The U.S. is in crisis, contend Halstead and Lind (Vietnam: The Necessary War; etc.). While revolutions in information technology and biotechnology are fundamentally reshaping the American economy and society, the two major political parties remain stuck within old ideas and policies. More and more Americans have become alienated from the political status quo and yearn for change, say Halstead and Lind (director and senior fellow, respectively, of the think-tank New America Foundation). In this subtle, clear, and provocative work, they offer a comprehensive blueprint for such change. America has succeeded by adapting to new circumstances while maintaining, albeit imperfectly, a balance among its three constituent parts: the market, government and community. All of the authors' wide-ranging reforms aim at strengthening these spheres. If the new economy is typified by high turnover of employees, employer-based health insurance makes little sense. Better would be mandatory individually funded health insurance, with government provision for the truly needy. So, too, should Social Security be replaced by individual retirement accounts, as the graying of America makes the current generational transfer of funds more and more tenuous and contentious. To confront growing inequality in the U.S., the authors believe, all Americans should be given $6,000 at birth as a means of assuring true equal opportunity and a stake in the system; k-12 education should be funded equally on a per pupil basis by the federal government rather than relying on highly unequal property taxes or regressive state and local sales taxes. Politically, new electoral processes should open up the system to new parties andcandidates. There is something here for everyone to cheer or jeer, but in carefully tying together their myriad reforms, the authors present a remarkably coherent vision for the renewal of America. Agent, Kris Dahl, ICM. (Sept. 18) Forecast: The authors will promote this book in N.Y. and D.C., and thanks to Lind's reputation as someone who defies the usual right-left split, it should get attention on the news talk shows and from the pundits. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In the tradition of books like David Osborne and Ted Gaebler's Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Transforming the Public Sector, Halstead (founder and director of the New America Foundation, a Washington, DC, think tank) and Lind (Up from Conservatism, New America senior fellow) embrace America's strong tradition of reinvention in this political manifesto for the Information Age. Drawing upon American history and mindful of the turmoil surrounding the 2000 election, they assert that the traditional ideologies of the liberal Left and the conservative Right have become defunct and are responsible for the political alienation of much of the populace. As an antidote, they offer a "new, radical centrist agenda" that borrows ideas from the Right (termination of the corporate income tax and affirmative action) and the Left (mandatory national health insurance and federal equalization of public school funding) while simultaneously putting forth new solutions for saving Social Security and simplifying our tax system. Their arguments are quite persuasive and, to their credit, they write in a clear, succinct prose style and employ a McCainesque straight-talk sensibility that will help them attract the independent, centrist-minded voters at whom the book is aimed. Sure to have its detractors across the political spectrum, this book adds many fresh insights to our currently stale political discourse. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A fast-paced, shotgun-style cornucopia of public-policy innovations intended to offer a cohesive agenda for revitalizing American politics, economy, and civil society. New American Foundation director Halstead and Lind (Vietnam: The Necessary War, 1999, etc.) argue that the US is nearing its fourth period of revolutionary change, the first three being the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the New Deal era. Offering such evidence as the growing apathy of the electorate, the increasing economic disparity between rich and poor, and the abandonment of the cultural ideology of the Melting Pot, the authors set out to provide a blueprint for correcting our wayward national course. After outlining the history of the previous revolutionary periods, they propose a series of sweeping new programs-instituting a national consumption tax to replace the ragtag quilt of existing state and local sales taxes, using a "rank order" voting scheme to help dilute the two-party stranglehold on our current electoral process, reforming immigration laws to cap the number of low-skilled immigrants-to move America toward a "citizen-based social contract" better suited to our information-based New Economy. The difficulty in considering such ideas lies not in their obvious merits but in the paucity of supporting evidence. The political will necessary to carry out any one of the suggested reforms would be staggering. Only a veritable mountain of corroboration would earn serious consideration for such radical proposals as privatizing and applying needs-based testing to such hallmarks of public policy as Social Security, Medicare, and the home mortgage interest deduction, or eliminating corporate income taxes (allput forward here). Absent volumes of supporting evidence, or at least reference to existing studies and relevant historical analogies, it is difficult to be greatly moved by the proposed agenda. Long in vision, admirable in scope, vacuous in application.
“Hats off to Halstead and Lind for . . . rising above policy blather and advocating some unconventional things.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A political manifesto worthy of the Information Age.”–Senator John McCain
“A provocative read . . . The book demonstrates that the center need not be a tepid or uncreative spot on the political spectrum. It can be an unpredictable place where intelligent people stir up controversy and offer genuinely unorthodox proposals for change.” –The Washington Post Book World
“A bold and refreshing perspective on the challenges ahead. This is a short, pithy book, but it packs a powerful intellectual punch.” –The Washington Times
“ Part historical tract, part policy agenda, part visionary manifesto, The Radical Center is . . . a bracing alternative to the poll-obsessed, cliché-ridden volumes that roll out of Washington think tanks.” –New York Observer