This is a good and useful book. At a time when mediocre economic performance is celebrated as though it were excellent, and when even the ugly consequences of mediocre performance, such as rising inequality, are commonly treated as though they were unavoidable by-products of progress, Plenty of Nothing is for people who are tired of being treated like fools. Thomas Palley’s thesis, meticulously argued, is that we are not doing well. And by design. We are the victims of bad policy, whose brilliantly achieved purpose has been to enrich the few at the expense of the many.
Policy? According to the dominant economic thinking of our time, policy hardly matters. Independent causal force is assigned to the impersonal market, the agents behind the market are never mentioned, and the power of the government is, in large measure, denied. Students of our blighted subject are taught to reason in a counterfactual world, where businesses are competitive, ordinary people omniscient, and consumers sovereign. In such a world, societies are self-organizing, and governments are basically unneeded. It is a high-brow version of an ideology that we all recognize for what it is, when we hear it from Rush Limbaugh....
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