AMERICA'S COMPETITIVE EDGE by Richard & John Bowles Bolling


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This latest prescription for curing our economic ills, by House Rules Committee chairman Bolling (Dem., Mo.) and investment banker Bowles, presumes that we can ""regain our economic leadership"" by doing as we did at the height of our economic and military might, just after World War II, and not doing as we did during our 1965-75 decline. That proposition, dubious in almost every respect, is set forth and elaborated primer-fashion--with headings and subheadings, key phrases italicized and reiterated, much repetition and recapitulation--as if we were being instructed in the principles of, say, auto-repair. The authors' citation of four keystones of our ""period of strengih""--the Marshall Plan, the 1946 Employment Act, the Hoover Commission (on government reorganization), the Eisenhower Highway Program--serves only to set up their next questionable formulation: that our strength was based on ""a spirit of cooperation, compromise, and consensus."" But a danger lurked, we're told, even in a couple of those model undertakings: ""a demand-based economic policy."" And this misguided policy, reinforced by Johnson and Nixon, plus ""the discord resulting from the Vietnam war, the complete deterioration of political leadership, and the disappearance of the spirit of cooperation, compromise, and consensus. . . undermined the nation's economic triangle of trade, energy, and productivity."" From that mare's nest, as disputable for what it omits as for what it contains, we pass to an assortment of trade-, energy-, and productivity-related topics--including much material on what we might learn from (guess) the Japanese. (Notably: how ""Mitsui makes trade happen""; the workings of Ohgishima, ""the world's most productive steel facility."") Then the book shifts, Washington-ward--to discuss examples of technological ingenuity (apropos of supporting R & D); to recap tax policy (apropos of stimulating investment); to advocate ""an effective accounting of compliance costs. . . in the regulatory budget."" And, in the light of the foregoing, to recommend measures to revitalize the steel industry and to commend the agricultural market development program. The wrap-up proposes three specific undertakings (a Commission on More Effective Government, an amended Employment Act, a program for a net energy export position by 1990)--to be implemented by developing, with the president, ""a new spirit of cooperation, compromise, and consensus."" Periodically, in discussing particulars (the legislative maneuvering behind the '46 Employment Act, the energy system at Ohgishima), the authors impart something that's applicable somewhere; but most of the book--shot through with false premises and facile slogans--is merely a bandwagon-program for Democrats who covet a piece of the current action.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1981
Publisher: McGraw-Hill