AMERICA THE POSSIBLE by James Gustave Speth


Manifesto for a New Economy
Email this review


A longtime environmental policymaker and activist suggests a sweeping plan to save the United States by revamping the entire political-economic-societal paradigm.

Speth served as the environmental advisor to President Jimmy Carter and is currently a Vermont Law School professor. His two previous books—Red Sky at Morning (2005) and The Bridge at the End of the World (2008)—were the first two installments in what can be considered a trilogy. He opens America the Possible with a familiar catalog of America's ills, including environmental degradation, overdependence on fossil fuels, second-rate health care, income inequality, the unfair tax system and the hegemony of multinational corporations. Speth concedes that his agenda is daunting, and he suggests that it probably could not be fully achieved until at least 2050, even if a majority of voters could be assembled to support it. However, because he believes the country is in danger of failing the greater part of its citizenry unless current policies are altered, he chooses optimism, proposing specific reforms that can become reality if undertaken in a deliberate, measured way. Speth understands that the populace must move beyond an electoral choice between the equally hidebound Republican and Democratic parties, and he calls for a uniting of political progressives to form an electoral majority. The biggest weakness of Speth’s argument is his vagueness in showing how to persuade tens of millions of registered voters to coalesce into a progressive political movement. The author admits that it has been difficult to bring even like-minded individuals together, and he explains why environmentalists and social-justice liberals focusing on employee rights in the job market have too often failed to work in tandem.

A hopeful book that generally fails to close the gap between our current situation and what Speth envisions for future generations.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-300-18076-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2012


NonfictionANGELS BY THE RIVER by James Gustave Speth
by James Gustave Speth
NonfictionA FORCE FOR NATURE by John H. Adams
by John H. Adams
NonfictionLIVING DOWNSTREAM by Sandra Steingraber
by Sandra Steingraber