Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Nice Review of The Confiscation of American Prosperity

The Crime of the Century

Michael Perelman, The Confiscation of American Prosperity: From Right-Wing Extremism and Economic Ideology to the Next Great Depression. Palgrave Macmillan. 239 pp.

Economist Michael Perelman has written a whodunit about a heist, but not just any heist. His new book dissects the grandest bit of thievery in modern human history, the robbery that snatched away the economic security of the great American middle class and made America’s rich the richest rich the world has ever seen.

How did all this happen? Perelman takes us back to the initial crime scene, the United States of the early 1970s, a society then completing a quarter-century of unparalleled prosperity. Most Americans had shared in those good times. Most expected them to continue.

But not everyone felt that way. Corporate America’s movers and shakers, back in the early '70s, sensed a world spinning out of — their — control. They feared marketplace challenges from abroad. Western Europe and Japan had rebuilt their war-torn economies. They also feared challenges at home, from social activists and angry workers. Even consumers were organizing.

Corporate leaders, amid these challenges, panicked. They rejected the basic assumption behind America's good times, that balance in economic life — and prosperity for all — requires an active role for trade unions and government regulators. Corporate leaders would instead link up with radical conservatives and help speed what Michael Perelman calls a “right-wing revolution.”

That revolution would rewrite the nation’s economic rules and leave in its wake a deeply and ferociously unequal United States.

Michael Perelman names names as he fills in the outline of this broad sweeping story with intriguing detail on who did what when. He introduces us, for instance, to Lewis Powell, the corporate lawyer — and future Supreme Court justice — whose 1971 memo for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rallied the nation’s power-suits to rise up and “save” free enterprise.

“Each time the United States has increased income inequality,” author Perelman reminds us along his story-telling way, “disaster has followed.”

And disaster, Perelman notes, will surely follow our contemporary right-wing revolution. Perelman explains why, patiently laying out how top-heavy distributions of wealth deflate broad-based consumer demand, pump up speculative asset bubbles, and invariably invite a “culture of corruption.”

Perelman ends his whodunit with a look at “the presumptive cops” on the beat, his fellow economists, the academics who could have and should have blown the whistle on the right-wing’s frontal assault on American prosperity. They did not. Michael Perelman has. More power to him.

6 comments:

Brenda Rosser said...

"...Perelman ends his whodunit with a look at “the presumptive cops” on the beat, his fellow economists, the academics who could have and should have blown the whistle on the right-wing’s frontal assault on American prosperity. They did not. Michael Perelman has. More power to him."

Yes. Goodonya Michael P! I always had the impression that 20th Century economists were people that spoke or wrote a type of linear nonsense to justify whatever the Government of the day was doing. Except for John Kenneth Galbraith, and Australia's former Treasurer Jim Cairns. (I didn't know Cairns was a trained economist until this year).

Then the Internet came along and I could glimpse the real world after decades of Murdoch, Government and Fairfax media.

Jack said...

perelman,
Have you been drinking this AM? The Consication of....???

Shape up man. The neo-cons are watching. If the book earns any sizeable cash, you owe your copy editor a major tip.

Michael Perelman said...

If it earns any sizeable cash, I will give you a major tip.

Jack said...

Don't be so pessimistic about the book's earnings potential. At the very least you can assign it to all freshman students as required reading for Econ 101. Make sure that the book store marks it up 20%so that you can then offer the 15% student discount. Get your buddies at the various other schools where they may teach repeat the same process and you'll soon be in like Flynn, financially that is. Refer to this procedure as Bushonomics.

Michael Perelman said...

That strategy will cut in to my grades-for-sale market.

Eleanor said...

A very nice review.