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Conscience of a Liberal - by Paul Krugman

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Joined: 07 Aug 2008
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Location: Delta, British Columbia, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 7:01 pm    Post subject: Conscience of a Liberal - by Paul Krugman  Reply with quote

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Economist and New York Times columnist Krugman's stimulating manifesto aims to galvanize today's progressives the way Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative did right-wingers in 1964. Krugman's great theme is economic equality and the liberal politics that support it. America's post-war middle-class society was not the automatic product of a free-market economy, he writes, but was created... by the policies of the Roosevelt Administration.

By strengthening labor unions and taxing the rich to fund redistributive programs like Social Security and Medicare, the New Deal consensus narrowed the income gap, lifted the working class out of poverty and made the economy boom. Things went awry, Krugman contends, with the Republican Party's takeover by movement conservatism, practicing a politics of deception [and] distraction to advance the interests of the wealthy. Conservative initiatives to cut taxes for the rich, dismantle social programs and demolish unions, he argues, have led to sharply rising inequality, with the incomes of the wealthiest soaring while those of most workers stagnate.

Krugman's accessible, stylishly presented argument deftly combines economic data with social and political analysis; his account of the racial politics driving conservative successes is especially sharp. The result is a compelling historical defense of liberalism and a clarion call for Americans to retake control of their economic destiny. (Oct.)

It has been some years now, perhaps around ten years, since I began to think if the future of the planet, and therefore our lives, was going to follow a fundamentally different path, than in the past century or so. First, there was the nagging worry about Global warming, the deforestation not just in the Amazon, but also the rate at which nature was being destroyed even in the US, right next to where I lived at the time, the Everglades of Florida.

Then I came to know about the Peak oil issue, and seriously started reading up on the way the western industrial nations might or might not have used the availability of cheap oil to bring an ever improving lifestyle. Looking further, I started reading people that tried to analyze what it might be like, to live in a world where the demand was energy was shooting up and the availability of oil was sloping down. Can we reverse the way we live to allow a smaller carbon footprint and yet expect to raise or even maintain the lifestyle that a western average Joe does today.

It was only recently that I started getting worried about the third arm of the triangle - finance. I did not understand well the ways banks lend money. I did not understand what the difference could be by President Nixon de-linking the US dollar from Gold. I did not understand how it could be possible for a bank to lend more money than it has. I presumed that the bank is insured by a bigger bank with the funds. It took me a while, and listening to folks, and reading some books, before I started wondering if the way the world does finance today and if it was normal for the US to have ever increasing national debts. If it was possible for China to for ever keep growing at double digit rates and keep banking USA and keep the prices of commodities forever rising, and the stock markets around the world on a dizzying high fly.

Then I read "Confessions of an Economic hit man" and the same time, Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth. Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat was nice to read, especially on its coverage of changes sweeping the Indian IT sector. But the book did not cover base issues of sustainability and left you wondering how long the party might last.

Then, I finally bought and read a book of Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist and an economist. The book was The Great Unravelling. Krugman is what goes for a Liberal in USA. By now I knew that a Liberal in USA might be considered a conservative in Canada. Nonetheless, the book was one more that , apart from criticizing the US policies on a host of issues, made be wonder anew, on the fate of the human civilization for the coming few generations.

Eventually, a year and several political and market upheavals later , I got around to reading the most recent book of Krugman, "Conscience of a Liberal". Again, it speaks more about the shifting of the political backdrop in the US, and how different it is from the era of the last great depression of the 1920s (and how ill equipped it is to deal with a similar situation again) .... But, USA aside, these books throw yet another tantalizing glimpse at what the future might hold, for most all of us.

Well, I dont know that I believe in the doomsday theories. I likely do not believe in it. But that is not because I have strong reasons to counter the arguments. Rather, I am a creature of habit just like anybody else. I find it hard to visualize a world which has undergone a civilization altering phenomenon. As long as I find it hard to fathom or think through, the mind subconsciously rejects it.

But, I read this book, just as avidly as all the other books, articles and essays, not to mention direct speeches and debates, that are beginning to permeate the internet bandwidth for those that wish to look into it, and ponder the future. I shall likely not be around, to see where it all leads. But I am increasingly certain that I do not have solid reasons to be certain about the future.

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