Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Predator State -- James K. Galbraith-- Review

The Predator State How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market And Why Liberals Should Too by James K. Galbraith

This book is an attack on supply side and conservative economics. It argues against many accepted dogmas of current economics. There are discussions of price controls, planning, and national standards which are no longer part of the national policy debate. Numerous examples abound of how many accepted ideas are false. For example, James K. Galbraith argues that full employment is more effective for the economy because it limits waste of resources.

One of the central tenets of the book is that the free market is excessively focused on consumption and individual economic freedoms. These freedoms concentrate capital into a small number of economic hands. At the same while the free market has become sacrosant, the rights of labor have disappeared from the discussion, as well as the meaning of achieving the American dream.

This concentration of capital has created a new kind of politician. With excessive CEO pay, it allows corporate CEOs to move easily into the political sphere. Many of these corporate representatives turned politicians become predatory. Their primary interest is to extract resources from the government and turn it over to private corporations. James K. Galbraith gives numerous examples from Enron and Tyco, vouchers in schools, social security privatization, to efforts to deregulate entire industries. The majority of this extraction is occurring in programs that help the middle class.

Because most of this political and corporate activity is focused on short term profits, it often leads to financial instability in the United States. This is partially what caused the current fiscal crisis in the United States.

He further argues that the world financial trade system is not a system of free trade. The United States may not be able to maintain its position on top if it continues to generate more financial crises. The Euro or a combination of currencies could possibly take the place of the dollar.

This book is very biased against conservatives and libertarians. However, it has many important points to make. In many parts it is not an enjoyable book to read because it attacks so many basic beliefs. However, it does shed some light on the fiscal crisis in the United States.

James K. Galbraith is the son of John Kenneth Galbraith. James Galbraith holds to Keynesian economics which have gone out of style as well as many of the economic theories of John Kenneth Galbraith.

In the beginning of the book, the author states he is writing a popular book, not an academic treatise. I wish he had included some statistics and put in some charts and tables. It would have made the book far better. There is an index, but there is no bibliography. A bibliography would have been helpful. He footnotes the book, but does not include endnotes. The book is printed by the Free Press which is known for its focus on printing books with new and often radical ideas.

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