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The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too

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  • Posted February 1, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Original study of vulture capitalism

    In this stunning book, James K. Galbraith helps us to see the forces at work in the US economy. He argues that CEOs and their bankers, lawyers and accountants have become 'a predator class'. Their predator state abuses public bodies and takes public cash for private profit. The public are made to bail out the private sector. Even with tax cuts, this class's hidden creativity stays hidden. They promote the myths of monetarism, supply-side economics, deregulation, balanced budgets (Cameron's agenda) and free trade. But spending cuts do not increase investment, savings or productivity, growth or wealth. Budget surpluses drain funds from the spending stream, ensuring a slump. As Galbraith points out, "Deregulation of the Japanese capital asset markets set off what was, and would remain until the NASDAQ, the largest speculative bubble in human history, combining speculation in stocks and speculation in real estate to an astonishing degree." He notes, "Ricardo was wrong. Comparative advantage has very little practical use for trade strategy. Diversification, not specialization, is the main path out of underdevelopment, and effective diversification requires a strategic approach to trade policy. It cannot mean walling off the outside world, but it is also a goal not easily pursued under a dogmatic commitment to free trade. Indeed none of the world's most successful trading regions, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan and now mainland China, reached their current status by adopting neoliberal trading rules." Health care, higher education, housing, social security and federal, state and local spending account for more than half the USA's economic activity. Galbraith shows how predator firms seek to profit from all these. Waste from US private medical insurance is $350 billion a year. He writes, "from the standpoint of an entire population, selective private provision of health insurance is invariably inferior to universal public provision. Private health insurance companies would not exist except for their political capacity to forestall the creation of universal public systems ." Galbraith points out that if you are an employer in Sweden or Norway, "you are not free to cut your wages. You are not free to compete by going after cut-rate workers, either native or immigrant. You are not free to undercut the union rate. You have to pay your workers at the established scale, and if you cannot do that and earn a profit, too bad for your business. The effect of this on business discipline is quite wonderful. To succeed, businesses must find ways to compete that do not involve running down the wage standards of their workforces. They do it by keeping productivity high and investing in the search for technological improvement. This means that advanced industries thrive in Scandinavia, while backward ones die out." We need planning of production and of distribution of pay and incomes. As Galbraith concludes, "Planning, properly conceived, deals with the use of today's resources to meet tomorrow's needs. It specifically tackles issues markets cannot solve: the choice of how much in the aggregate to invest (and therefore to save), the directions to be taken by new technology, the question of how much weight and urgency are to be given to environmental issues, the role of education, and of scientific knowledge, and culture. Decisions on these matters involve representing the interests of the future - interests that are poorly represent

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    A great read.

    I read this book twice with great pleasure. It may be unconventional but it is does explain the reality in which we live from the economic point of view better than anything I have read. This is Economy with passion and with wit. A pleasure to read. I hope there is more to come from this author.
    Thank you, Mr. Galbraith!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2009

    Predator State

    Rather disorganized in the writing. Good bedtime put you to sleep book.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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