MORE LIKE US by James Fallows


Making America Great Again
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Fallows--former Carter speechwriter, author of National Defense (1981), correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and National Public Radio--offers his prescription for solving America's economic doldrums. Fallows has spent the past two years in Japan, and he devotes this volume to reflections about the relative strengths and weaknesses of that society in comparison to ours. But in contrast to fashionably perceived wisdom of the past decade or so, Fallows' conclusions are thoroughly opposed to the school of thought that suggests we emulate Japan's group dynamics, corporate loyalty, self-mortification, and high savings rate. Rather, he argues that for America to regain its momentum and greatness, we must become "more like us"--that is, more disorganized, risk-taking, nontraditional, socially mobile, and open. Assuming that "cultural decline isn't inevitable," Fallows asserts that "if what it takes to keep up with the Japanese is to live like them--in tiny houses, with endless working days, under an ethic of lockstep loyalty to the firm--then it may be better to step aside and get out of Japan's way." Of course, the corollary of Fallows' argument is that during Japan's ascendancy, Americans have become more unlike us: security-conscious, lazy, succumbing to the blandishments of the bureaucratic mentality. The only flaw in Fallows' reasoning has to do with whether or not his solution might have caused the problem in the first place. Taken as a whole, do Americans' low savings rate, devil-may-care individualism, and disrespect for authority translate into our recent massive foreign trade deficits? Despite that caveat, Fallows' argument here is elegant and meticulous, informed by intelligence, practicality, and, above all, optimism.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1989
ISBN: 395-49857-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
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