- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Washington is big business. John B. Judis, a senior editor for the New Republic, onducts an instructive tour through this corridor of money and power in this work. Cutting to the heart of today's debate, it recommends what we can do to fix our broken system.
In the past, the existence of a powerful political establishment could make up for the shortcomings of public institutions and could work to overcome the absence of shared national goals, but there has been a disturbing decline in the quality of the American leadership class -- the former public officials, investment bankers, CEOs, and academics who are periodically summoned to lend their wisdom and experience to the government and the country. Former officials who used to provide dispassionate guidance on difficult foreign or domestic policy issues have become lobbyists and consultants for American and foreign businesses. Former Secretaries of State make provocative public statements defending China while not revealing their own financial stake in the current Chinese government. Former senators call for the privatization of Social Security without revealing that they are on the boards of directors of securities firms that would stand to benefit mightily from such a change. Former presidential candidates lobby for businesses that, as politicians, they had denounced only a year before. Bankers, business leaders, and corporate lawyers who, in past generations, might have been driven to devote part of their time to public service and to the greater good confine their public activity to lobbying on behalf of their own firm or industry. And academics and policy intellectuals who brought a spirit of scientific objectivity and disinterest to political deliberations lend their name and expertise to think tanks and policy groups that are dedicated to promoting the narrowest interests of business contributors.
Together, the irresponsibility of the nation's elites, the power and proliferation of special interest groups, and the paralysis of Congress and the executive have contributed to a corrosive public cynicism. Americans, of course, have often been skeptical about government and politicians, but over the last decades, this skepticism has hardened. Political scientist Hugh Heclo writes, "A long-term downward trend in political trust reflects not simply a skepticism toward authority but a much more negative cynicism toward anything that happens in politics. To doubt and question public authority is a time-honored American tradition. Always to expect the worst is not." Put this cynicism together with a certain complacency born of temporarily good times and one has the ingredients for a massive withdrawal from public activity and vital public questions.
These developments suggest that even as the Dow-Jones stock index exceeds a record 10,000, our political system is faltering, and faltering in a way that might eventually undermine our progress as a nation. Periods of prosperity should provide welcome opportunities to strengthen our institutions to prepare for future adversity, but our political institutions make it impossible to adopt far-reaching policies, particularly if they threaten vested interests. Like holiday travelers, we are prepared for the pleasures of the next stop, but are completely ill-equipped to handle even the smallest crisis, let alone a severe economic downturn or a war. How did this happen, and why, and what can be done about it? These are the questions that this book will attempt to answer.
|1.||The Paradox of Democracy||3|
|2.||The Development of Democratic Pluralism||33|
|3.||The Great American Celebration||59|
|4.||The Legacy of the Sixties||80|
|5.||Business and the Rise of K Street||109|
|6.||The Triumph of Conservatism||137|
|7.||The Apostasy of the Elites||156|
|8.||The Conservative Crack-up||180|
|9.||The Frustration of Reform||202|
|10.||Sleepwalking Toward the Millennium||227|