Customer Reviews for

Aftershock(Inequality for All--Movie Tie-in Edition)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

28 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

An important book with critical insights into the current crisis

AFTERSHOCK may well be the most important book written on the current economic crisis. I say this because it offers a critical insight that I have seen in very few other places: The fundamental cause of our problems is the relentless drive toward income concentration. T...
AFTERSHOCK may well be the most important book written on the current economic crisis. I say this because it offers a critical insight that I have seen in very few other places: The fundamental cause of our problems is the relentless drive toward income concentration. The problem with concentrating income into the hands of a few people is that you take money from millions of people who would spend nearly all of it, and give it to a tiny number of people who can't and won't spend it -- but will instead save it, gamble with it, or invest it offshore. The end result is simply too few viable consumers to drive the economy.

Reich points out that income for American middle class families has been essentially stagnant or declining for over three decades. The middle class has coped with this in three basic ways: (1) Women have entered the workforce, (2) People worked longer hours, and, of course, (3) We all relied on debt (credit cards and home equity loans) rather than income to support our consumption. Those coping methods are now exhausted, and we are left in a position where average Americans simply do not have sufficient discretionary income to support a sustainable recovery. The great American consumer class -- which was the driving force behind our prosperity in the 1950s and 1960s -- has been largely decimated.

To his credit, Reich correctly identifies globalization and, especially, automation technology as primary forces behind declining middle class wages. At the same time, rather than enacting countervailing policies, the United States (beginning with Reagan) has gone in the exact opposite direction and adopted a conservative agenda that has actually accelerated the trend toward income concentration.

The one shortcoming of the book is that Reich -- not being a technologist -- fails to anticipate how advancing technology is likely to dramatically worsen the situation in the relatively near future. As someone who works in this area, I can tell you that the degree of progress we are soon likely to see in automation technologies is historically unprecedented.

To get a sense of what we may face in the future, I would strongly recommend that this book be read in conjunction with Aftershock: "The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future" Both books offer an eerily similar analysis of the crisis -- both concluding that the problem is a dearth of viable consumers. Both books also propose very similar solutions: direct income supplementation. Reich proposes a negative income tax (which was supported by free-market icon Milton Friedman).

Anyone who wants to understand the current crisis and the danger we face in the future should read both "Aftershock" (for its emphasis on political and social implications) and "The Lights in the Tunnel" (for insight into how technology and globalization will continue to transform the economy -- and lead to an even more severe crisis, if we do not act ).

posted by RobertS_PhD on September 22, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

10 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

Frustrating Progressive Babble

I decided to give this book a read based on the customer reviews and with the intent to give this liberal author my open mind. The book is a fairly straight forward read and does have a few well founded examples, but the majority of his book is redundant baseless progre...
I decided to give this book a read based on the customer reviews and with the intent to give this liberal author my open mind. The book is a fairly straight forward read and does have a few well founded examples, but the majority of his book is redundant baseless progressive agenda.

Reich's proposed solutions amount to a country sustained by consumers over spending, enabling big government to determine how much we should make and giving unions full control to price American workers out of their jobs.

He raises some good objections to enabling a free market to run without regulation, but greatly distorts the repercussions in order to try and fit his progressive "solutions" into place.

All in all it's always good to read other points of view, but this is not a good example of a sustainable solution to any economy. This is a good book to skip.

posted by Matt82 on January 28, 2011

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