Academics, politicians, pollsters and one representative radical student tackle five Big Problems: government, foreign policy, the economy, culture, and the individual in society. The essays--all but two written specifically for this book--are preceded by sets of assumptions which the authors and the editor feel most Americans believe ""about our country and its place in the world."" The writers are supposed to point out the disparities between assumption and practice, but, as most of the ""assumptions"" are oversimplifications (America is moving steadily toward social equality) or patent falsehoods (capitalism only receives minimal government regulation, and the success of the system proves it should be exported to developing nations), debunking them is a pseudo-function. What the essays do effectively, however, is offer the prevailing arguments on such issues as isolationism, big government, pop versus high culture. Some provide programs--George Gallup on revising election procedures, Bernard Rosenberg on elevating popular taste; others only ideology--Eric Mann (the lone SDS radical) puts down the universities, Senator George McGovern urges meeting the rising expectations of ""the colored three-quarters of the world,"" or risking world revolution. Other contributors include Benjamin DeMott, Richard Revere, Henry Steele Commager, Kenneth Boulding and Robert MacIver. Kirk, an editorial advisor at Metromedia, Inc., assembled the collection as the first in the company's projected series of public affairs briefings, presented as ""a public service.