American Prospect founder and co-editor Kuttner (Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets, 1997, etc.) issues a scathing broadside aimed at the failures of laissez-faire American capitalism.
Globalization in its current form, the author argues, has failed—to hold leaders and institutions accountable; to provide prosperity for any but a small, wealthy elite; to create a stable private economy in the United States. Despite reassurances about the self-regulating nature of markets and the equalizing power of free trade, inequality has widened and benefits have diminished for all but a few. As investment bankers and corporate CEOs have reaped the benefits of mergers and acquisitions and speculative finance, the increasingly vulnerable middle class has watched New Deal–era protections such as Social Security, Medicare and pensions erode. None of this information is particularly revelatory: The excesses of the 1990s, in particular, have been covered more than adequately elsewhere. Kuttner’s unique talent is in cutting through the knee-jerk assumptions that have become orthodoxy in American policy debates—free trade is good, equalization among global markets is inevitable, economic benefits accrue to those who work harder and smarter—and suggesting a new prescription for turning America’s economy around and creating a more just, egalitarian society. Central to Kuttner’s remedy is the rebuilding of America’s “equalizing institutions,” including an intriguing expansion of Medicare, starting with those age 25 and below, and implementing more controls on currently unfettered markets in technologies, stocks and labor.
Kuttner argues for a saner, more managed system of American capitalism—that he does so in a manner that is not only refreshing but reassuring is a testament to both his broad understanding of history and his impressive grasp on the inner workings of modern American capitalism.