The Conscience of a Liberal

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"The most consistent and courageous—and unapologetic—liberal partisan in American journalism." —Michael Tomasky, New York Review of Books

In this "clear, provocative" (Boston Globe) New York Times bestseller, Paul Krugman, today's most widely read economist, examines the past eighty years of American history, from the reforms that tamed the harsh inequality of the Gilded Age and the 1920s to the unraveling of that achievement and the reemergence of immense economic and political inequality since the 1970s. Seeking to understand both what happened to middle-class America and what it will take to achieve a "new New Deal," Krugman has created his finest book to date, a "stimulating manifesto" offering "a compelling historical defense of liberalism and a clarion call for Americans to retake control of their economic destiny" (Publishers Weekly).

"As Democrats seek a rationale not merely for returning to power, but for fundamentally changing—or changing back—the relationship between America's government and its citizens, Mr. Krugman's arguments will prove vital in the months and years ahead." —Peter Beinart, New York Times

Customer Reviews:

  • And, the public continues to vote against its own self interest...
    "Liberalism, in other words, isn't just about the welfare state: It's about democracy and the rule of law."
    "I believe in a relatively equal society supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal, and I'm proud of it."
    It would be embarrassing to admit how long it took me to read Krugman's book. The documentation of how those in power and money- our betters- wish to fast track the segmentation of our society, so the rich can grab it all, became increasingly depressing. This was hardly a revelation...but still a painful reality. Rights, equality, and democracy are what liberalism is about. This is an important book which will be not included in the No Child Left Behind curriculum, which will not stir America to action, which will soon become totally ignored. But, prove me wrong! Read the book! Give copies to your friends! Make the U.S. a better place.
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  • Raising Our Conscience
    This is an elegantly written book for anyone wondering why the U.S. is in
    the mess it is in, and truly speaks to America's now lost values.

    Krugman reminds us of who we once were. ...more info
  • Interesting Slant
    I'm a political moderate who's eyes caught the title of this book, in a bookstore. Thinking this might be the liberal version of "Conscience of a Conservative", I bought this book. After reading this, I've got to say, that Barry Goldwater did a much better of describing conservatism in the first 10 pages of his book, then Krugman did in almost 300 pages of this book.

    There doesn't seem to be much about the "Liberal Conscience" in here, but more of a listing of stereotypes about conservatives, which, to the author anyway, are a monolithic group of elites, consistently conspiring to keep little man down, particularly the black ones. If you're a die hard liberal, then this book will reinforce every misconception you have about conservatives.

    Krugman and Ann Coulter are pretty much two peas in a pod, but Krugman seems a lot nicer....more info
  • Not Krugman's Best, But Still Worth the Read
    Paul Krugman is an incisive observer of economic trends, and his customary acumen is displayed in portions of "Conscience of a Liberal". Krugman is his best in describing the growth of U.S. income inequality since 1980, in drawing parallels between contemporary America and the pre-New Deal era, and in prescribing a way forward for America's embattled liberals and progressives. Krugman is also persuasive in arguing that political reforms drive income distribution, a theory that runs counter to substantial commentary over the past several decades that asserts that economic trends drive political developments. These elements of "Conscience of a Liberal" make worthwhile reading.

    But despite these considerable strengths, Krugman's coverage of the rise of movement conservatism is a tired repackaging of the substantial literature on the rise and rule of the political right. This material has been covered at length and in more persuasive detail by others, and there is little to be learned-- unless you are new to this subject-- by Krugman's recounting of how the Democratic Party lost the South.

    Krugman is at his best when he sticks to economics and aspects of public affairs which are linked to the subjects of living standards and income distribution. This reader looks forward to a volume in which Krugman displays his talents more fully....more info
  • Excellent economic analysis from the "liberal" perspective.
    I suppose hardcore Republicans will choke on Krugman's analysis of what has happened in America but it seems pretty impressive to me. I'm curious to know how small government "Club For Growth" types will explain the current sub prime debacle. If there is proof that markets aren't perfect and government is needed to curb the market's excesses this is it....more info
  • Heart and Brains on the Sleeve
    Economists properly equipped with a balanced combination of heart and brains did not need the Nobel Prize in order to recognize Paul Krugman's valuable contribution both to the "dismal science" and to the global public discourse (such as it is...). "The Conscience of a Liberal" is a sine-qua-non for anyone caring to analyze the current global financial (and real-economy) crisis. It isd also a great springboard for a search for the right policy mix to attain viable solutions to the huge problem we are all facing. ...more info
  • Thoroughly enjoyed this
    I listen to audio CD's a lot, and I really appreciate a competent reader. Jason Culp (the reader) does a very nice job. It helps that the material is written in a very well laid out manner with an easy style.

    Krugman is extremely convincing. His explanations of the "gilded age", "the compression", the factors which allowed the compression to unravel, and the meanings of neo-conservatism are as clear and reasoned as I've heard....more info
  • Nothing Radical Here
    For those born in the 40's and 50's who always suspected their birthright had been stolen by the conservative right in the 80's this book is a must read. For millions like myself and my family who rose from poverty to middle class success on the back of the New Deal, who found decent wages in unionism, and comfort in the prospect of an assured retirement Paul Krugman's book elucidates the foundations of those historical decades when American society approached financial equality.

    With the same clarity the author exposes how the movement conservatives starting with Ronald Regan subtly manipulated the race issue to induce poor whites across the south and elsewhere to vote repeatedly against there own self interest, thereby gaining political control in much of America.
    I have always been one to worry about the power of religion to produce negative consequences for the human race in general and America in particular. Consequently I may have given the religious right too much credit for the rise to power of movement conservatism. Krugman deals with the religion issue specifically and demonstrates how the arrow of shame points directly at racism. While that may sound discouraging to some I find hope there. I think our society has a much better chance of overcoming race as a source of conflict than overcoming religion as a source of conflict.

    The author closes the book with a proposal to return to the New Deal starting with the implementation of universal health insurance. For most of the developed world universal health care has long been established. I find it interesting that the movement conservatives have shifted the Republican party so far to the right that the Democratic party now appears to be a party of the "center". There is nothing radical about a proposal for universal health insurance. In fact, the author concludes, it is an idea whose time has come.
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  • Paul Krugman - a thinker for the ages
    As always, brilliant. He saw the freight train coming and warned us. We should listen....more info
  • Change the Title
    Excellent explaination, easy read, This book needs a new title, it should be called How we got in this mess, how we got out of it and why we're in it again! With the new title it can be passed along to friends who are afraid to read a book with the word "liberal" on it.
    ...more info
  • It's the economy, stupid
    This book wasn't quite what I had expected. From the title, I had assumed that it would be a liberal manifesto: a reasoned, yet passionate, defense of liberal principles and ideals. I thought it would focus on the core tenets of American liberalism, such as personal liberty, equality, democracy, and social justice. So, I expected lots of discussion of civil liberties, the rule of law, equal justice, due process, limits on executive power, the separation of church and state, minority rights, women's rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, etc. But that wasn't really what this book was about. Given the fact that Paul Krugman is a Nobel Prize-winning economist, I should have realized that he would focus mainly on economic issues. And that's really what this book is about. There are passing mentions of other issues that are near and dear to the hearts of liberals; but the real focus of the book is on the battle between liberals and conservatives over economic policies -- in particular, the battle over taxes and the welfare state. This is not a manifesto that attempts to defend liberal principles. Rather, it is a diagnosis of what has gone wrong with the American economy over the past several decades, and a prescription for how to fix it. Krugman traces the history of the political battles over economic policy from the Gilded Age to the present: He shows how the New Deal essentially created the middle class and ushered in an era of shared prosperity (and almost destroyed the Republican Party in the process). He shows how the conservative movement has tried to undermine the New Deal, thus weakening the middle class and creating an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Conservative economic policies have produced an economy in which a tiny group of superrich elites has been able to enjoy unprecedented prosperity, while the typical American family struggles to make ends meet. Krugman finds that unacceptable; and he is convinced that most Americans feel the same way. This book is his rallying cry for change. Krugman's goal is to rescue the New Deal from conservatives who want to dismantle it, and to advocate for a "new New Deal" that will include guaranteed health insurance for all Americans, a higher minimum wage, pro-union policies, and a more progressive tax system. He believes that these policies will reduce the gap between rich and poor, inject new life back into the middle class, and usher in a new era of shared prosperity (and possibly drive a stake through the heart of the conservative movement in the process).

    The book is very well written. Krugman is an excellent writer who is able to bring clarity and style to a subject that, in the hands of a lesser writer, might be dull or confusing. And, even though it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I still enjoyed reading Krugman's book, and found it quite informative. If you consider yourself a liberal or a moderate, I highly recommend that you give it a read. (But, if you're a conservative, you can skip it -- it'll just make you mad.)...more info
  • French Health System verses Medicare, Medicaid, and VA Health
    1. Health care is the number one policy issue of the 20th century
    2. The World Health Organization considers the French Health system ranked number one.
    3. The French health system covers everyone. People are encouraged to buy additional insurance to cover more medical expenses. The poor receive subsidies to cover additional medical expenses.
    4. Many French hospitals are government owned.
    5. The French Health System places a strong emphasis on preventive care.
    6. The French Health system looks like an expanded version of Medicare.
    7. An American version of the French Health system would cost more than the French system.
    8. Health costs are increase because technology and medicines is advancing. The new drugs and treatments cover more sickness and aliments but cost more too allow biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries to recoup investment costs.
    9. Medicare leaves about 45 million people without coverage. Extending Medicare to everyone would require about 4 percent of GDP. It will be difficult to pass tax increases of the size need to cover everyone.
    10. Medicare type coverage may replace of the much of the insurance American already have. Automatic placement in the Health plan deprives of choice. Private-Public competition provides diversity of choice.
    11. Medicare claims to have efficiency in administrative and thereby reduce cost. Medicare spends 2 percent of its fund on administration. In 2005, 80 million American were covered by government programs, Medicare and Medicaid and VA Health. 198 million were covered by private insurance. As of 2001, 65 of employees had employer based insurance, but by 2005, the percentage had dropped 59 percent. Health care spending had increased from 5.2 percent of GDP in 1960 too 16 percent of GDP.
    12. In 2004, US spent $6,102 per person, almost twice Canada, France, German, or Britain.
    13. The most dangerous government programs are the ones that work well because they legitimize the welfare state.

    Wealth Drain in the 1950s

    1. In the 1950s, people were not growing wealthy, but more were getting along.
    2. In the 1950s, there was a sharp reduction in the income gap between the rich and the working class.
    3. The Great Compression demonstrates how politics can force distribution of income.
    4. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman presided over the redistribution of income.
    5. The rich had better purchasing power in 1920 than 1950.
    6. In 1964, President Lydon Johnson preach the Great Society welfare doctrines.
    7. In the 1950s, the United States became a middle class nation.
    8. By the mid 1950s the real after-tax income of the richest 1 percent was probably 20 to 30 percent lower than it had been a generation earlier. The median family income had nearly double since 1929; security increased as employers offered health insurance and retirement plan. By 1950, sixty percent of employees had a health plan,.
    9. By 1955, a majority of American owned a car and 70 percent owned a telephone.
    10. Investment opportunities start market forces emerging business and attracting cheap rural labor to the cities. The country industrializes, a new elite emerges, and ordinary workers mire in poverty. Technology changes place a premium on skill, new concerns on equality take a look back on inequality, and market force drive wages higher.
    11. Top income tax rate rose to 63 percent in the Roosevelt administration and 79 percent in the second. By the mid 1950s, as the US faced expenses of the Cold War, it had risen to 91 percent. The revenue corporation were allow to keep significantly reduced. From 1929 to 1955, the average Federal tax increased from 25 percent to 45 percent. The richest 1 percent of America owned 20 percent in 1920s and only 10 percent by 1950s. The New Deal taxed away most of the rich income. FDR was consider a traitor to his class.
    12. During the Great Depression many employers reduced wages and gave strength to angry workers organized to fight pay cuts. The government shift from agent of the bosses to protector of the workers and helped drive the right to organize. Unions raise the wages for their members. Union reduce the wage gap between blue collar workers and higher paid occupations of managers and professionals.
    13. War creates huge inflationary pressure leading to government price controls generating scarcity and rationing on key commodities. Labor shortages created by war demands increase wages in many key national industries. The government decides which jobs will have high paying wages.
    ...more info
  • Krugman is insightful
    Paul Krugman has a far-reaching view of our nation's economic future, based on his knowledge of our economic and political past. There aren't many pundits who can match his grasp of history....more info
  • seminal book - a must read in a decisive historical moment
    For a decade I have been reading Krugman's texts that he published as social commentator and columnist. I've always admired his writing - his insights made on the basis of his expert economic knowledge combined with clear and concise style - but I wondered about his extremely critical assessments that, in comparison to conventional wisdom of the past decade, often sounded way too bleak. He warned about housing bubble years in advance and he correctly evaluated the future consequences of Bush's disastrous neoconservative policies. In comparison to complacent judgments of commentariat in the American media he sometimes made an impression of an extreme doomsayer out of touch with reality. A retrospective glance from the the beginning of 2009 at the moment of raging crisis validates his views as prophetic. I've just read new edition of his Depression economics and A Conscience of a Liberal - both superb and superior works. Especially Conscience of a Liberal seems to be a seminal work that represents a turning point for popular understanding of political economy. The neoconservative push for free markets, deregulation and deconstruction of welfare state, an ideology that was dominant in politics and among mainstream media pundits for at least since Reagan's reign, seems to be at an end and Krugman has pretty good explanation why. It's important to note that Krugman is not a Marxist but a prominent Keynesian economist of centrist bent that offers radically different view of the last half century. I believe that his new narrative of recent political and economic history will be validated again and again by historical developments and will in the end prevail....more info
  • If we'd only listened
    Krugman is an eminent economist, and one, if he's foolish enough, might serve us as a damn good Secretary of the Treasury (if there's any treasure left). A sad story of the destruction of the middle class and the lies told to justify it. An essential text for the history of the last 100 years or so. ...more info
    This was one of the best books I have read in years, and I'm a voracious reader. It talks about the history of liberalism in the USA and makes forceful recommendations for a progressive agenda. One of his points is that it is perfectly possible to be a liberal and a patriotic American unlike what the conservatives would have you believe. I strongly encourage you to get this as gifts for liberal friends or for yourself. ...more info
  • Must read before the next elections
    This book describes how the Republican policies of the last 40 years have contributed to rising inequalities in America, and how the middle and lower class have been hurting from the attempts by the Republican administrations to shrink the social safety net - e.g. attempts by G.W. Bush to privatize social security - and to favor the very rich. Will the next president achieve as much as FDR did, make America a middle-class nation again, and be able to implement universal health care?
    As a foreign-born (French) reader, one interesting aspect was the comparison of the social benefits in the US versus all other "developed" countries. The US are the only "advanced" country not to have universal healthcare, have by far the least benefits for the poor, the unemployed or the sick, and correspondingly have the most income inequality.
    I believe that the US deserve better than what they have today. Most Americans are compassionate but keep electing presidents and congressmen that are not. It's striking to witness how politicians whose policies benefit the top 1% of the society can convince a majority of people to vote for them, mainly by distracting the voters from their own economic interest (Krugman explains this very well). If you are an independent, I strongly suggest to read this book before the next elections. I must say I have become somewhat of a Krugman fan lately - I highly recommend his NY Times columns as well as his blog. Krugman for President :-)...more info
  • Do Democrats have the strength to reclaim the New Deal?
    What follows is as brief a synopsis as I can come up with for The Conscience of a Liberal.

    At the close of the Hoover administration, it was clear that a Democrat would be elected to the presidency. It was by no means clear, though, that we'd get FDR and the New Deal. Out of catastrophe we got protection for the unemployed, for the elderly, and for the poor; and got job relief. The going was hard, but FDR did it.

    For a few years the forces of reaction tried desperately to roll back the New Deal. Out of that we got McCarthyism, whose purpose wasn't to root out Communists but rather to reverse the New Deal. As Richard Hofstadter put it, "Had the Great Inquisition been directed only against Communists, it would have tried to be more precise and discriminating in its search for them: in fact, its leading practitioners seemed to care little for the difference between a Communist and a unicorn."

    McCarthy lost. The Republicans made their peace with the New Deal after beating up on Truman for a while (Korea and all that). Out of this accommodation came Eisenhower. The New Deal was by now far too popular to overthrow, so Republicans and Democrats came together for 30 years or so. They really were "Republicrats" in that interval -- parties without many essential differences on policy. There was even a marriage of convenience between Northern Democrats, who supported greater rights for blacks, and Southern Democrats who obviously didn't. But the South derived a lot of benefit from the New Deal (read especially volume 1 of Robert Caro's LBJ bio, on the electrification of rural Texas), so they clung to the party. It didn't hurt that the South had always been Democrats, since Republicans had been the party of Lincoln.

    The New Deal, and especially the tax policies that went along with it, led to greater income equality than the U.S. had seen in half a century. Political moderation went along with economic leveling.

    But the legacy of slavery tore apart the Democratic party. LBJ's signing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts was the death knell. The Dixiecrats had enough. They split off and became Republicans. The GOP exploited this. Republicans became more and more extreme, using all the codewords of race ("states' rights" and so forth) to disguise what they were really after. Today the GOP is dominated by two wings: the businessmen, who wish for more immigration (cheaper labor) and lower taxes; and the rural, conservative Christian wing that is afraid of blacks and immigrants.

    The GOP is corrupt and has become the party of cronyism. This cronyism is at its worst in the Iraq War: we elected people who explicitly wish to destroy government, so we shouldn't expect that they'd put their hearts into governing. They especially wouldn't be able to run a war. Wars call for shared sacrifice and for increased taxes, two things that Republicans are loath to defend. The GOP's utter failure in the Iraq War will cut out one of its fundamental pillars, namely that it's strong on defense. Its constant accusations that Democrats are the party of taxing and spending should have died long ago.

    The weakness of unions plays a crucial role in all of this. Republicans gutted unions in the 70's and 80's, starting with Goldwater. It didn't have to happen this way, and contrary to popular belief it has nothing to do with a postindustrial economy: European nations, and Canada, have by and large maintained their unions' strengths; only the U.S. and Britain -- dominated by Reagan and Thatcher -- have lost significant union membership, because conservatives looked the other way while companies illegally fired union-organizing employees.

    Hence Democrats find themselves poised at a crucial moment. With all the momentum and much of the power, they could reinstate the New Deal. They could succeed where Truman and Nixon failed, and institute national health insurance. In so doing, they could prove to Americans that government can work. We know that national health insurance can work, because it does work in every other advanced industrialized nation. With health care successful, we could reclaim a progressive nation and finally take the country back from the reactionaries. And we could re-empower unions, giving power back to the people and taking it away from the robber barons.

    All of these are Krugman's observations. Compromise with the GOP, says Krugman, is impossible. It was impossible during the New Deal, and it's impossible now. We won then because the public overwhelmingly wanted what FDR offered. We will win now -- if we fight like hell -- because universal health insurance is what the public wants. We cannot compromise with those who seek the destruction of all we stand for.

    The question is whether Democrats have the leadership to bring us what we deserve....more info
  • Synthesis
    This book is a very readable history of economics and politics in the U.S. brought to bear on today's financial times. Mr. Krugman has the unique ability to speak in lay terms and provide an excellent framework for understanding where we've been,where we are and where we're going....more info
  • Don't gild the lily!

    What made US incomes so equal for a generation after WW2? And why has inequality since returned to Gilded Age levels? Not globalisation or technology, says Krugman, but changes in social norms and institutions.

    The "Great Compression" was brought about during World War II, when full employment, wage controls and unionisation equalised wages, and what the rich still got was taxed heavily. A generation later, a determined conservative movement reversed these changes. Minimum wages, unions and progressive taxation were weakened, as well as less tangible norms about acceptable pay levels.

    How did this movement succeed, when the average American was worse off as a result? Four simple words: the South went Republican.

    This barebones story comes with plenty of meat. Other explanations for both economic and political trends are considered carefully before being rejected, on grounds of size or timing. On most of these issues, I have little to say other than "I agree." To the nitpicking!

    There is a certain amount of double dipping, particularly on the political side, with nearly identical material repeated in different chapters. And on health care, inequality, and youth unemployment, he repeatedly picks a particular explanation, shows that it explains some of the problem, and proceeds as if it explains all of the problem. (I can't get his numbers to add up on unemployment either, but that might be my mistake.) Most of all, I would love to know what changed his opinion on the minimum wage (and, by implication, unions) from 1998:

    "What is remarkable, however, is how this rather iffy result [Card and Kreuger] has been seized upon by some liberals as a rationale for making large minimum wage increases a core component of the liberal agenda . . . Clearly these advocates very much want to believe that the price of labor--unlike that of gasoline, or Manhattan apartments--can be set based on considerations of justice, not supply and demand, without unpleasant side effects."
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  • The Conscience of a Liberal
    My husband received the book for Christmas and raves about it (likewise a close friend of ours). A must read for people interested in our government. It tells how our government got to be the way it is, and some ideas on how to fix it....more info
  • A must read!
    Bought this book after hearing a Commonwealth Club lecture from Paul Krugman on NPR and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mr. Krugman writing style makes the economic and political material he covers very easy to follow and understand. This book should be mandatory reading for all Democratic members of congress and included in the curriculum of all political science courses. A must read for anyone who considers them self to be an informed citizen and voter. ...more info
  • Conscience of a Liberal
    This book is essential for everyone who wants to save our democracy and our economy for the likes of Rush Limbaugh....more info
  • "Movement Conservative" Expose
    The title of this book is the antithesis of "The Conscience of a Conservative," the book penned by Barry Goldwater. I think another title would encourage a broader spectrum of readers, but the author's point is to discredit "movement conservative," to thrash it into the ground. Krugman seems to hold nothing back in his scorn for "movement conservative," which he feels has been the basis for the extreme polarization of the political parties of late. He thrives on the comparisons between conservatives and liberals. That is the point of his book.

    With "movement conservative" potentially crushed in the 2008 elections (which he could not foresee with certainty in his book written in 2007), and if the new liberal government goes on to perform well in a new New Deal effort, the result will be a renewal of our two-party system that keeps the other side "honest," but does not demand domination over decades, per Krugman.
    The book flows well and is highly efficient in telling its story. The details are there, and the principals in the story are brought to life with credible simplicity. Presidents, for example:
    FDR: "FDR's mission in office was to show that government activism works....And he did." "FDR's success gave liberal intellectuals credibility and prestige...."
    Truman: "In 1946, Truman proposed a system of national health insurance that would have created a single-payer system." "(His) bid failed in the face of opposition from two critical groups: The American Medical Association and Southern whites."
    Eisenhower: "...taxes on corporations and the rich were even higher during the Eisenhower years than they had been under FDR." "...he preached `moderation,' and considered those who wanted to roll back the New Deal "stupid." "...Eisenhower's `modern' Republicans took control of their party...."
    Nixon: "...Nixon governed like a liberal in many ways: He indexed Social Security for inflation...expanded government regulation of workplace safety and the environment, and even tried to introduce universal health insurance." "Nixon was a transitional figure....For Nixon it was all personal." "...he did not share the conservative movement's hatred for government intervention and the welfare state." "...he was a pragmatist, rather than an ideologue." "(But he) showed how the dark side of America...above all, race, could be used to win elections."
    Reagan: "Ronald Reagan... ran for Governor of California in part on a promise to repeal the state's fair housing act." "The youth rebellion (of the 60's) frightened and infuriated many Americans - Ronald Reagan in particular." "(He) was able to signal sympathy for racism without every saying anything overtly racist." "(He) tried and failed to slash Social Security benefits." "Reagan taught the movement (conservative) how to clothe elitist economic ideas in populist rhetoric."
    Clinton: "Clinton famously tried to introduce a form of universal health care - and completely failed." A major reason for his failure was that he did not get started on the issue soon enough. He was preoccupied with budget issues. He simply was not ready with the details of his health care plan. His campaign had not gotten into any specifics. "...Bill Clinton never had a well-defined agenda. In a fundamental sense, he didn't know what he was supposed to do....and he didn't build a movement."
    George W. Bush: "(In 2004), the nation rallied around George Bush, as he promised to punish the `evildoers' responsible for 9/11 and bring in Osama dead or alive." "We may never know why his administration wanted that war so badly." "...the war worked to Bush's advantage for a surprisingly long time." "Without that purge (in Florida of voters identified as felons), George W. Bush would not
    have made it to the White House."

    The thesis of the book includes the argument that "movement conservatism has been antidemocratic, with an attraction to authoritarianism, from the beginning." Krugman says that "conservatives insist that those in power have the right to do as they please." Walking a bit of a thin line here, he goes on to say that "The only way a progressive agenda can be enacted is if Democrats have both the presidency and a large enough majority in Congress to overcome Republican opposition." (And do as they please?) What may be missing here, is an analysis of how that mentality led to the downfall of the Bush administration and the Republican right after the 2004 election?

    Another element of his thesis is that the benefits of the post-WWII boom came to the end in the `70's, with the economic crisis brought on by rising inflation and high oil prices. What has followed has been a rapid "concentration of income in the hands of a small minority." And once the funding was combined with the political leadership, the "vast right-wing conspiracy" was born, "as we know today."

    Krugman sees health care as the primary issue for a new liberal administration. He argues that the moral case for universal health care isn't in dispute and that "Health care reform is the natural centerpiece of a new New Deal." He provides comparisons of the current U.S. system vs. nations with universal care to reach his conclusion that "We're off the charts in terms of what we pay for care, but only in the middle of the pack in terms of what we get for our money." This is a good chapter, full of all kinds of statistics and insights, including that Medicare was signed by President Johnson "less than nine months after his victory in the 1964 election." "Thus, it's a very good thing that health care reform has become a central issue in the current presidential campaign." He adds that universal health care is not a revolutionary or radical idea today and that there are many examples to follow that are well-tested. And back to real politics, "Getting universal care should be the key domestic priority for modern liberals."
    Although it is not talked about it much in the book, I'd think that immigration reform would be another priority for "modern liberals," both for real politic and for humanitarian and other reasons. Krugman notes that "immigration is a deeply divisive issue for the for the coalition that supports movement conservative....(and) The obvious reality that an important wing of the Republican Party is bitterly anti-immigrant pushes non-white immigrants into the arms of the Democratic Party. " And, "Republicans have sought to contain this problem by keeping immigrants and their descendants disenfranchises as long as possible."
    There is much more in this excellent book, and most of it is full of witty insight, e.g., "an obsession with other people's sexual lives has been an enduring factor in movement conservatism - a key source of the movement's, um, passion." And, "Movement conservatism...found a mass popular base by finding ways to appeal to two grassroots sentiments: white backlash and paranoia about communism." And: Ronald Reagan's 1966 California campaign marked the first great electoral success for movement conservative. And one more: "...both long term trends in American society and recent events have damaged the ability of movement conservatives to change the subject, to mask the reality that they are on the side of the privileged...."
    In summary, if you consider yourself a "liberal," you will probably love this book and find all kinds of reinforcement for your base positions. If you consider yourself a "conservative," you will most likely not read the book. But if Krugman turns out to be right, the difference between the two parties will cease to be as extreme as they have been, assuming that the Obama administration is successful operationally in its legislation and in making the collective good the primary goal once more.
    At that point, someone can write the book, "The Conscience of a Centrist." Seems like a nice thought to me.

    ...more info
  • O.K. Social History Economist?
    I have to say, I was dissapointed with this book. The central thesis of the book is that markets never created the middle class lifestyle prevalent in the 1950's and 1960's but that this came about as a result of policies instituted as part of the New Deal. With the rise of the movement conservativism since the 1970's these policies have deteriorated and so has the middle class they created. Krugman believes it is possible to return to a more egalitarian distribution of wealth (and correspondingly for most, a higher quality of life than we currently enjoy) through a resurrection of New Deal values particularly an emphasis on strong unions. Krugman describes vaguely policies of the New Deal, guesses at their social/economic ramifications and spends quite a bit of time on the rise of Movement Conservativism. Krugman's idea is interesting and timely but he really doesn't do a very good job in supporting his argument. I was dissapointed in the lack of detail examining New Deal policies and their economic consequences and most of the social history Krugman covers is somewhat vague. As Krugman is an economist I was really expecting the book to involve substantial quantitative analysis, but I don't recall running across one statistic in the whole book and most of his conclusions seem like he is making a good guess. The whole book seems as through it was more of a first draft where he is fleshing out his basic ideas but still has as yet to go back and do the tedious work of substantiating them with....fact. In a nutshell, compelling idea but very poor on follow-through. Particularly dissapointing because the idea itself is really worth writing about. Also, the title really seems to market itself to an audience that identifies itself as "liberal" when in reality citizens of any political persuasion would benefit from this read....more info
  • The New Dominant Paradigm Fueling Political Momentum
    The reason we study history is not only to avoid the mistakes of the past but also to follow the trends that inevitably lead us into the future. As evidenced by his latest book, Paul Krugman has a special talent for navigating the economic roadmap of American history. By making comparisons concerning income inequality in the pre-depression era and their relevance to the current era, he discovered the trend that would lead to the crash of 2008. This remarkably persuasive timeline stepped on the invisible hand of the market and foretold of a return to the policies and ideals once celebrated as the New Deal. With the election of Barack Obama as President, Paul's pragmatic progressivism appears to have become the new dominant paradigm fueling political momentum. After combing the fine grains of this clearly defined essay, you'll understand completely why he was awarded the Nobel Prize. It took courage to stand against the heavy winds of propaganda and declare a counterpoint refutation against the conservative powers of our times. By the end of the book I was truly proud to call myself a Liberal. ...more info
  • The Conscience of a Liberal
    Although I don't know why Mr. Krugman decided to use this title, since it is already a well known title from the late Senator Paul Wellstone's book, I thorougly enjoyed this read. How comforting to know that we still have unabashed liberals who are willing to lay it all on the line. This book illustrates in deft detail how the middle class was created and then systematically destroyed. It explains the rise of the Gilded Age, it's destruction and then resurrection as a meaner nihilistic manifestation of our greed than ever before. The book illuminates the peculiar phenomenon that finds citizens voting for their aspirations and against their own present self interests. Truly, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Our regressive tax policies have resulted in the destruction of the middle class existence. If one who advocates a "no new taxes" position, can read this book and not feel a sense of shame and regret, they are truly devoid of emotion. Mr. Krugman has thrown down the gauntlet. It is up to all intelligent progressives to respond in kind. ...more info
  • Gretchenfrage: distribution equality
    From the latest Nobel winner for economics a political statement and a historical overview of American politics since the early 20th century. Key themes of the story are the impact of race and racism on election results; the development of the 'compression', ie a more equal distribution of income from the New Deal to the 80s, and the more unequal trend since then; the take over of the Republican party by fundamentalist conservatives; the need for a radical health care reform.
    This has been summarized by other reviewers. For me as an outsider looking in, it is always fascinating how terms have different meaning in America.
    Consider this quote: "Even liberal economists have a healthy respect for the effectiveness of markets as a way of organizing economic activity."
    This shows mainly how far the US has moved away from European languages. As a matter of fact, liberal economists are the ones who argue for the market in first place. What you call 'liberal' should be called different names. Maybe 'progressive'; Krugman discusses this term in the book.
    Your conservatives would be 'neo-liberals' in Europe, and they are actually the real radicals in the game. Milton Friedman was as radical as Marx, and like Marx, he was a dangerous man with brillant insights (Krugman admits that Friedman deserved his Nobel regardless of political implications). There is nothing more dangerous than the belief in (any)absolute truth!
    Since the book is essentially a political pamphlet, Krugman does not go very deep in most of his statements. I would wish for a more thorough analysis of the following:
    "Middle class societies don't emerge automatically as an economy matures, they have to be created through political action."
    That would be a starting hypothesis for a different book, that I would like to read from Krugman. Is the middle class society a means to an end? Is it a value in itself? What is the relation between sustainable growth and distribution structures? How do the 'values' of the opposing political camps relate to the implications of this question?...more info
  • A lot of yarn based on false premises
    This book does not let reality get in the way of storytelling. The whole premise of the New Deal being the solution to the Great Depression ignores the fact that the New Deal was a failure, and that the economy did not rebound until after the massive government spending of WW2 and the foreign demand created by the damaged infrastructure overseas.

    This book is a not-so-thinly veiled political hack story. If you agree with the ideology, you will probably like the writing. If you don't or are undecided, this book won't be helpful....more info
  • A Liberal Bible Worth Memorizing
    From the Long Guilded Age to the Great Depression to the Great Compression to the Great Diversion and now with the Democrats and Obama in office, we are once again in a position to restore the New Deal, economic equality, democracy and bring back American liberalism.

    This book is my philosophy, I am a liberal and proud of it. I have been watching the United States during the past 30 years go up in conservative bigotry and supply-side economics, where the wealthy grow more wealth, the poor loose what they have, being economically starved, the middle class shrink and the government turn into a domestically small incompetant entity based on corruption and partisan loyalty, the very antithesis of what the United States has stood for; liberty, community and equality.

    I recommend memorizing this book, its one of the best out there....more info
  • The Conscience of a Liberal
    This is a well-written and entertaining piece as are all of Paul Krugman's works. He hits the nail on the head in all cases, and enlightens, and inspires. ...more info
  • The Conscience of a Liberal
    After Paul Krugman received the Nobel Prize in economics, I bought the only Krugman book the local book store had on the shelf. Unfortunately, "The Conscience of a Liberal" was the wrong choice to fully inform a person on Krugman's economic theories. It is a political commentary with an economics flavor.

    The book will change the politics of very few people. Krugman draws a deliberate line in the sand and for the most part stays well to the left of it. There are some exceptions. He builds such a strong foundation for his position on health care that only a minority of Americans will not join him. Who among us does not believe that the strength of our nation improves if our children grow up healthy, if fewer people suffer disability, or that money spent on preventing illness and disease means overall savings in health cost. Krugman lays out a strong case that the United States is one of the weaker nations in the industrial world when it comes to health care. The chapter on health care is even more noteworthy today than when written.

    The copyright of my copy is 2007 but, except for the section on health care, much of the book is already dated. In fact, the 2008 election goes a long way toward confirming many of Krugman's assertions.

    This book introduced me to a new term; movement conservatism; and although it plays a large part in the book, I am still not sure how to define it. Although the book doesn't specifically define the phrase, readers will finish the book feeling that they have a good intuitive grasp of the meaning.

    Since the Eisenhower years, Krugman believes that movement conservatism has systematically used a variety of means to gain and maintain political power. Movement conservatives have employed racial division as a fundamental tool and the Republican ascendency in the past half century is directly a result of using race to turn southern white voters from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. The conservative establishment uses the media to disguise their motives and to maintain control over public opinion. In addition to race; they invoke religion, moral values, and national security when convenient. Vote suppression, either indirectly or through outright fraud, has occurred.

    Movement conservatives distrust the public and democracy. They place great weight on money and big business. Power and political control are even more important. Democratic institutions and the public good, popularly referred to as Progressive policies, are the converse of movement conservatism. Krugman favors a strong middle class with a much narrower margin between the general public and the super-rich than exists today. Much of the present non-American industrialized world, as well as the American period extending from FDR's final years into the Eisenhower presidency, is much closer to this ideal than is America today.

    Krugman sees the conservative influence in American politics as waxing and waning. It peaked in the early twentieth century. It fell out of favor following the Great Depression and during the FDR years. It roared back into power after Ronald Reagan was elected and peaked as Republicans steamrolled through Congress in the Gingrich years. He thinks that the movement may now be waning again.

    Immigration is a factor that movement conservatives used to their advantage for a time but that has since become a divisive issue for the Republican Party. Big business favors immigration that brings them cheap labor while lower-class whites in the country's midsection are distrustful of immigration. Further, immigration is causing a decrease in the percentage of white, non-Hispanic Americans. At the same time, polls show that white, non-Hispanic Americans are growing more tolerant of minorities.

    Krugman feels that within a democracy, movement conservatism contains the seeds of its own destruction. The Republicans, with guidance from the movement conservatives, have somehow adopted the traditional liberal stance of striving to change the status quo. They want to change long-established institutions such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, strong unions, and many First Amendment rights. Since this works against the interests of the majority of voters, the electorate becomes enlightened and turns against the conservatives. He points to the 2004 and 2006 elections as indications that this may be happening. I am sure that he would now add the 2008 election as a near fatal blow, at least for the present.
    ...more info
  • Important Message but Nothing Really New
    I'm a big fan of Paul Krugman and my views about good government closely mirror his own however I may have read one too many books by writers with similar ideologies because there was very little new for me in this book. His one big idea is that many of the political decisions made in the last 60 years ago are based around race. For instance he argues that the reason that the United States doesn't have universal healthcare is because southern politicians (correctly) believed it would have forced the region to racially integrate their hospitals. Republicans have successfully leveraged the racial fears of southern whites to create a powerful voting block but as the U.S. becomes less white and whites become less apt to shiver at racial scare tactics, the Republican's may find this blunt tool has become a heavy anchor (see George Allen).

    The core of the book is something that Paul Krugman has been harping on for years; that the gap between the rich and poor has increased to levels not seen since America's Gilded Age and the growing disparity shows no sign of abating. Krugman writes, "Money buys influence, and as the richest few percent of American's have grown richer... they have become rich enough to buy themselves a party" (some might argue two parties). So what we have is a feedback loop. The wealthy can buy influence, to gain votes, to allow them to grow wealthier and buy more influence. It is a huge threat to democracy but as the writer states, `From the beginning... the [conservative] movement was profoundly undemocratic, concerned, above all, with defending religion and property'. Krugman's point is that left to its own devices our economy will continue to inexorably swing towards the wealthy unless government intervenes.

    Krugman is your classic liberal economist standing opposed to the Darwinian winner takes all economic philosophies of pure free market capitalism. Despite George W. Bush's attempt to demonstrate just how corrupt and incompetent the federal government can be, Krugman's still holds the faith that harnessing the power of a nation of over 300 million people can achieve great things and only through government intervention can inequities be managed. The author refers to the current strain of Conservativism as movement conservativism to differentiate it from classic conservativism. The difference is that movement conservatism is a new strain of radicalism that desires to tear down the system, the system being the welfare state that has been in place for the past 60 years.

    It's not that I disagree at all with what Krugman is saying. It's that I've heard it all before. I already realize that the fuel of the Republican Party is cronyism. I'm aware of the very real `right wing conspiracy' and how it has created an interlocking set of partisan institutions. I know that CEO salaries are skyrocketing while middle class incomes have stagnated for over a decade. Regardless of how much I may agree with his ideas I have to remove one star for lack of originality. Others who are less voracious readers of liberal politics may find this book more enlightening but for me it was just a rehash. Still, Paul Krugman is an important voice and I hope his message is heard....more info
  • Being a liberal makes economic sense
    I always had social reasons for being a liberal and now I have economic ones as well. I have not read other books about economics because I thought it was all boring and would be over my head. Paul Krugman explains it all so well. I will recommend this book to everyone....more info
  • Conscience of a Liberal
    I give this book a five star rating. I believe it is a must read for every voting American. Paul Krugman carefully reviews the political climate of recent administrations and makes sense out of trends that have been very puzzling to me. He documents the very real cohesive conspiracy developed by so called conservatives (Movement conservatism) that has led to the increasing inequality between rich and poor. He calls on people of good will who want government by law with concern for poor as well as the rich to demand conservation of true American values not based on the greed of a few. ...more info
  • Brilliant
    Paul Krugman is like the Carl Sagan of economics (and now of politics too). He takes a lot of sometimes complex information and distills it in a way that it makes sense and from which insights can be drawn. He helps readers "separate the forest from the trees."

    His books on global economics have given me more insight into how the economy functions than several semesters of economics courses.

    This new book on economics and politics has that same clarity. You will gain an understanding of both sides' point of view and the context. Krugman himself has a clear point of view about where we should be headed (more social programs starting with healthcare, and less income inequality). But whether you agree or disagree with that view, you'll come away far more informed about the issues, and the recent history of the conservative movement....more info
  • An impassioned plea for a return to government that works for the people
    Krugman manages to do a number of things in this book, with great success:

    1. Lay a solid base. The book provides a well laid explanation of why our economy, and our nation, is where it is. The crux of Krugman's argument is income equality. He equates our crash in 1929 to it, our strength in the 50's & 60's to a lack of it, and targets it as our great weakness now.

    2. It shows the cracks in the opposition. The book speaks of cracks in the base of the Conservative movement. It traces the origin, and explains why even at the height of power, the movement conservative's rise to power was an anomaly created from a backlash to Civil Rights. It goes further in giving a sensible, even confident, explanation why the Conservatives would begin to lose power. This section was an eye opener for me, on many levels. It makes a lot of sense, and puts the past 30 years of politics in a completely different light.

    3. It gives a reasonable path to sanity. Here the focus is health care. Krugman explains why we need a new system, what would make up the ideal one, and how we can get there. The beauty of this portion of the book isn't so much the rock solid, if predictable, analysis. No, what really shines here is the common sense, reasonable means, of reaching the goal. Reading liberal policy, on such a scale -- health care for everyone -- that actually is achievable, is amazing.

    4. Finally, the book ends with an passionate plea. It explains why the time is now, and why that time could extend a very long time if the right choices are made. It's uplifting and provides optimism about what could come from government -- something that has long been lacking.

    Highly recommended.
    ...more info
  • please read this before the next presidential election
    Those people nostalgic for the good old days of the 50's should read this book to find out why. It's basically a political history of America based on economics.

    Finally a liberal comes out to define what the word "liberal" really means, a word which has been demonized by Rush Limbaugh's definition for the past 15 years with nobody trying to correct it. America was created by liberal values and it's the "conservative" radicals who are trying to dismantle the country we love.

    Krugman's arguments are well thought out, well documented, and very readable. If you've lived through America in the 20th century you know his story rings true.

    Perhaps the era of the Movement Conservatives is finally over (William F. Buckley died today), let's hope, but please read this book before the next presidential election and show it to your friends. If you're worried about the healthcare crisis or where this country is headed, this will give you direction.

    To be informed, citizens and voters everywhere should read this....more info
  • Worrying about widening inequality
    This book is valuable if for nothing else than as a counter to the extremes that the current Administration have pushed in public policy. It traces through three periods - the "Long Gilded Age", the "Great Compression", and the Reagan era of movement conservatives - to show some of the factors behind the shifting weight of economic inequality in American history. It ends on a partisan note - not exactly the best way to win over converts; but it does make some strong points about the way politics have affected economics, and there is an excellent chapter on the dire need to reform the health care system.

    Whatever the precise figures are, it is quite clear that since the 1980s a wealthy elite has become considerably wealthier while the average American's inflation-adjusted income has stayed relatively the same. The division is growing to the point that the once relatively homogeneous society, in which the baby boomers grew up, is splitting more and more into haves and have-nots. Anyone who has any sense of history and cares about democratic institutions should be concerned about this deepening division. Concentration of wealth inevitably leads to a concentration of political power and then to injustice, which does not go hand-in-hand with democracy. We have seen some of the fall-out in the culture of corruption and crony capitalism - the influence of big money. The author makes the argument that the Horatio Alger success story has become more difficult to duplicate in this day. As the importance of influence increases, the importance of merit decreases.

    The book may seem excessively one-sided with its continuous portrayal of the Republicans as being the party of exclusivity and greed and the Democrats fighting for the salt-of-the-earth American worker, but consider what has resulted from the alignment of big money with movement conservatism in taking control of the Republican Party. What we see here is more a perpetuation of an ideology that sustains itself through influence than a movement that is intent on coming to grips with real problems. The intelligentsia that spins out this ideology has become one big echo chamber due to well-funded think tanks. People who tow the line even if they blunder enormously, like Paul Wolfowitz, are rewarded. Write something in dissent or profess a disloyalty, like Bruce Bartlett against George W, and you find yourself looking for a job. Meanwhile, we have leaders who spin out fantasies about Iraq or the free markets, while what goes on beyond the babble, whether it be the surge or the subprime mortgage mess, appears to be quite different....more info
  • Nobel Prize Guy Breaks It Down for Pitbulls & Plumbers
    My wife and I listen to a lot of CD books driving to and from Florida. This one beats them all. During the the Wall Street Giveaway, Krugman got our attention with the clarity of his TV interviews. He simplifies without distortion.
    In this book, he also explains, with clear and expert economic and political analysis, the manipulation machinery, purchased politicians, and derailed democracy of the last 30 years. I have always felt that our Republican Party abandoned conservatism and embraced radicalism since Reagan. Krugman says exactly this, out loud and explains how and why it has come about. The cynical anti-American bunch that has overseen the mammoth transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich, the destruction of our national security and the embrace of the communist Chinese is exposed by Krugman.
    If you have experienced unease with those who have driven the country into the ground, listen to this book for a message of hope in the economic trend that Krugman sees ahead. If you consider yourself an enthusiastic "Republican", read the book if you dare to know where your kind are headed. If you watched the Democratic Convention and wondered why the place was overflowing with Eisenhower Republicans and military chiefs, read the book. If you want to know why Fox News ratings are down and why people are finally seeing through what billionaire elitist, communist-friendly foreigner, Rupert Murdoch would have us believe about our own country, read the book.
    What I guess I liked most is that Krugman wades through the facts and figures showing the monumental waste, welfare for the rich, cheating and lying that has infected America but does not leave us bleeding and drowning in negativity. His last few chapters (written in summer 2007 before the neo-Con economic implosion was complete) testify to the changing trends that no longer favor the radical right and the "New Gilded Age". The chapter on raising our Health Care system up from 37th in the world and saving billions of dollars is worth the price of the book.
    Yes, Ann Coulter is still out there babbling about the non-existent "left-wing media bias" and how the wealth from her hate-speech-filled books is gonna be redistributed under Obama. (Who would want that blood money??) Bernie Madoff is still free on bail (for what reason?), transferring all his stolen wealth to safe-havens. BUT, the landslide election of vast numbers of people with a different idea of who democracy serves verifies that Krugman is on to something.
    I said to my wife that the end of the book reminds me of Winston Smith's words to the wealthy power-elite at the end of Orwell's 1984 "Life will defeat you." America's nature is to be open, diverse, and full of opportunity for life, liberty and happiness for everyone. Life will defeat this narrow radical bunch that Eisenhower accurately summed up as "stupid". ...more info
  • Excellent book by Paul Krugman. I fully recommend it!
    This will help you understand and make sense of what is happening today by giving the political, economical & social history of the United States during the last 70-80 years. I could not put this book down after reading the first page. A great quality of Krugman's style is that he avoids the use of technical jargon and complicated language. His writing style and his way of explaining the difficult topics covered are crystal clear. ...more info
  • A case to rebuild the middle class
    Apologies but I written it in Spanish. It is much easier.

    Paul Krugman un economista acad谷mico encerrado en la torre de marfil, se convirti車 en uno de los principales comentaristas pol赤ticos y cr赤ticos del gobierno de Bush. En su 迆ltimo libro, THE CONSCIENCE OF A LIBERAL, Krugman brinda su interpretaci車n de como el Partido Republicano fue dominado por un conservadurismo extremo que "prob車 ser capaz de ganar elecciones" y cuyas pol赤ticas resultaron en un aumento de la desigualdad y un estancamiento en el ingreso real de los estadounidenses.

    ?C車mo inventar una clase media, por dise?o pol赤tico, en menos de una d谷cada y destruirla en menos de tres d谷cadas, tambi谷n por dise?o pol赤tico y con votos? Esa es buena parte de la historia de LA CONSCIENCIA DE UN LIBERAL (en el sentido norteamericano, progresista para nosotros)... pasen y vean.

    En una d谷cada, aproximadamente entre 1935 y 1945, tuvo lugar en Estados Unidos "la gran compresi車n" en las diferencias entre los ingresos de los estadounidenses. A mediados de los a?os 50, la mediana (v谷ase la posdata t谷cnica al final) del ingreso real familiar se hab赤a aproximadamente duplicado en relaci車n a 1929. Los m芍s ricos eran literalmente m芍s pobres, y no s車lo en t谷rminos relativos. Y, adem芍s, hab赤a m芍s cobertura social.

    Hab赤a nacido la clase media. ?Fue un proceso evolutivo como sugiere la historia que est芍 detr芍s de la curva de Kuznets (y que, dicho sea de paso, se us車 en Argentina para justificar el aumento de la desigualdad?). No, argumenta Krugman. Se trat車 de un dise?o pol赤tico expl赤cito que, en buena medida, "se explica por una sola palabra: impuestos". La Nueva Concertaci車n (New Deal) de Roosevelt aument車 la tasa del impuesto a las ganancias para los m芍s ricos de 35% a 63% durante su primer gobierno y a 79% en el segundo.

    No hay duda que la Gran Depresi車n abri車 el camino pol赤tico para la intervenci車n en gran escala. Pero Krugman es cuidadoso en mencionar que la expansi車n del sector p迆blico s車lo se legitima con un imperativo pol赤tico: la honestidad en su ejecuci車n. "La honestidad del New Deal - enfatiza Krugman - no fue un accidente (...) era una necesidad para mantener la credibilidad de la misi車n".

    Pero el proceso de disminuci車n de la desigualdad se revirti車. Krugman plantea que hoy los economistas debaten si la mediana del ingreso del estadounidense subi車 o baj車 desde principios de los a?os setenta. ?Pero la econom赤a estadounidense es mucho m芍s rica que 35 a?os atr芍s! El valor que un trabajador promedio produce por hora, inclusive ajustado por inflaci車n, aument車 casi 50% desde 1973. As赤 que "s車lo el hecho de tener este debate es revelador", apunta Krugman.

    ?Qu谷 ocurri車? ?La U de Kusnetz es en realidad una W? Una explicaci車n posible, la sabidur赤a convencional, es que el aumento de la desigualdad "est芍 principalmente causado por el aumento en la demanda de trabajo calificado que, a su vez, es consecuencia del cambio tecnol車gico". Esta es una explicaci車n "atractiva" porque "es el tipo de hip車tesis con la cual los economistas nos sentimos c車modos: es s車lo oferta y demanda sin necesidad de incorporar (...) en los modelos cosas como instituciones, normas y poder pol赤tico", argumenta Krugman.

    El problema es que a esta interpretaci車n la refutan los hechos: "las grandes ganancias en ingresos no fueron a un grupo amplio de trabajadores [m芍s calificados] bien pagos sino a un grupo chico de gente extremedamente bien pagada". No se trata de que los doctorados en inform芍tica o matem芍tica ganan ahora sumas astron車micas (aunque les va mejor que antes) sino que gerentes con maestr赤as en negocios llegan a encabezar las listas de mejores pagos. La sociedad estadounidense aument車 su tolerancia a las grandes recompensas a los CEOs de ls grandes compa?赤as: en los a?os setenta, los CEOs de las 102 mayores empresas cobraban en promedio 1,2 millones de d車lares de hoy, "s車lo" 40 veces m芍s que el empleado promedio. Unos a?os atr芍s, el salario promedio de un CEO era 9 millones de d車lares, 367 veces la paga del trabajador promedio.

    Otra refutaci車n es igualmente simple: en Europa o en Jap車n la tecnolog赤a se desarroll車 a la par pero, sin embargo, la desigualdad no aument車 como si lo hizo en los EE.UU. y, en menor medida, Inglaterra. La explicaci車n son los cambios en las "normas y las instituciones": la fuerte disminuci車n en la sindicalizaci車n que no ocurri車, por ejemplo, en Europa. En EE.UU., dice Krugman, "los sindicatos fueron un factor limitante de la desigualdad".

    Y no cualquier sindicalista... sindicalistas de la talla de Walther Reuther, del sector automotriz, que incluso sujeto a las presiones de investigaciones por supuesta corrupci車n empujadas por los senadores republicanos no tuvo una mancha: "a pesar de los esfuerzos de los investigadores no pudieron encontrar ninguna evidencia de mala conducta de Reuther que era tan cuidadoso que hasta pagaba de su bolsillo el lavado de su ropa cuando viajaba representando al sindicato". Una vez m芍s Krugman enfatiza que las formas de activismo progresista se legitiman con la honestidad en la acci車n.

    ?C車mo fue posible el cambio en las normas e instituciones? Otra vez, por la pol赤tica. Krugman cuenta la historia de como el Partido Republicano fue "tomado" por un sector minoritario de "derecha" y que lo llev車 a alejarse, en sus propuestas, del Partido Dem車crata. Y, m芍s sorprendente a迆n, como una econom赤a que fomentaba la desigualdad se abri車 camino por el voto popular.

    La primera parte queda para los lectores del libro. La segunda pregunta es fascinante: "?c車mo puede ser qu谷 quienes proponen un estado del bienestar m芍s chico y pol赤ticas impositivas regresivas sean capaces de ganar elecciones?" La respuesta est芍 en uno de los cap赤tulos m芍s especulativos y, a la vez, m芍s t赤picos de la prosa corrosiva del Krugman pol赤tico: "Armas de Distracci車n Masiva": el comunismo, la guerra fr赤a, el 11 de septiembre, Irak, son los caballos de batalla del conservadurismo para, a trav谷s del miedo a la inseguridad, conseguir el voto. Ronald Reagan triunf車 sobre la efervescencia social de los sesenta que era percibida, por muchos, como inseguridad. Pero ?y antes? Muy simple, argumenta Krugman: "los republicanos fueron capaces de ganar elecciones presidenciales y eventualmente el control del Congreso porque fueron capaces de explotar la cuesti車n racial para conseguir el domino pol赤tico del Sur".

    De nuevo, es la parte m芍s especulativa - y conspirativa - del libro pero el dilema que plantea es muy interesante: ?por qu谷 pol赤ticas econ車micas impopulares tienen votos? Queda la tarea para el lector leer el argumento en pleno y ver si lo convence.

    Este estado de desigualdad es, para Krugman, una oportunidad pol赤tica que el Partido Dem車crata no deber赤a desaprovechar. Aqu赤 se plantea una de las posibles objeciones a la historia que cuenta Krugman y es el rol de los dem車cratas en la historia. Krugman los presenta como v赤ctimas de su mesura y su racionalidad en cuestiones de seguridad nacional pero tal vez se trate de un enorme fracaso comunicacional.

    Es cierto que el pensamiento conservador tiene m芍s financiamiento que el pensamiento progresista bajo la forma de think tanks y medios de comunicaci車n, como apunta Krugman. Y que la ca赤da en la sindicalizaci車n puede haber minado la base del Partido Dem車crata. Pero ?por qu谷 un partido que fracas車 en oponerse a la revoluci車n conservadora podr赤a ahora tener 谷xito? Es la econom赤a, est迆pido, imagino que dir赤a Krugman convencido de que ahora los estadounidenses estar芍n tan mal que no habr芍 seguridad nacional que valga. A迆n as赤, hay algo que no me convence plenamente: como economista, me resisto a explicaciones donde se enga?a a tantos durante tanto tiempo. Pero, insiste Krugman, hoy "los dem車cratas se convirtieron en el partido de las ideas (...) mientras que los candidatos presidenciales dem車cratas discuten planes de cobertura universal de salud, nuevos enfoques a la pobreza, opciones para ayudar a los propietarios en problemas, y m芍s, sus competidores republicanos (...) parecen competir en quien suena m芍s como Ronald Reagan y quien es m芍s entusiasta acerca de la tortura".

    Krugman es un gran economista que se revel車, en los 迆ltimos a?os, como un analista pol赤tico capaz e influyente y que ahora nos presenta su cosmovisi車n de la historia de los Estados Unidos plasmada en forma brillante en LA CONSCIENCIA DE UN LIBERAL (progresista, ser赤a la traducci車n acertada), con la disidencia apuntada. Ya no se trata de art赤culos recopilados u opiniones aqu赤 y all芍. Ahora hay una intepretaci車n completa de la econom赤a pol赤tica de las 迆ltimas d谷cadas de los EE.UU. A迆n para disputarla (lo que no es f芍cil), hay que conocerla.

    Una posdata t谷cnica. Los economistas no miramos el ingreso promedio sino la mediana del ingreso. Krugman explica la intuici車n as赤: Si Bill Gates entre en un bar, la riqueza promedio de la clientela del bar sube sustancialmente pero la mediana de la riqueza sube mucho menos. Es que la mediana mide el ingreso de aquel que es m芍s rico que la mitad de la poblaci車n y m芍s pobre que la otra mitad.
    ...more info
  • Dated, But Superb
    Krugman wrote this book in 2007, and much has happened to the economy since then.

    But the horrible events of the Meltdown only sharpen his argument.

    The main thrust of the book is to tell the history not only of the Great Depression, but of the Great Compression--the period from 1945 to 1975 when income-inequality got much smaller, when incomes in the U.S. tended to be "compressed" toward the middle.

    This happened, according to Krugman, not so much because of technology or any strictly economic force, but because of deliberate political policies--tax policies, union strength and gains, the general sense that even the highest CEO should not make obscenely more than the average worker.

    Then came the Great Divergence--the period since Reagan. During this time, CEO remuneration shot through the stratosphere, while the average worker benefited not at all--despite great gains in productivity.

    In the end, Krugman argues for universal health care, as the first step toward more income-equality.

    Like Naomi Klein, he says that free markets do NOT make free people, just the reverse. The greater the inequality in incomes, the greater the concentration of political power, and the greater the tendency toward despotism.

    ...more info
  • Good read
    Krugman discourses on how the aftermath of the Stock Market Crash of 1929- which ended what he calls the Long Gilded Age, of the 1870s thru 1920s, impacted Americans via the Great Depression, which saw the rise of Liberalism, through what he calls the Great Compression, after the Second World War, when higher tax rates and governmental policies squeezed incomes from top and bottom, creating a more egalitarian and stronger economy- and one that has yet to be equaled. Krugman posits that the post-war economic boom, and the rise of the suburban middle class (using the example of Levittown), was not a result of the free market, which he rightly acknowledges ended, for all intents and purposes, with the Great Depression, but with direct government intervention. He then charts the rise of Movement Conservatism's early and naked biases, how it learnt its lessons, and emerged to wage a stealth politics of class division (which they often accuse their counterparts on the Left of doing) to seize power, and begin a decades long assault on social gains instituted by the New Deal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Krugman also details how they overplayed their hand, and why he feels the 2006 election was a turning point back to more Liberal control of national politics, or, at the very least, a return to 1950s and 1960s moderation of the two major political parties, when, Krugman quotes President Eisenhower, on the radical Right Wing, who wanted to dismantle the New Deal, abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm subsidies, as their `number is negligible and they are stupid.' The President was wrong on their size, and he shows how and why they let the accordion expand again, economically, undoing the Great Compression, and bringing on the income stagnation of recent decades. Krugman cleverly shows that in no other period of American history was there even an argument over whether a younger generation would do better than an older one. The very fact that there is debate is proof of the poor policies of Right Wing agenda-driven governance.

    While he does not come right out and state it, Krugman fairly convincingly shows that Adam Smith's mythic Invisible Hand is just that- mythic and invisible, but invisible because it's nonexistent. In this, he is clearly a Keynesian. But, even the current Bush Administration embraces its own interventionism in matters economic. The question of Keynesian triumph is settled- only the details of when, why, and where to apply it is left to battle over by Left and Right. With that as a given, Krugman then details that Liberals, when they get power, can best keep it by finishing what the New Deal started, for Krugman also blames the failed promise of the New Deal as its ultimate undoing. The cornerstone to this plan is to make national heath insurance the centerpiece of the Newer Deal.
    Krugman's only misstep, philosophically, is when he tries to argue that Ralph Nader was wrong, in 2000, when he said there was little difference between the two parties. Krugman denies this, stating, `There hasn't been any corresponding radicalization of the Democratic Party, so the right-wing takeover of the G.O.P. is the underlying cause of today's bitter partisanship,' and uses his whole thesis over decades as proof. Unfortunately, this is one of the occasions where a long view is the wrong view, because Nader was talking specifically about recent events, and the two major candidates, as well as a broad slate, not just a narrow domestic agenda. In fact, the whole capitulation of the Democratic Party to fall in lockstep behind President Bush on the march to war with Iraq, as well as that of the oft-demonized Liberal Media (including, most infamously, Krugman's newspaper employer), showed just how right Nader was- at least pre-Barack Obama, as well as convincingly showing the claim of a Liberal Media to be bogus. The modern Democratic Party is not the `party of ideas' that Krugman claims, but the party of the idealess and spineless. And while Krugman is correct about the lack of radicalization of the Democratic Party, he overlooks their lobotomization. Well, not quite. While he never details it and names it as such, he does give a number of examples of it, including quoting FDR's famed speech, in 1936, just before the election, where he rails against the malefactors of wealth who hate him, and that he welcomes their hatred. Krugman, in effect, notes the tree, but not the forest, when he acknowledges that no Democratic politician today would ever state such so boldly, for they would not want to be even accused of the class warfare the Right Wing relishes in undertaking. Say what you will about Newt Gingrich, but he was filled with ideas. Most were bad and fundamentally deleterious to the American Dream, but he and his kind churned them out. In short, the reason Democrats lose elections is because they lost their soul. The Republicans may well be evil (rhetorically speaking), but the Democrats have been nihil- an utter black hole. Voters, faced with a choice, will always choose something over nothing- even a bad something.

    Thus, while I agree with most of the book's premises, and acknowledge the historical verity of the facts and claims, it does take two to watusi, and the fact that Krugman places almost no blame on the Democrats for caving in on questions of economics, race baiting, voter fraud and suppression, nor a litany of other areas where they willingly ceded ground to Republicans, the book is sort of a social and economic incompleteness theorem. Whether or not this is so do to willful forest watching or the very timidity of the Democratic Party recapitulated within Krugman (whose columns, it should be noted, have much more bite), is debatable. But, simply because the problem may not be totally dealt with does not mean the conclusions drawn are wrong. They are mostly correct, and conveyed with an ease that non-economists will be drawn to. The Conscience Of A Liberal is not a book that will be read in fifty years, as a seminal work, but it is a very good explication of the last fifty years, and then some. It does deserve a good reading....more info
  • ahistorical, nonsensical, pseudo-intellectual babble
    The title of the book is oxymoronic; the same can be said of its contents (minus the oxy). ...more info
  • Every Progresssive Should Read This Book
    A wonderful, easy-to-read book documenting the rise of modern Conservatism that has led to our current plight as a nation culminating with a call for Universal Healthcare, especially a single-payer system....more info
  • A must have for progressives...err...any half educated person
    If you're a progressive/liberal/Democrat you owe it to yourself to read this book and keep it on your book shelf afterwards.

    If you don't fall into those categories...give the book an actual shot. You'd be surprised how persuading logic and facts can be...more info
  • Almost as disappointing as his preference for Hillary over Obama
    I read a review of this book by Michael Tomasky before readng it. I was looking forward to reading this book. I read Krugman's columns. I liked his columns that were critical of Republicans, although I think his recent columns questioning Obama have been missing the point.

    I thought this book was not all that well written. He constantly brings up a point only to say "we will get to that later". To do that once or twice is okay but to do it constantly throughout the book is too repetitious. And also he says things that have been said before, there's really nothing new.

    I found the book kind of a dull read.

    I also think he doesn't fully understand the medicare system. It's not just for seniors it's also for the disabled. It doesn't cover as much as medicaid does. I would like to see someone talk about a comparison of medicaid and medicare and if there is a political rationale for why the two systems are different. I think there may be some motivation to make the elderly blame the poor.I used to work in hospitals as a social worker and most patients know full well that medicaid covers social services and medicare does not.

    I would recommend reading this book, but with reservations.

    I read his column in the NY Times and I see that he praises Hillary but not Obama.
    This is also a disappointment to me....more info
  • Dishonoring the greatest liberal of our time
    I am absolutely in complete shock that Mr. Krugman decided to use the title of the book from the late great senator Paul Wellstone. Particularly the fact that the senator has since passed away and that The Conscience of a Liberal is part of his legacy shows a lack of respect, intelligence and originality. I had to stop in the bookstore and take a second look because I couldn't believe that anybody within liberal circles would have the audacity to do something so tacky and self serving. Shame on you Mr. Krugman. I hope others boycott this book and choose to read the real Conscience of a Liberal. ...more info
  • Well-researched and illuminating
    A must-read before the next election, this book puts the neoconservative movement in historical perspective and argues persuasively for a more progressive domestic agenda....more info
  • A Way Forward
    Krugman takes the reader on a succinct and readable journey through of US economic history beginning from about 1900 up to the present. His focus is how the average (or more precisely median) worker has fared. Krugman recounts the great economic inequality in the pre-Great Depression era and demonstrates that nearly identical levels of inequality have returned.

    Krugman's primary argument is that US government policies and actions can be used to reduce economic inequality and that it did so in response to the Great Depression, through World War Two and beyond. He calls this era the Great Compression when the average CEO of a large company made about 30 times the income of an average worker rather than today's multiplier of 300. He further argues that conservative political forces used Nixon's Southern strategy to divide workers and attain power. Once there, these forces applied Friedman economics (and some made-up economics like the `supply-side' craze) to government policies, declared war on unions, and deregulated across the board. Krugman presciently argued that the Republicans' politics of racial division were nearing the end of the road as the demographics of the US changed.

    Krugman expected the recent victory by a progressive Democrat in 2008. He sets forth several fairly specific policy recommendations for progressives (liberals who do things): universal health insurance, a more progressive tax structure, increase the minimum wage, and make union organizing easier. Part of his argument for giving priority to universal health insurance is that it will demonstrate that the government can indeed institute policies that make a person's life better. After several decades of anti-government rhetoric, such a demonstration is necessary.

    Krugman's prescriptions are not a complete progressive agenda - he barely touches on the environment - but if President Obama and Congress institute Krugman's ideas in the economic realm we will have a fairer society where the benefits of economic activity are more equitably shared. My personal feeling is they should act aggressively and swiftly on multiple fronts before the GOP has recovered its footing and to occupy the inevitable political counterattack busy with many challenges at once.
    ...more info
  • Essential Reading
    Krugman isn't concerned with narrowly defined economics. This is an historical perspective that incorporates the social and political forces that shape the economy. In fact, his thesis is that the increasing inequality in the United States, a feature which is more and more exceptional to this country when compared to other advanced Western countries, is a result of the policies brought upon by the movement conservatism ideology which took over the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan.
    This movement has now (the book was published in 2007) been rejected by the majority of the electorate and it is up to Barack Obama's government the task of implementing a new New Deal that would reduce inequality and deliver a better economic future to the overwhelming majority of America's population.
    Given the crossroads where we are now, it is essential to understand the powerful forces that will match each other, the interest groups lying beneath each one, and to see beyond wedge issues that have divided the electorate. Krugman does it masterfully. This is the best book I have read in a long time....more info
  • Another masterpiece from one of the best mind of our time
    As a Chinese in Hong Kong, I am ignorant of the politics in US and the reason why the Bush Administration and the Republicans still enjoy that high popularity despite the many menaces local and worldwide. However, this book gave me a glimpse of that, with a historical perspective, and provided some straightforward solutions to the current economic and social inequalities, an indirect alleviation to the global financial meltdown. Dont know whether the Obama Administration would take the author's advice. I hope so, and that the Americans will "wake up" from the hypnotization of the limited superrich's PR machine. Afterall, unlike the Chinese in PRC who suffer from similar, if not even worse inequalities, cannot vote a corrupted government down. The Americans should value their legitimate rights. No matter what, it is by all means a great book though it talked much more on politics than the author's previous masterpieces. Highly recommended!

    p.s. This book reminded me of two sayings below: "No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat" by Deng Xiaoping and "How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four; calling a tail a leg doesnt make it a leg" by Abraham Lincoln. ...more info
  • The Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Krugman
    A liberal's answer to Barry Goldwater's "A Conscience of a Conservative". Krugman provide not only his rationale for his liberal conscience in today's political setting but provides an historical prospective beginning with the
    New Deal of the 30's. And overriding theme for today's ills is the growing income gap between the rich and the lower- and middle -classes which Krugman views as weakening our democratic form of government....more info
  • If you do read it, keep questioning and thinking for yourself as you go.
    Paul Krugman is something of a modern-day economic Robin Hood. He believes the government should very aggressively tax the rich and give to the poor. As evidence, he presents the United States of the 1950s and 1960s, prosperous yet egalitarian. Krugman is an economist by trade, and few economists hold truly liberal views. I was interested in a well-reasoned, well-supported argument for his views. I didn't find it.

    Krugman does get points for being the first person I've ever heard use the term "Welfare State" positively. (I'm serious, by the way, that's a great way to shock a reader out of a pre-conceived notion) However, problems abound with Krugman's pro-welfare state arguments.

    First, Krugman calls Social Security the "crown jewel" of the New Deal. Social Security is sadly a bankrupt pyramid scheme from which almost nobody under the age of 40 ever expects to receive a penny after paying into it for their entire working life. That's one pathetic crown jewel.

    Second, Krugman assumes without explanation that an income gap (the difference in income between rich and poor) is a bad thing, but why? I'm open to the idea, but it needs explaining since there are credible arguments against this view. Consider: if the "poor" earn $10 a day and the "rich" earn $50, then the difference is only $40. All right. But let's say everyone gets five times wealthier. Now the "poor" earn $50 and the "rich" earn $250. That seems great. The "poor" today have as much income as the "rich" yesterday - everyone is wealthier. But look at that income gap! Now it's $200! Is that bad? I'm not so sure, and while Krugman talks about a higher percentage of wealth going to a small group, he makes no attempt to explain why an income gap is inherently negative.

    Third, Krugman is a proponent of taxing the "rich" at rates of 70% and up to pay for the welfare state. He never addresses the moral question of taking (literally with the threat of imprisonment at gunpoint) three quarters of what a private citizen works for in order to give to others. The "rich" today pay more than half of their income to the government for federal, state and local taxes. Ask yourself how much is morally defensible. By what right do we help ourselves to the money people earn? I'd be genuinely curious to hear Krugman's thoughts. He never brings it up.

    Fourth, the book is unreasonably stilted. Of course Krugman leans liberal, he's disclosed that in the title, but there are limits. At one point, he states that Congress passed an amendment so that the "income tax couldn't be declared unconstitutional again." Sounds crazy to hear that right-wing fanatics could have had the income tax declared unconstitutional doesn't it? Except that an income tax was clearly forbidden by the Constitution until that amendment was passed making it legal. It's an important point he tries to make the reader believe isn't true.

    There are further specific problems, but you get the point. Krugman keeps referring to other "advanced" nations that all have a more developed welfare state than the US. Krugman always refers to that as an indictment of the US, but overwhelmingly, countries with large welfare programs (including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and others) have economies that grow at a fraction of the pace of the US economy despite having the advantage of being smaller than our economy and consequently easier to grow. Countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand have had to completely revamp their economies and government policies after Welfare State policies nearly bankrupt the countries. Krugman skips over that too.

    So why the second star?

    Krugman introduces one insight that seems very plausible that I'd never heard before, and that's always worthy of an extra star. Krugman asks why the US doesn't tend to redistribute wealth as much as the other "advanced" nations. He cites a study by three Harvard economists which concludes that because the poor of the US are frequently of a different race from the wealthy, it's easier to mount a political movement against redistribution. That's a really interesting and potentially penetrating insight in a book that was unfortunately lacking in them.

    In the end, Krugman just glosses over far too many obvious and major concerns with his policy recommendations. It's not asking too much for him address the most fundamental arguments in opposition to his own and he never even tries. Not recommended for readers looking for a reasonable explanation of the liberal viewpoint....more info