The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement

Overview

A New York Times Business Book Bestseller

"Shrewd and optimistic. . . . [The Good Life and Its Discontents] combines first-rate analysis with persuasive historical, political and sociological insights."
--The New Republic

Today Americans are wealthier, healthier, and live longer than at any previous time in our history. As a society, we have never had it so good. Yet, paradoxically, many of us have never felt so bad. For, as Robert J. Samuelson observes in this visionary book, ...

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The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement

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Overview

A New York Times Business Book Bestseller

"Shrewd and optimistic. . . . [The Good Life and Its Discontents] combines first-rate analysis with persuasive historical, political and sociological insights."
--The New Republic

Today Americans are wealthier, healthier, and live longer than at any previous time in our history. As a society, we have never had it so good. Yet, paradoxically, many of us have never felt so bad. For, as Robert J. Samuelson observes in this visionary book, our country suffers from a national sense of entitlement--a feeling that someone, whether Big Business or Big Government, should guarantee us secure jobs, rising living standards, social harmony, and personal fulfillment.

In The Good Life and Its Discontents, Samuelson, a national columnist for Newsweek and the Washington Post, links our rising expectations with our belief in a post-Cold War vision of an American utopia. Using history, economics, and psychology, he exposes the hubris of economists and corporate managers and indicts a government that promises too much to too many constituencies. Like David Reisman's The Lonely Crowd and John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society, the result is a book that defines its time--and that is sure to shape the national debate for years to come.

"A smart, balanced epitaph for an era--with a few clues for what's ahead."
--Business Week

"Lucid [and] nonsectarian . . . Samuelson traces how the reasonable demand for progress has given way to the excessive demand for perfection."
--The New York Times

One of the country's most influential commentators attempts to explain why the richest, most powerful, and most democratic nation in the world is overcome by self-doubt and confusion. Samuelson takes a penetrating look at why Americans feel so bad when they are really doing so well, and poses the crucial question: Can America's leaders restore confidence by curbing government that has promised more than it can deliver?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The American dream has mutated into an expectation of security, leaving us suspicious of the government that fails to provide it. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Columnist and economics commentator Samuelson (The Numbskull Factor, Times, 1993) asks why "a society that satisfies us most of the time has also convinced many of us that it's rolling inexorably toward the edge of a cliff." The reason for this "paradox," Samuelson argues, can be tied to the effect of "entitlements" on our lives; we believe we are guaranteed many things-healthcare, secure jobs, and safe living places-but the social and political realities of our lives contradict this. In determining what has turned the American Dream into a "fantasy," Samuelson refers to post-1929 American history, public opinion polls, economic theory and data, the beliefs of our Founding Fathers, corporate structure, and sociological research. He also discusses how civil rights and equality have become confused with each other and how American political leaders have created a huge budget deficit by separating costs from benefits. This is an unusually clear, cogently argued exploration of American values and the political institutions that have strayed from them. Essential for most libraries.-Jack Forman, Mesa Coll. Lib., San Diego
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679781523
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
I The Entitlement Society
1 The Postwar Paradox 3
2 History's Chasm 18
3 The Cult of Affluence 34
4 Prosperity's Broken Promise 49
II The New Capitalism
5 The Apostles of Control 67
6 Cheery Economics 85
7 The Myth of Management 104
8 The Real Economy 122
III The Politics of Overpromise
9 Colliding Ideals 141
10 Borrow and Spend 155
11 Elusive Equality 172
12 Suicidal Government 188
Epilogue: After Entitlement
13 History's Cycles 207
14 Responsibility, Not Entitlement 218
15 Crisis or Consensus? 232
Notes 242
Index 279
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2006

    Are you living the good life?

    Take a minute and look at your life and all of the things you have. Well, what did you come up with? Many might say a nice car, a decent house, a respectable job, and fine friends and family. Then why are so many Americans unhappy and depressed more than ever? This book touches on a very out of the ordinary topic that most might never have thought about before. In this book Samuelson focuses on trying to uncover the reason why Americans are richer then ever before but unhappy. In this well thought- out book, which was structured in a way that discusses past decades and its occurrences, Samuelson uses American history to uncover why Americans are feeling the way they are. Many people that are actually interested in history and sociology might enjoy this book due to its specifics and how our past has affected the people who have lived though it. In addition to this, Samuelson mainly talks of the Cold War and its affects. There are also many statistics in various sections of the book that were fascinating to look at. This statistics ranged from income and living standards to voter turnout which was documented from 1970 to 1995. At the same time, the statistics only go up to 1995 and I wonder if we have improved or worsened in ten years. This book is somewhat written in a reporting style searching for answers as to what happened to people and education. His thesis is the question of why do Americans feel so bad when they are doing to well, and through his opinions mixed in with facts and statistics he found the answer. Maybe you can ask yourself is solution. Are you lazy? Do except handouts from your government? Are you guaranteed health care? If so, was it our history that made it this way? This book though at times is long and tiresome will make you think about your existence, your possessions, and your happiness. Also, that fact that our history and what we want from our government is something most might let slide by without thinking about it to much. This book made me more aware and I think it will for you too. I do recommend this book so people can question their life but in a good way to provoke a positive change.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2011

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