Saturday, October 4, 2008

Book Review: The Predator State

TitleThe Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too
AuthorJames Galbraith
Tagseconomics, finance, politics

I have almost no background in economics, and little understanding of it. My interest in it has increased with my interest in politics. To understand it better, I've tried finding someone knowledgeable that I trust, and the first economist who served this purpose for me is Paul Krugman, economist and columnist in the New York Times.

I also like the work of James K. Galbraith's brother, Peter Galbraith, whose book The End of Iraq is excellent. So I was prepared to take a chance on James Galbraith's The Predator State, which is supposed to be written for the layperson.

Now I've read it, and have to admit there's a lot in it I don't understand. He also turns a lot of conventional wisdom (at least as I perceive it) on its head, saying, for example, that deficits aren't all bad. I better understand it when he says free markets are a myth - it seems to me they are always acted upon by a variety of forces that mean they do not have perfect freedom.

Galbraith explains how we got to the predator state, in which the interests of a narrow band of rampant capitalists with no checks on their power have taken over government for their benefit during the Bush administration. He does, however, think it is possible to take back the state (and he does say that there are many business people for whom the predator capitalists are anathema). His discussions of the predator state also interest me because it provides someone with a legitimate academic background whose discussion supports much of what was said in Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine.

Galbraith thinks the way out of the current economic mess is a planned economy in which spending to create environmental jobs is more important than paying down the deficit.

Sadly, I can't explain well what he says, but did find his arguments pretty convincing. This is a book that I want the next President to take with him to the White House, and so I am encouraged to see that, on a web site Economists for Obama, Galbraith is listed as an economic adviser to Barack Obama.

Read it for yourself in order to get an idea of how we got to where we are and how we can get out of the current mess.
PublicationFree Press (2008), Edition: 1st Free Press Hardcover Ed, Hardcover, 240 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN141656683X / 9781416566830

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