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Book cover, Michael Lind's Land of Promise
Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States
By Michael Lind
Harper Paperbacks
592 pages, $16.99
April 2013
Students of American political history have argued that, despite the formal continuity of its political institutions, the United States has gone through two or three regimes or informal "republics." In earlier works, I have made the case for three American republics, each originating in a prolonged crisis—the American Revolution and its aftermath, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the Great Depression and World War II. It remains to be seen whether the global economic crisis that began in 2008 will mark the end of the Third American Republic and the gradual construction of a fourth republic by the 2020s or 2030s.
Ever since the beginning of the Great Recession, I've been gravitating toward routinely reading up on economics, doing my best to try and understand the root causes of the crash. For a while I focused on the immediate lead-up, with terrific books like Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. Lately, I've been pursuing the plot more deeply—going further back in history—and finally ended up a this point, reading Michael Lind's Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States, which came out in paperback early this month after hardback publication a year ago.

Now there's a caveat: I'm a reasonably well-educated American citizen, but I tend to have trouble with economic theory. I'll grasp it, briefly, while it's being clearly explained to me—and then it slips away when I try and apply it or explain it to someone else. (I have this same problem with Einstein's Theory of Relativity as well … initial brilliant flash of comprehension, followed by dull and thumping fade within hours.) Also, I suspect a little voodoo in all economic explanations since they are grounded in often-competing schools of thought, like politics. And as we all know, statistics can be selected (and narrowed or broadened) to make nearly any point one wishes—as we learned just this week with what could be considered the Big Oops of all Excel sheet problems, which just happened to be what all the insistence on austerity was based on.

Thus, I came to Land of Promise thirsty for a good, solid historical overview of the development of U.S. economic policy and politics. Thankfully, it more than delivered, exploring American economic history through the lens of the three republics—and how we're on the verge of the fourth—that he outlined in the blockquote that opened this review. Aside from being a good general backgrounder, it also makes some thought-provoking points, which you can explore with me below …

Hamilton versus Jefferson

As we all learned in American History 101, Hamilton was a federalist, Jefferson was not. Jefferson loved the yeoman farmer, Hamilton loved the rich guy. Hamilton wanted big national banks and corporations, Jefferson wanted to foster small local financial entities. Hamilton was Amazon, Jefferson was the local indie bookstore. (My heart's with Jefferson, my head is with Hamilton on this one, and always has been.) Lind goes over this ground, but adds some more insight, coming down square on the side of Hamilton in a persuasive way:

What is good about the American economy is largely the result of the Hamiltonian developmental tradition, and what is bad about it is largely the result of the Jeffersonian producerist school. To the developmental tradition of Hamilton, Washington and Roosevelt, Lincoln and Clay, we owe the Internet and the national rail and highway and aviation systems, the single continental market that allows increasing returns to scale to be exploited by globally competitive corporations, the unmatched military that defeated the Axis powers and the Soviet empire and has generated one technological spin-off after another, and, not least, the federally enforced civil rights laws and minimum-wage laws that have eradicated the slavery and serfdom that once existed in the South and elsewhere.

To the Jeffersonian tradition, even if it is exempted from blame for slavery and segregation, the United States owes the balkanization of the economy by states' rights and localism, underinvestment in infrastructure, irrational antitrust laws and anti-chain store laws designed to privilege small producers, exemptions for regulations and subsidies for small businesses (defined for many purposes as those with fewer than five hundred employees), the neglect of manufacturing in favor of overinvestment in single-family housing, and a panic-prone system of tiny, government-protected small banks and savings and loan.

Big is Good.

As a proud Big Government liberal, obviously I have no problem with Lind's insistence that a large federal government with real regulatory teeth in it is a good and great thing. Ditto on his points about Big Unions, as when he says:

If labor unions cause unemployment, by raising the cost of labor, then the 1930s should have been prosperous, because unions were weak and included few workers, and the 1950s, when a third of the workforce was unionized, should have suffered from a depression.
However, Lind's also a big fan of Big Corporations and/or Big Cartels, arguing that in some industries—telecommunications, energy, railroads (industries that require huge capital investment in infrastructure)—the efficiency of large scale/large investment firms, if overseen closely, is the best system of all when coupled with Big Unions and Big Government: "The American middle class enjoyed its zenith under a system of highly regulated, partly cartelized capitalism, and suffered under the less regulated capitalism that preceded it and followed it."

Jimmy Carter was responsible for starting the Great Dismantling. Not a Republican.

Lind came up with a great term for the age of deregulation: "The era between the 1970s and the bubble economy that followed the end of the Cold War has yet to find a name. The most appropriate is the Great Dismantling."

And he has quite the take on when it began and who began the process:

Richard Nixon is often thought of as a precursor of Ronald Reagan, but that honor belongs to Jimmy Carter, whose administration first adopted economic neoliberalism and began the large-scale dismantling of the New Deal system. Nixon was the last New Deal president. The policies of the Nixon administration can be understood as an attempt to deal with the problems caused by the contradiction between the New Deal order at home and the blogal economy by sacrificing America's post-1945 hegemonic grand strategy in favor of a more overtly nationalistic US foreign military and economic policy....

The New Deal came to an end in 1976, not 1980. The Age of Reagan should be called the Age of Carter. Carter, not Reagan, pioneered the role of the fiscally conservative governor who runs against the mess in Washington, promising to shrink the bureaucracy and balance the budget. Early in his administration, Carter even wrote a newspaper column entitled "Give Carter a Chance." The most conservative Democrat in the White House since Grover Cleveland, Carter fought most of his battles with Democratic liberals, not Republican conservatives.

We forgot how bad it got. So we discarded protections and went there again.

Lessons from the early 20th century had to be relearned all over again in the early 21st.

In hindsight, the neoliberal cure was far worse than the New Deal liberal disease. The maturity of the New Deal's system of regulated, managerial capitalism coincided with the post-World War II boom and the greatest expansion of the middle class in American history. Consumer advocates, however, blamed it for stifling diversity, libertarians and conservatives claimed it choked off economic progress, and political scientists denounced it for spawning "interest-group liberalism."

To the applause of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike, the New Deal system of regulation was dismantled in one sector of the economy after another in the late 1970s and 1980s. The result was not the flourishing diversity hoped for by liberal consumer activists nor the solid, sustainable economic growth promised by free-market ideologues. Instead, the result was the collapse of unions, the decline of private R & D, three decades of wage stagnation, and an economy driven by financialization, speculation, and rising debt rather than by productive industry and rising wages.

Between Lind's specific insights on size, regulation, and private-public hybrids, and his ability to provide the Big Overview, one can begin to see the contours of how a workable Fourth Republic could come into being as we find ourselves in the midst of convulsive global change. Land of Promise is an invaluable tool in exploring where we've been, how we arrived at the perilous economic place in which we stand now, and how we can find our way back to more income equality and stability in the years ahead.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and Readers and Book Lovers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  hmm (16+ / 0-)

    hofstadter would point out that jefferson was wary of the relationship between government and business- after reading adam smith, he believed in true laissez-faire. but does lind mention the bank of the united states? i'm not sure how one justifies government being used to build large, centralized, private businesses, no matter how regulated. i'm also wondering if lind discusses the other option- instead of using government to build private corporations, using it to build public institutions- corporatism vs. socialism.

    i agree about carter. i remember the debates over airline deregulation. which set the template for deregulation's series of great successes...

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:28:42 PM PDT

    •  Pretty easily (9+ / 0-)

      Just look at the economic histories of countries like Japan and Germany, which invested heavily in certain protected industries in order to build an economy that would be competitive internationally.  The US did precisely the same thing based on Hamilton's arguments.  This is what we today call "infant industry protection" and "coordinated market economies."

      I suggest reading Ha-Joon Chang's excellent history Kicking Away the Ladder and Hall and Soskice's Varieties of Capitalism to learn more about the role of the state in the economy.  It will give you a very different picture than you get from stories of liberal economic development.  Namely, how involved the state has been in promoting the economy in every single "liberal" First World economy.

      •  again (4+ / 0-)

        compare that to socialist models. why have government subsidize industries rather than run them?

        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

        by Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:59:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          YucatanMan, RiveroftheWest

          Your original post wasn't clear to me, now I get your suggestion.

        •  I'm guessing that some industries lend themselves (8+ / 0-)

          better to being nationalized (i.e. socialized) than others, probably on the basis of the extent to which they serve a vital public good and can return positively on investment by serving that good.

          Thus, the postal service, public transit (including intercity rail), education and health care system provide essential public services without which a society can't function well, but the only way to make them widely affordable at an acceptable level of service is to socialize them. To put them on the profit model is to either exclude a large number of people from being able to enjoy them, or reduce their level of service to a point where they're not profitable and thus viable. Either way, they don't fit the private model well.

          Whereas industries like entertainment, food, clothing and shelter, while either essential or important, for the most part seem to do well privatized, at least when the economy's doing well (little that is productive and not parasitic does well in a bad economy). I don't know why. Perhaps because there's a lot of room in them for price-lowering and quality-improving competition, whereas you can only build so many rail lines or ways of treating diseases.

          I'm a strong believer in the mixed capitalist-socialist model that rejects an either/or approach, in which what works in the private sector and/or isn't essential should stay there and what works in the public sector and/or is essential should be there. Hamilton appears to have allowed for this, while Jefferson did not. I'm not sure I'd blame Jefferson for today's economic woes and inequality, though, at least not intentionally. His ideas, while ultimately naive and impracticable, were not meant to perpetuate and exacerbate inequality. Neither were Hamilton's, though, I believe. But at least his were more viable, even if ultimately inadequate given how they, like Jefferson's, were exploited by the very rich for self-enrichment at the expense of others.

          Ultimately, I think that a fundamentally Hamiltonian public-private system, adapted to modern realities and the experience of over 200 years, is the way to go, not a Jeffersonian one, which was grounded in neo-feudalism.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:50:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  but hamilton's bank (7+ / 0-)

            was really classic nascent crony capitalism. he was a monarchist to begin with, so his conception of the common good was nothing modern democrats would recognize. self-enrichment wasn't a bug, it was a feature.

            i'm with you on a mixed economy, while i'd socialize everything from military-industrial to health care.

            The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

            by Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:57:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think that the monarchist label (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              walkshills

              is hugely misleading and unfair to Hamilton that comes from not knowing much about him or his times and contemporaries. At the time of the constitutional convention, when he made his infamous and regrettable speech in support of an elected monarch, virtually all the developed world's leaders were hereditary monarchs, either kings, queens, princes, dukes or "electors" and the like. Even Switzerland, I think, which at the time had the only real western republics, had monarchs. So it's not as if that was so reactionary or unusual a suggestion at that time. There was no such thing as a powerful elected head of state who would serve a set term. In fact there were no term limits for any elected or confirmed office, and Washington would have effectively been president for life had he chosen to run for office again. And by 1787 the British king, on which Hamilton modeled his suggestion, was far less powerful than he was before the English Civil War. He certainly didn't have the French monarchy in mind.

              He wasn't the only important "monarchist" of the time, I believe. Plus, like virtually all his contemporaries including Jefferson, he was no fan of democracy or universal suffrage. However, unlike Jefferson and most Jeffersonians, he was for not only abolition, but granting blacks full citizen rights, which was a radical and obviously progressive idea for his time (and, sadly, in our time too). His economic ideas, while they were exploited to create wealth inequality (but mostly not till after the Civil War), were intended to make the US a prosperous and viable country, and extend that prosperity to the maximum number of people. While he's commonly known as one of the first US conservatives, I think it's more proper to view him as a precursor of 19th century liberals, with Jefferson having in many way far more conservative ideas than Hamilton.

              "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

              by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:23:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  not at all (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                dinotrac, unfangus

                he openly advocated for a monarchy at the constitutional convention. adams wanted a limited monarchy, but hamilton didn't. you can't just give him a pass, it was highly contentious, particularly to the franklinites. that entire argument led directly to the sedition act crisis.

                it's true that many were wary of democracy, particularly among what became the federalists, and the constitution was not designed as a demcracy, but you can't dismiss it as just a sign of the times.

                The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

                by Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:49:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It was his one and only real attempt (0+ / 0-)

                  to make it happen, and it failed miserably, as it should have. It wasn't one of his finer moments, but given how Jefferson is given a far bigger pass on what I think were indisputably far worse sins (profoundly racist, hypocritical about slavery to say the least, horrible with money especially his creditors', quite likely a rapist, an idiot about economics, and a very dishonest and vicious man who effectively invented the politics of character assassination), I hardly find this to be all that damning of Hamilton in an era where monarchy was not just the norm, but the only thing period. Far more damning was his support, albeit reluctant, of the Alien and Sedition Acts and overt militarism and imperialism (the last of which he shared with Jefferson, albeit in different ways).

                  I'll take Hamilton over Jefferson any day. Even the things that one can praise Jefferson for were hardly original, and often preached but not practiced.

                  "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                  by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:55:42 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  but ending monarchy (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ranton, badger, kaliope, unfangus

                    was the entire point, to many. but after throwing out the british, it became clear that some just wanted the same structures, with themselves in charge. certainly, the jeffersonians aren't given a pass for slavery- far from- and franklin and paine were not themselves perfect. but at least they wanted democracy. adams and hamilton wanted financial means tests for both voting and for holding office.

                    the point is that hamilton, both politically and economically, was what we now would think of as a typical anti-democratic corporatist republican.

                    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

                    by Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 04:11:52 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Ending tyranny, or abitrary and unchecked (0+ / 0-)

                      and uncheckable power, was the point, as any student of the English Civil War and Glorious Revolution knows, which kept a monarch in place but with limited and checked powers, essentially an unelected president for life. The colonial revolutionaries modeled theirs on the English example, going so far as to call themselves Whigs. The colonists were mostly quite content with the monarchy until the mid 1760's, when taxes began to be imposed to pay for the recently ended French and Indian War--which the colonists started.

                      And, given that the US president has effectively had monarch-like powers since the start, what's the effective difference, other than term limits?

                      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                      by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 07:57:12 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  not many called themselves whigs (0+ / 0-)

                        and many openly sought the end of monarchy. adams and hamilton were excoriated by franklin, paine, jefferson, madison and others, it would seem there was a bit of a debate. and no, the president does not have monarch-like powers, and never has. which was a big part of what the sedition act crisis was all about.

                        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

                        by Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 08:43:11 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  The US president is effectively an elected (0+ / 0-)

                          constitutional monarch who's term-limited. It's hardly even a matter of debate. His powers are vast and in many ways uncheckable. He can have people killed at will, start wars and play favorites, and no one can do anything about it. Like all powerful leaders he can overreach and cause a backlash, but the smart ones know where that line is. This had been true of constitutional monarchs for centuries.

                          And Jefferson played no role in the constitutional convention.

                          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                          by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 09:45:06 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  that's a meaningless statement (0+ / 0-)

                            because "constitutional monarch" can mean anything, from holding real political power to holding none at all. and the only thing they all have in common is the lack of term limits and hereditary power. federalists such as adams and hamilton and washington wanted it to be a crime to criticize the president. adams and hamilton also wanted the senate to be for life and hereditary, like the then british house of lords. as vice president, adams was shut down by the senate when he tried to refer to washington as "his majesty." none of this was just accepted as normal. had adams won a second term, this country might not have survived.

                            The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

                            by Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 09:56:33 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I thought it obvious (0+ / 0-)

                            that we were referring to the British monarch as the basis for comparison, since as you know it was Hamilton's too. And George III, by abusing his power and losing a major chunk of the British empire as a result, became the last British king to be allowed to do that. And of course it's meaningful unless you think "constitutional" has no meaning. What constitutional monarch has arbitrary power? All of them have limited and defined powers.

                            I don't know where you get your idea about the Federalists wanting it to be a crime to criticize the president, unless you're referring to the A&S Acts, which came under Adams, years after the constitutional congress. As for Adams wanting to call Washington "You Majesty", so what? It meant nothing. Pompous, of course, but ultimately of no moment, like standing when the president enters the room (something I dislike).

                            Oh please don't tell me you think Jefferson was a great statesman and president. He wrote some great things and was a masterful politician but as an elected leader he was awful, knowing nothing about policy. His policies almost did destroy the US by bringing about and leaving us unprepared for the War of 1812 and ruining the economy. And he was a racist imperialist.

                            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                            by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 10:07:23 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  jefferson was a racist slaveowner (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RiveroftheWest

                            that's not exactly a secret. but the a&s acts were supported by the federalists. including hamilton. who wanted the united states to be a hereditary monarchy, and much less of a constitutional one than even adams wanted. and adams wanted a monarchy like the british monarchy, which was still ruled by george iii, his powers not curtailed. which gets back to the original point: hamilton wanted a monarchy, a nobility, an aristocracy, and his version of capitalism was part of that.

                            The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

                            by Laurence Lewis on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 12:08:46 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You think that the man who wrote 2/3 (0+ / 0-)

                            of the Federalist papers, and along with his main co-author Madison was the primary impetus for convening the constitutional convention, wanted a constitutionally unbound hereditary monarch? That's some pretty strong revisionist history you're pushing there. Proof?

                            Obviously Hamilton wanted a strong president and central government. I think he was right to want it and that Jefferson was wrong to not want it (although of course his warnings were prescient). But to suggest that Hamilton wanted a de facto tyrant is simply without basis.

                            I get it, Jefferson good, Hamilton bad. It's a popular dialectic. But a hugely simplistic and wrong one. Lincoln, TR, FDR and LBJ were Hamiltonians, btw.

                            Read Chernow's bio of him someday. It might change your mind. He was actually quite progressive for his time in many ways.

                            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                            by kovie on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 08:37:14 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

          •  the sectors you mention that work well (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            melo, Mokurai

            in private hands are all characterized by ease of entry. It doesn't cost a lot to start a clothing business or a food business or entertainment...

            contrast that with railroads, etc., that require huge initial investment.

            ease of entry is a basic characteristic of a well functioning (i.e., competitive) capitalistic system - often neglected by the apologists.

            People who want to harvest rents from these markets must concoct a way to increase regulation so that government becomes involved, and then co-opts the market. Hence, capitalists love to dominate sectors with government regulation, even as they complain loudly about that very regulation that makes it possible to take over the market.

            Hence, vouchers and privatization of public schools, Monsanto and agricultural products, and so forth.  

            "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

            by fhcec on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 09:26:36 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  In the economic histories of both Japan and (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high uintas, Odysseus, fhcec

        Germany, you have to factor in the decimation of their industrial bases in WWII.

        That was a major blow to both economies, but it also meant rebuilding their industries with the latest and greatest technologies.

        One key example -- after WWII, the entire Japanese steel industry was rebuilt and upgraded to facilities using the Basic Oxygen Process to make steel.  US suppliers were still using Open Hearth, a far less efficient approach.

        WRT to Japan, we might also note that the Japanese economy has been stagnant for so long that the government is aggressively working to get it growing again.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 06:26:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Carter? I wasn't paying attention then. (10+ / 0-)

    I believe that the OWS movement was the first salvo in the return to a more equal and prosperous America.

    The worst data point IMO is the number of people living paycheck to paycheck and the increase in poverty and homelessness.

    We need to turn this around.  It may take 30 years to undo the damage but we need to start now.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:29:36 PM PDT

  •  Hmmm (12+ / 0-)

    What the author extracts Jefferson-Hamilton division is way, way too anachronistic.  To argue that the "Hamiltonian tradition" has anything to do with defeating the Soviets or that Jefferson has anything to say about chain stores seems farcical. The problem with such grand histories is that they often write in caricatures and very broad strokes of the brush.  What you quoted above is Exhibit A of this bad tendency.  The result is that we then dismiss thinkers like Jefferson and lose their valuable insights.

    For example, Jefferson argued that you cannot have political liberty with a system of proletarian workers.  That there must be some real economic equality in order to have a republic.  He, of course, didn't put it in these words -- he wrote a paean to the agrarian life and denigrated the factory economy.  While we can dismiss Jefferson's idealization of the agrarian smallholder and rightly point to its role in diverting attention from slavery, we can just as well use Jefferson's principle against neoliberalism, austerity, and capitalism at large.

    •  Harking back to another comment, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW
      ...he wrote a paean to the agrarian life and denigrated the factory economy.  While we can dismiss Jefferson's idealization of the agrarian smallholder....
      it may be significant that in Jefferson's time, farming had lots of "ease of entry", since the population was low and land easy to steal from the Indians.  

      Renewable energy brings national global security.     

      by Calamity Jean on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:13:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re the Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff paper: (9+ / 0-)

    Any study based on data which the researchers refuse to release--for any reason--should be given no credence.

    That won't stop true believers™ from latching onto such "research", but the media and the rest of us should know better.

    "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

    by rfall on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:32:50 PM PDT

  •  I've just started Lind's "Next American Nation" (8+ / 0-)

    It was published in 1995, but from what I've read of his recent essays, he was prescient about the Tea Party movement. Yes, it was a racist reaction the election of our First Black President, but it's not merely racist.

    I prefer economic history to "crystal ball" economics. The look back doesn't empower one to make predictions, but gives one better odds at making intuitive choices.

    Lind does well to remind us that "The New Deal" was more than economic stimulus and a social safety net. It was an unprecedented regime of economic regulation, too.

    Lind is not my favorite liberal on all issues, but those Texas liberals like make good critics of both southern conservatism and eastern establishment liberalism.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:35:58 PM PDT

  •  When Carter was running for President, I happened (11+ / 0-)

    to see him walk through the lobby of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, proudly carrying his own luggage (he made an issue of such nonsense during his campaign). I was struck by the thought that when I traveled on business I used the hotel bellmen to carry luggage. That was their job. Everyone used them in the old days and tipped them for their assistance.

    The fact that he would deprive others of their employment to make a political point really annoyed me. And he just looked silly.

    Thank you for another thought provoking diary. I saw this book last year and almost got it but felt my TBR pile was already too high.

    This has me rethinking that decision:

    Between Lind's specific insights on size, regulation, and private-public hybrids, and his ability to provide the Big Overview, one can begin to see the contours of how a workable Fourth Republic could come into being as we find ourselves in the midst of convulsive global change.

    We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

    by Susan Grigsby on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:38:36 PM PDT

    •  wow. great comment. :) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eztempo
    •  Look at Carter's much praised after presidency (4+ / 0-)

      charity work:   should poor people's 'benefits' depend on private charity parsed out in shortage-mode with everlasting waiting lists or should they be eligible for government safety nets which benefit everyone who qualifies?

      Should a hungry person depend on whether they can get television coverage of their precarious position or should they be able to get food stamps based on universally applicable standards, regardless of how photogenic and appealing a story they can tell?

      Carter's privatization and deregulation continues into his post-presidency "charity" work. He has a continual "good name" campaign underway. It doesn't change his neoliberal outlook which continues to this day.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 06:38:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was a "liberal Democrat" in th 1970s and 1980s (22+ / 0-)

    ...and I don't remember it as Lind does.

    To the applause of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike, the New Deal system of regulation was dismantled in one sector of the economy after another in the late 1970s and 1980s.
    I remember--and it was my position, too--that the wholesale attempts a deregulation of sectors of the economy would not bring the blessings which were predicted.

    A case in point was deregulation of the airline industry, which was touted as being the way to encourage competition and reduce ticket prices.  As predicted by those less entranced by this "New Deal, Undone" plan, airlines merged and went and of business and the cost of travel to the consumer rose at a rate not seen prior to this undoing.

    "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

    by rfall on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:39:11 PM PDT

    •  The deregulation of the airline industry also left (19+ / 0-)

      untold communities cut off as airline companies no longer had to service the routes that had been mandated in the past.

      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

      by Susan Grigsby on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:42:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Which a pure free-market economist would see as (14+ / 0-)

        ...a good thing, I suppose.

        The deregulation of the airline industry also left untold communities cut off as airline companies no longer had to service the routes that had been mandated in the past.
        The essence of an unfettered free market is that it is left to its own devices to find the optimal solution to the "problem".

        The "problem", of course, being maximization of profits.

        As a society, we deserve better.

        "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

        by rfall on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 01:48:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Pure free markets often end in abusive monopolies, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean

          boom and bust cycles, and other distortions. Without government regulation, the "free market" usually does itself in within fairly short order.  

          Glass-Steagall repealed 1999.
          Global economic collapse 2008-9.
          Who could have foreseen....?

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 06:42:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Which a huge federal investment in passenger rail (6+ / 0-)

        would have made to a large extent moot, but we know how that played out. Even though this has been known since the 30's and in many ways a century before that, the past 40 years have shown us that left alone markets always fail, either entirely, or at least for most of the public (and what's the point of a market that serves only the rich from the point of view of government?).

        We really do need to kill this neoliberal beast, not just in theory where it's essentially dead, but in practice. Or it will kill us.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:11:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You know, this would make a pretty good book (5+ / 0-)

      examining the real effects of deregulation on our economy.

      A case in point was deregulation of the airline industry, which was touted as being the way to encourage competition and reduce ticket prices.  As predicted by those less entranced by this "New Deal, Undone" plan, airlines merged and went and of business and the cost of travel to the consumer rose at a rate not seen prior to this undoing.
      It doesn't have the blood of the miserable failure of the fertilizer industries, but it is one of the best examples of how regulations actually strengthened an industry and benefited a population.

      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

      by Susan Grigsby on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:02:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed. But deregulation came after 1970's oil (8+ / 0-)

      crisis shocks to the system. Which came after the US left the gold-dollar international financing system.  (I'm not a gold-bug.)

      President Nixon ended the direct convertibility of the dollar to gold on August 15, 1971. US oil production peaked in 1971. On October 16, 1973, OPEC announced a decision to raise the posted price of oil by 70%. And in 1979 the Iranian crisis drove oil prices higher.

      The point here is that govt and businesses were flailing about looking for ways to compensate for dramatically higher energy costs. "Efficiency" thru "deregulation" and "the magic of the market" was the magical thinking then and now.  To talk about Carter embracing business deregulation without the energy crisis leaves out important context.
      The fact that the GOP pols and the US Chamber of Commerce used the crisis to their advantage beginning with Reagan and carrying forward until today was clever on their part.  

      So, no, liberal Dems didn't embrace Carter's deregulation.  Just the opposite.  But the govt may have felt literally "over a barrel."

    •  Surely by "liberal" he must have meant (5+ / 0-)

      that word in its original, classic, 19th century sense, which is now known as neoliberalism, and not its New Deal 20th century sense. Because you can't be both, at least not in any way that makes much sense. I think that some like Clinton and Obama try to thread that needle, but they look ridiculous in the process, and enact policies that only hurt the middle class and poor.

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:07:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  'Airline deregulation' was a parting of company... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      ...with Carter's deregulation regime, and promises.

      I remember thinking at the time that deregulation, combined with the merger mania that began under Reagan, would result in three-, maybe four, giant carriers, and saying so at a dinner party in 1984.  This was when the media was still touting the "low fares are good for consumers" bullshit -- a predatory price war by monopoly companies has been  de riguer since long before John Rockefeller.

      I was just hoping, at the time, that the Justice Department would take its head out of its ass before we were reduced to only two mega-carriers.

      Now, I'm not so sure they will.  And I'm not sure that {shudder} even consumer retail will escape with a "balkanized" competitive market.

    •  "Democrat in the '70s and '80s"...unlike Lind? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kaliope

      Hey, rfall, turns out Lind wasn't there, really, to tell us what "liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike" were applauding back in 1976-80.  

      Michael Lind was born April 23, 1962, and so was fighting acne rather than manning the political barricades when all this went down.

      OK, maybe he had painfully hip parents and was seated at the adult table at Thanksgiving, and so has a special insight as to what debates and feelings were among Liberal Democrats on the macroeconomic issues of Carter's day ... but somehow I doubt that even that give him special insight into the hearts of people -- people here -- that remember those dinner parties because they had an invite.  Much less has standing to paint us with that broad brush.

      As I remember it, Carter was pretty much booted out of Washington DC's salons and probably was a one term President because he didn't have the support of the Liberal Democrats (anyone remember Teddy Kennedy?) with his economic ideology.

  •  Yep Thanks for Identifying Carter. (6+ / 0-)

    I keep mentioning this when fans term Obama the greatest president of their lifetime. It's true for many, but you don't even have to be good to clear it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:03:03 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sturunner, OhioNatureMom

    Too many in this country feel the Constitution should include the 2nd Amendment. And nothing else.

    by blueoregon on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:06:53 PM PDT

  •  I think the forces at work that gave us Reaganism (15+ / 0-)

    before Reagan are more complex than just Carter being a conservadem.

    1. Vietnam was a collaborative effort by both parties. It was a huge drain on our country and an enormous blow to our standing in the world. One we've not recovered from, as the imperial warmongering -- often on the wrong side of revolution -- has been wrecklessly pursued since then. A lot of our current bugaboos are the result of pouring money into the fundamentalism Islamist movement in Afghanistan and aiding other cannon fodder to stir up trouble for the former Soviet Union.

    2. The oil shortage was forseeable by Hubbert in 1956 but the response of government was pretty much a collective yawn. The result has been an enormous growth in external payments for oil - a big chunk of our trade deficit is just paying for oil. If we've had a national energy policy, it's run by oil men and lovers of nuclear power. Carter actually had the foresight to weigh in on this problem with some reasonable proposals, but the first oil shock occurred in 1973 at almost exactly the time Hubbert had predicted domestic oil production would peak. There was 17 years warning. Crickets chirped.

    3. New industries like the computer industry in silicon valley were as virulently anti-labor as old industries like the auto industry had been before they were unionized. Intel was moving factories to Malaysia while Nixon was in his first term. So a lot of the growth in "the economy" happened without creating good manufacturing jobs for workers. And this is the other thing driving our massive trade deficit for these many decades. Everybody gives a pass to Silicon Valley because they love their Ipads and the internet tubes. But you cannot go four decades sending more money out of the country than you bring in and not expect some consequences.

    4. The final thing is tax policy. Corporate tax receipts have been droppping as a percent of GDP since 1952. Can't blame even Carter for that one. The top tax bracket was dropped first around 1964 (from 91% to 70%). Of course since then the rich have partied like it was 1999.

  •  Modern Economy vs Democracy? (10+ / 0-)

    I think we can all agree that the essence of democracy is the impartial rule of law, and the control of their government by the people.   While Hamilton was wise in promoting the necessity of developing "national" institutions and a more unified nation economically, he could not have foreseen the current dominance of global corporations, the global financial sector, and the military establishment, and the advance in information technology.
    We are now at a point (just read the news) where these "entities" are actually in control of our nation.  Our elected representatives clearly serve those interests.  The top 1% of the most powerful and wealthy live in a "floating world" which is barely accountable to the rules which the masses must play by.  We can see very clearly that the crimes of international corporations and the ultra-rich are virtually never prosecuted.  But even these very rich individuals are merely cogs in the corporate machinery which expands and restricts our lives with no opposing for even imaginable.

  •  Land of lies & liar= USA nt (0+ / 0-)
  •  we are only factors of production (6+ / 0-)

    Labor is considered by economics theory as a factor of production.  To label human beings as "factors of production", serves the expedient, dehumanizing agenda of profit-as-the-first-purpose of a corporation.

    When we can summon up the will to eradicate excessive greed as powerfully as we did to eradicate smallpox, then maybe we can also collectively remember that the very existence of a corporation depends upon a grant of sovereignty by the citizenry- consideration of which is the true first purpose of a corporate charter.

    Call exploitation and debt slavery whatever you want.

    by jcrit on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:41:15 PM PDT

  •  "if overseen closely" (13+ / 0-)

    Aye, there's the rub.

    Ma Bell was a classic, continent-wide monopoly, closely regulated (and, it should be admitted, with a consistent internalized corporate ethic) to serve the public as well as its shareholders.

    Spendthrift gabbers like me, yapping it up with friends thousands of miles away, generated much more revenue than the cost of maintaining the system, which enabled the company to offer unreasonably cheap local, unlimited phone service, so the average family could make carpooling arrangements or call the fire department.

    Plus, the company invested serious dough into basic research, as a result of which it was a powerhouse of technological innovation (transistors, anyone?).

    The same could be said of the Big 3 broadcast networks.

    Monopoly is not inherently bad, but must be constrained by rigorous regulation to assure the public interest is served. In the absence of such, corporations naturally and inevitably devolve into Wal Mart predators of the common weal.

    Republicans represent both sides: the insanely rich and vice versa.

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:47:47 PM PDT

  •  Funny you should have that problem... (4+ / 0-)
    I'm a reasonably well-educated American citizen, but I tend to have trouble with economic theory. I'll grasp it, briefly, while it's being clearly explained to me—and then it slips away when I try and apply it or explain it to someone else. (I have this same problem with Einstein's Theory of Relativity as well … initial brilliant flash of comprehension, followed by dull and thumping fade within hours.)
    I have the same problem with all matters of finance. I can briefly "get" what's going on, but then it doesn't stick. I despise money, and that doesn't help, but I know I must keep a modicum of knowledge about my fiduciary responsibilities. Nevertheless, buying a house is like voodoo and signing a lot of papers.

    I can grasp Relativity just fine. Even Quantum Mechanics makes sense to me.

    But make me balance a checkbook....

    "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

    by CanisMaximus on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:49:22 PM PDT

  •  Hamilton was a student of the economic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    walkshills, TomP

    enlightenment and his ideas (as well as those who shared his economic ideas) have been fundamentally adopted (and abused) to create the US and global economy. Whereas Jefferson, while a man of the enlightenment in many ways, was an economic, class and race neo-feudalist, believing in a static agrarian economy and a benevolent perpetuation of existing class and race lines. His ideas were a practical dead end, and to the extent that they were rejected we've thrived, and to the extent they were adopted, we did not.

    Not that Hamilton's ideas were perfect, of course, failing to anticipate and guard against economic exploitation and inequality and speculative fraud (the first big instance of which happened under his watch through no apparent fault of his own save naivite). But his core ideas were sound, and the basis of all modern capitalist economies. E.g. central banking, government investment in emerging industries and protective tariffs to protect them, sovereign fiat currency, etc. He was WAY ahead of his time.

    As anyone who follows my comments knows, I'm a big fan of Hamilton and not so much of Jefferson, who I believe was a fool (and a racist to boot).

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 02:58:42 PM PDT

    •  So I guess you believe that Hamilton's (0+ / 0-)

      theories have been proven beyond any doubt. I'm sorry to tell you that they are still just theories.

      Maybe you should move on to relativistic physics. It isn't a theory anymore. Its been proven beyond any doubt.

      Knowledge is Power. Ignorance is not bliss, it is suffering.

      by harris stein on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 06:06:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I literally don't know what you're talking about (0+ / 0-)

        What theories? No serious economist today believes that central banking is unnecessary. I'm sure that even Marxists don't. Only crackpot Randians don't.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 10:13:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Ooooo, I will check this out! Looks great! (3+ / 0-)

    I love economics.  I feel like a dork about it though.  Here I am, working in a creative industry (games), but I get excited like a little kid playing with a bb gun when I read about economics.  I'd really love to be an economist, but I'm kind of like an entertainer who can't run for office.  I was all over the map from job to job in my 20s until I because a programmer.  I've been stable ever since, but my fiscal youth was pretty bad.  Even when I became a contract programmer, I didn't realize that I was supposed to pay payroll taxes as self employed for YEARS.  I'm still paying that off.  Nobody is going to hire an economist who fucked up like that.  :(

  •  WTF is THIS:??!! (11+ / 0-)
    Hamilton was a federalist, Jefferson was not. Jefferson loved the yeoman farmer, Hamilton loved the rich guy. Hamilton wanted big national banks and corporations, Jefferson wanted to foster small local financial entities. Hamilton was Amazon, Jefferson was the local indie bookstore.
    Uh, I'd like to amend that statement to "Jefferson was the local indie bookstore, if by indie bookstore, you mean 'enormous plantation with more than three-hundred slaves that nevertheless, even with all that slave labor was so poorly managed that when the manager died, the "indie book-store" went into bankruptcy and had all its assets sold at auction, including its slaves, who were not sold in family blocs, but in the more profitable manner of individually, regardless of the fact that that split up families.'"

    Give me a break.

    Jefferson was born an entitled rich kid and died an entitled rich kid. He was born owning slaves and died owning them.

    Hamilton was the illegitimate son of a father he never met and his mother died while he was in childhood and he STILL managed to become one of the greatest men in world history. He was one of the charter members of the New York Manumission society. Along with Ben Franklin, he was one of the two great founders who not only detested slavery, but regarded racism itself with great suspicion, if not contempt, being one of the few (perhaps the only) founder to regard the great disparity in achievement of the white and black races to be largely a matter of background, opportunity and education, declaring his belief that given the right opportunities, blacks would be just as competent as whites.

    When it came to the economy and the military, Hamilton was easily Jefferson's intellectual superior (no easy feat in any field).

    But more than that, he was just a better man.

    I'd much rather have a beer with Hamilton than Jefferson, and not just because Jefferson's beers were brewed by a man he owned. (BTW, that's not just a rhetorical flourish, it's true.)

    Hamilton was Lincoln's favorite Founder, and, as I guess is obvious from what I've written above, he's mine too.

    In this case my heart and my head line up just fine.

    Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

    by journeyman on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:29:21 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP

    I can see I'll have to come back and read it, and the comments, later. Hotlisted so I won't forget.

  •  Hamilton was a federalist (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kaliope, melo

    who believed along with the other federalists that the purpose of a strong central government was to foster an economic environment where businesses (read banks) could grow and prosper and the central government was their partner. Jefferson believed the exact opposite. However, he didn't believe the central government was his enemy like the current federalist society, with their pretzel logic, believe. There's the rub, everyone knows what happened to the Federalist Party. They became the Whigs, then in 1856 became the Republican Party. It wasn't until the late 1890s that the Democratic party returned to its roots. I think now we have the democratic federalists and the republican federalists.

    Now as far as economic theory,

    I'm a reasonably well-educated American citizen, but I tend to have trouble with economic theory. I'll grasp it, briefly, while it's being clearly explained to me—and then it slips away when I try and apply it or explain it to someone else. (I have this same problem with Einstein's Theory of Relativity as well … initial brilliant flash of comprehension, followed by dull and thumping fade within hours.)
    it is just that, a theory. In reality, it doesn't work. Now, Einstein's theory of relativity is no longer just a theory. It is reality. It has been proven beyond any doubt. Economic theory can never be proven. It will always be just a theory. That is why it has been called the "dismal science."

    Knowledge is Power. Ignorance is not bliss, it is suffering.

    by harris stein on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 05:58:41 PM PDT

    •  well truthfully there are many theories of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo

      Economics, and I'm sure that some effort is made at falsifiability.

      One major problem is that -- unlike physics usually -- economics has immediate political application. So you get the case of the economist who wrote a paper about the admirable stability of the Iceland economic system (before its crash) who then changed his C.V. to indicate that he'd written a paper warning of the impending collapse of the Iceland's financial system (http://en.wikipedia.org/...) He got paid $124,000 for that paper. Physicists don't have as much in the way of opportunity to monetize their research output. But this is merely a flaw of our political process, in which economists are afforded undeserved credibility.

      Another problem is that human behavior depends on culture and society (e.g. http://www.nationalreview.com/...), making grandiose universal theories about economics impossible a priori. But certain conservatives like Margaret Thatcher don't even believe that such a thing as society exist: there are only (greedy) individuals. I suppose that an economic theory based on sociopathology is likely to be universal. So there's that to look forward to.

      •  Among the many schools of economics (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tiggers thotful spot

        some make no attempt at falsifying anything. They may be called Faith-Based Economists. The current Rogoff-Reinhart kerfuffle is an example. The modern founder of this movement was F. A. Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom, which maintained that the British National Health Service would lead inevitably to full Stalinism. This is still an article of faith among the Market Fundamentalists.

        This behavior is predicted by Cognitive Dissonance theory, first explained in When Prophecy Fails, by Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken and Stanley Schachter.

        Some schools do attempt to falsify their theories in the manner of scientists. We may call these Real Economists. This includes Experimental Economics. Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman are two of the most visible of those constantly citing evidence against Market Fundamentalist practices and delusions.

        Speaking of Real Economics, see also A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters by Scott Reynolds Nelson. It is another essential account of US economic history, explaining the political and social causes of the many panics, crashes, and defaults in our history.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 09:58:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  You understand better than you thinK! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UCRJames, Calamity Jean

    There IS a lot of voodoo in economics, partly from a foundation of assumptions that proves to be less solid than anybody likes to admit.

    It all works great until it doesn't.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 06:20:44 PM PDT

  •  It turns out that (0+ / 0-)

    science works a lot better when you are not trying to explain human behavior.

  •  Sounds interesting.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ignacio Magaloni, melo

    If the dark arts of economics seem to have more in common with alchemy than with hard-science chemistry, it's because it is so dependent on the facts one tosses into the brew versus those one keeps out of the cauldron.  Economic analysis is a lot like filmmaking:  it's necessarily edited from the clips of reality one records, the point of view one looks at reality from, the "cut-away" anecdotal pictures one creates for continuities' sake, on through the selection of shots one pastes together in the final edited movie.  It's no wonder the resultant "picture of reality" every economic analysis coughs up is more an ideological statement than a representation of the world we live in, regardless how well footnoted.

    Economics (and history) is more art than science, in my opinion, even though I'm sure they all aspire to something more concrete.

    That off my chest, I have been looking for a decent economic history of the United States, and this sounds like a decent beginning.  I, myself, don't see the "balkanization" of the American economy as being a necessarily bad thing, any more than I see the division of power in our national government being a bad thing.  Furthermore, I might date the decline of unionism from the time it began declining (under Johnson/Nixon, if you want a watershed) rather than blame it on Carter.  And, hey, policy decisions that have led to one of the highest rates of home ownership in the U.S. versus the rest of the world are not necessarily bad decisions, given the diversity of manufacture and strength of consumer demand fueling the largest economy in the world that has resulted (and that's a strength the U.S. has, strategically, that we're only now discovering we might have to share, in a historic change, BTW).

    In other words, I'm pretty sure that one can't really understand our politics nor our lust for war, racism, gender discrimination, or any of the other of the issues we discuss here without getting a basic grip on economics and the government's role as arbiter of "winners & losers," which is government's role regardless of whose ideology is President.  Learning more about America's economic history is the exact same thing as learning why we're in the pickle we're in just now -- fragmented politically, geographically, culturally, ...class-wise.

    To what I glean is Mr Lind's basic economic model, I'd add class.  How classes and other demographic, economic factions, relate to government's picking of winners & losers is a necessary overlay when it comes to picking your facts to throw into the soup.  Keeping actual people, and their movements, out of the mix is how most economists keep their alchemy dark and mysterious.

    I guess I'll have to read the book in order to find out if he weights class interests and the movements they engender sufficiently to make sense out of ... "how the fuck did we end up here?!"

  •  Great discussion here. (0+ / 0-)

    Would like to read more.  Maybe someone can do a round two after more folks read the book? (I will based on this discussion.)

    Thank you!

    Send your old shoes to the new George W. Bush library.

    by maxschell on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 08:46:23 PM PDT

  •  I'm surprised you didn't know about Carter... (0+ / 0-)

    ...and Paul Volcker's role.

  •  To Grasp Economics (0+ / 0-)

    You just need to know that it's a mass of wibbly-wobbly things, kind of like time. Or, as Ted Nelson might have said, "everything is deeply intertwined."

    So, no matter what insight you might have, someone pulls a string and the whole tangled inards spill out on the table.

    That said, I'll offer my theory how the Great Ugh of the early 21st century got started: We ran out of money. That's the root cause, and I say it was caused by the fact we got used to living pretty high off the hog, based on our fabulous incomes, and then our incomes went away. They went away because we were used to living in the United States, an economic island created by trade barriers, and then the trade barriers went away.

    To keep up with our standard of living we borrowed against our assets, and when we couldn't borrow any more, we tried to sell those assets. Problem is, everyone else was trying to sell at the same time, so the prices fell faster than we could liquidate.

    Where I said "assets" think "homes", because for most Americans those were the same thing. And we'd inflated those assets during the Double Bubble in the 1990s, when the stock market expanded and then we all cashed out and put that money into our homes, which is one reason assets means homes, for most of us.

    Why did the trade barriers go away? They went away because it profits a small group of people who have a large amount of power in Washington.

    How will we end the Great Rip Off? I think we do that by fixing the root problem. That means putting some of those trade barriers back in place so that more production has to be done in Island USA. This means less wage competition, higher wages, more money in the working part of the economy, therefore more tax revenues, and a more robust economy overall.

    •  Shouldn't your name be NeoLiberal Thinking? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking

      The US running out of money is a Glenn Beck meme, completely contrary to fact. It is true that many Americans are running out of money, but much of the cause of that is the diversion of all profits from rising productivity into the pockets of the already rich since union-busting took off under Reagan, and Alan Greenspan decided that rising wages were the very worst kind of inflation, and bent all the resources of the Fed to combating it.

      Economic isolationism as embodied in the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was one of the causes of the Great Depression. Protectionism reduces employment in the US, as other countries retaliate with their own trade barriers.

      We need to create jobs in the US by positive investment in infrastructure and renewable energy, among other things, not by playing beggar-thy-neighbor.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 10:08:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It Is a Lack of Money (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest

        You are correct that too much of the money is being directed to the very rich. As I've pointed out elsewhere, the share of business income going to labor has dropped significantly since the 1970s. By one estimate, it's down from 60% to 50% since then, and I have a reliable estimate it is down by 5% since 1980.

        However, the key reason for that is competition from foreign labor. Until we started moving production out of the U.S. wages were increasing in proportion to worker productivity. Since 1980, productivity has continued to rise (about 80%), but wages for typical workers have been flat or descending. This money has, indeed, gone to profits.

        The only way to get that back is to stop giving away our jobs. That means reversing the policy that has led to cheap labor in the U.S. We need a set of uniform tariffs of about 10% and an international minimum wage (which should start around $2.50/hour and rise steadily ahead of inflation until it reaches our domestic minimum wage). That's how you move wealth-producing jobs back to the U.S. That will increase wages again to their historical levels and pump money into the working part of the economy.

        The neoliberals are all free traders. That's because it's a way of lining the pockets of a very limited number of rich people at the expense of the country. A real liberal is in favor of personal liberty, which you can't have when someone is robbing the country with bad economic policy. This isn't protectionism. We have to manage globalization because the alternative (as we've seen) is enormous damage to the economy. Unrestricted globalization is the cause of the problem, and regulating it is the solution.

  •  This is not entirely fair to Carter (0+ / 0-)

    Carter supported expansion of union rights, which died by way of blue dog Democratic fillibuster support.  Carter initially supported increasing the capital gains tax rate.  Before backtracking and signing a bill lowering it.

    He did support deregulation, but so did Ted Kennedy.  He appointed Volcker, who then adopted monetarism.  But he never supported the massive tax cuts which Reagan did.

    I was never a fan, and thought he was a bad president, but blaming him for Reagan's policies is as much a stretch as those conservatives who nlame Hoover's for Roosevelt's.

    Keep the TVA public.

    by Paleo on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 02:32:39 AM PDT

  •  I've read this book (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan Gardner

    And i must caution economics wonks that you will be disappointed with it.

    1) Michael Lind is not an economist and is not trained in the field of economics -- this shows in the book which is heavy on history and light on the economic angle.

    2) Arbitrary divisions of the progress of the American republic put forth by Lind are interesting food for thought, but not very coherent when you put it in the context of the constitution remaining quite intact in application. A change in policy or natural institutional progress isn't enough to declare a division of two separate republics within our system.

    3) The institutional overview is okay, but it misses an incredibly important discussion of money and monetary policy.

    For those more interested in a true economic history, that is, a history of economics in the US -- try Milton Friedman's (hate him for his politics all you want, but he's one of the greatest economists of the 20th century -- and dont forget, he favored a guaranteed basic income :))

    Another good writer on this topic is Richard Timberlake, who has written a couple good books on a deeper economic history that goes into the mechanics of central banking and how things have changed.

    So this is a good book to read as long as you don't go in thinking you're going to learn a lot about economics or the details of monetary policy or even 20th century post-WWII economic policy. Instead you get a historian's view and a historian's superficial understanding of what drives economic progress.  It's not inaccurate in that sense, it's merely lacking in a bit of substance in certain areas that those who are well-read on economics will find crucial to understanding the historical narrative put forth.

    tl;dr: Read the book for a historical narrative, but don't read it for any truly relevant economic perspective on things, especially for the modern age.

    Deficits don't matter, jobs do.

    by aguadito on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 04:42:37 AM PDT

  •  lind on nixon and carter am. econ. just ain't so (0+ / 0-)

    I was there.  I was a poli-sci intern in '70 and '71 and continued to follow Washington closely.  Nixon did not maintain the Big Gov/Big Union/Big Bus coalition, he gutted the National Labor Relations Board, avoided min. wage increases, and packed his cronies into Justice and thereby effectively took the teeth out of much civil rights enforcement.  Carter's election coincided with a never-seen-before, never-seen-again election of more liberal Democrats to both houses of Congress -- that Carter spent his first two years apparently more disagreeing with those Democrats than more conservative members of Congress is a total distortion of what was -- especially in economic rights for women -- a major step forward.  The airline deregulation was notable for its being different from everywhere else.  There was no "breaking of unions", the NLRB and antitrust started doing their jobs much more aggressively, etc.

    Re good economic history of the US -- I think it really should be a good economic history of America from Jamestown on, as that's the really amazing and puzzling story -- how, as never before or again so far, did this area move from what was (however much we appreciate the Native American society) a relatively small and relatively non-monetary economy, in about 270 years, to the greatest economy on Earth -- and stay that way for the next 150 years or so?  Was it luck? Culture? "Guns, germs, and steel", in Jared Diamond's phrase? The economic approach?  I really think that more attention should be paid to the ability to take the economic lead in key new technologies at key points -- somewhat akin to Paul Krugman's notion of "regional first-mover advantage" in economic theory of comparative advantage across nations.  But to do that justice, you'd have to not only look at the individual key movers, but also at what their counterparts in other nations were doing.

    In any case, I would suggest that you might consider, instead of just books about the economic history of the United States, that you read an economic history of the world from the point of view of a non-American.  In my experience, that gave me a major step forward in my understanding of American history in a world context -- especially America's role in bringing about a world-wide Great Depression (there was one by a British fellow whose name I forget, that was OK, although he downplayed the role of Churchill in helping to bring about the Depression by clinging to the gold standard).

    •  A good, forward-looking book, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      not a history, is Development as Freedom, by Nobelist Amartya Sen. If you know the basic facts of US economic development, going back to slavery, northern manufacturing, and the opening of what was at that time the West by Hamilton's Erie Canal project, Sen's perspective will illuminate everything that happened. It also illuminates our way forward in the US as we continue to battle overweening corporate financial and political power, and also continuing racism and misogyny, and globally in the fight against poverty, government corruption in former colonies, civil wars, and so on.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 10:28:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cause or Effect? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest
    ...the Big Oops of all Excel sheet problems, which just happened to be what all the insistence on austerity was based on.
    I agree w/ those who say the R-R spreadsheet was basically the fig leaf that provided cover for what they wanted to do anyway--not the cause of it.  (Do you really think they'd have followed a purely Keynesian prescription just because 70 years of economics had proven it?)

    "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

    by bartcopfan on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:29:03 AM PDT

  •  Economic Freedom (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    I hope Mr. Lind (of whom I am a fan) points out that until Lincoln's time, most Americans thought of "freedom" and "liberty" and "independence" as involving both political as well as economic ideas.  It was the railroad age that taught us that the 1776 was only about political rights, and ever since most Americans assume that it 'twas always thus.  'Twasn't.

    Need not be in the future either.  

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