energy conservation he now cites to prove them wrong, he can reasonably point to untapped sources of oil and (especially) gas as aids to economic growth. He does, moreover, recognize the social limits of growth--in part (like Irving Kristol et al.) as a ""New Class"" threat to the have-nots, in part as a genuine repugnance at ""creative destruction,"" overall as a major intellectual force. (He has written tolerantly elsewhere of a sense of satiation.) Hardest to reconcile with anything but his vision of America as #1, and his penchant for alternative scenarios, is his discussion of nuclear-weapons use--but one does respect his willingness to defend ""thinking about the unthinkable."" For the most part, however, the book is simply Kahn's particular version of a Reaganite world-view--and, though mercifully shorter and less rambling than some of his earlier works, also less original and provocative.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster