STAYING ON TOP: The Business Case for a National Industrial Strategy by Kevin P. Phillips
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STAYING ON TOP: The Business Case for a National Industrial Strategy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Consensus business thinking on American economic competitiveness--conjoined with the author's specialty, ""realistic politics."" Phillips (The Emerging Republican Majority, Post-Conservative America), a deft expositor/publicist, outlines his position in the preface, amplifies his views in the introduction, and methodically develops their constituent parts in eight sections, meanwhile coining some catchy phrases. (It would be a dim soul who could miss a point.) What he advocates is ""a tough-minded industrial and trade strategy""--not ""a full-fledged industrial policy."" Such a ""centrist program"" (between a free-marketplace and-comprehensive planning) not only coincides with ""centrist politics,"" it has current Middle-American appeal: ""the competitiveness issue is almost unique. . . for the application of business expertise."" (Hitherto, corporate interests have been a political drag on conservatism.) So, the case for pro-business activism--buttressing business' own case for ""a combination of stricter trade law enforcement, coordination of US trade strategy, and attempts to rein in foreign industrial policy."" In opposing industrial-policy advocates, Phillips questions a high-tech strategy (with ""disinvestment"" in basic industry) and also cites specific fiscal-and-monetary failings--the overvalued dollar, excessively high interest rates--as an argument against structural overhaul. Global interdependence, on the other hand, has brought ""economic Balkanization"": free trade, of the liberal or conservative stamp, is defunct. (""Rhode Island, Indiana, and Texas are full participants in the global Hobbesian mood."") All the better, then, a market-oriented competitiveness strategy as the ""middle way."" Phillips' ""affirmative agenda"" is then spelled out: from A New Department of Trade and Full Enforcement of US Trade Laws, through measures to block foreign interests (including, with vivid cases-in-point, tighter lobbying laws), to at least a couple of recommendations that are frankly political--Mechanisms for Monitoring Industrial Plant Closings, Federal Legislation for a Displaced-Worker Retraining Program. In sum: a coherent, clear-cut assemblage of now-familiar proposals--capped, in the concluding chapters, with a review of ""Conservative Traditions of Business Interventionism,"" a plug for the potential of intra-group interaction (among ""utopian high-tech progressives,"" free-market conservatives and nationalists, etc.), and a dash of what Phillips shrewdly calls ""Monongahela Realpolitik."" A spiffy, compact tract--against which dissenters of a liberal persuasion can now pose Robert Kuttner's cogently social-democratic The Economic Illusion (above).

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Random House