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The Case for Big Government
Jeff Madrick
With a new preface by the author and a new foreword by Ruth O'Brien

Finalist for the 2009 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction, PEN American Center

Paperback | 2010 | $16.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691146201
224 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 5 tables.
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Political conservatives have long believed that the best government is a small government. But if this were true, noted economist Jeff Madrick argues, the nation would not be experiencing stagnant wages, rising health care costs, increasing unemployment, and concentrations of wealth for a narrow elite. In this perceptive and eye-opening book, Madrick proves that an engaged government--a big government of high taxes and wise regulations--is necessary for the social and economic answers that Americans desperately need in changing times. He shows that the big governments of past eras fostered greatness and prosperity, while weak, laissez-faire governments marked periods of corruption and exploitation. The Case for Big Government considers whether the government can adjust its current policies and set the country right.

Madrick explains why politics and economics should go hand in hand; why America benefits when the government actively nourishes economic growth; and why America must reject free market orthodoxy and adopt ambitious government-centered programs. He looks critically at today's politicians--at Republicans seeking to revive nineteenth-century principles, and at Democrats who are abandoning the pioneering efforts of the Great Society. Madrick paints a devastating portrait of the nation's declining social opportunities and how the economy has failed its workers. He looks critically at today's politicians and demonstrates that the government must correct itself to address these serious issues.

A practical call to arms, The Case for Big Government asks for innovation, experimentation, and a willingness to fail. The book sets aside ideology and proposes bold steps to ensure the nation's vitality.


"In this new economic, political, and ideological environment, The Case for Big Government shows how yesterday's contrarianism can become today's consensus. A leading economist, a former financial columnist for The Times and an adviser to Senator Edward Kennedy, Jeff Madrick makes the case that the nation faces social and economic challenges requiring higher taxes, increased public investment and more rigorous regulation of corporate conduct. Researched and well-written . . . fact-filled and well-reasoned."--David Kusnet, New York Times Book Review

"The Case for Big Government comes at an auspicious time. With the global economy in crisis, experts of all stripes have supported government intervention. At the same time, Americans have elected Democrat Barak Obama, who has favored greater federal involvement, to lead the country. Author Jeff Madrick argues that government involvement in economic affairs is not only beneficial in times of crisis, but can also enhance long-term growth by giving incentives for industries and households to prosper."--Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, Reuters

"Helpful to debaters, Madrick's work succinctly summarizes a perspective from the Left on America's economic problems."--Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"[Madrick's] book is a thoroughgoing defense of government's role in the economy, written with the broad perspective of an economic historian rather than a mere policy polemicist. Thus, a book that could have been a thudding discourse on the efficiency of the French medical system instead takes us on a bracing survey of government's role as a driver--not merely an enabler--of a growing, fair, economy."--Ezra Klein, The American Prospect

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Table of Contents:

Foreword xi
Preface to the Paperback Edition xiii

PART I: Government and Change in America 1
The Danger of an Ideology
The Evidence
Looking-Back Narratives from the Right and Left
The Myth of Laissez-Faire
The Many Uses of Government in the 1800s
Government as an Agent of Change in the 1900s
The Economic Benefits of Government
Resisting a Pragmatic Government

PART II: How Much We Have Changed 65
The History of Change
The New Challenge to the Standard of Living
The Broad Threat to the American Promise
It’s Not Just Inequality
When Knowledge Also Changes
The Purpose of Government
Forsaking Pragmatism for Ideology

PART III: What to Do 125
Pessimism in America
The Failure of ConventionalWisdom
America Has the Money
An Agenda

Notes 177
Index 195


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