Jeff Madrick on The Age of Greed

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age of greedJeff Madrick is one of the most important (and most underrated) economic voices in America. His most recent book is entitled The Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to Present. His previous book The Case for Big Government is an excellent historical look at the way in which the US government (particularly the federal government) has been instrumental in the development of the US economy since its inception--contrary to rightwing fantasies of American purely free market capitalism. 

In Age of Greed, Madrick chronicles the dominance of finance and the rise of the popular distrust of government regulation. He brutally details the failure of the ideology of free markets (and its twin the distrust of government regulation) and the flawed economic policies that have resulted in the economic crash and slow recovery.

Going back to the US roots he argues for a major program of government action to help increase work and wages (wages have stagnated relative to inflation since the 1970s, another failure of free market ideology). Only after having gotten out of this ditch should we then be concerned about long term debt/deficit issues, which as Madrick shows are primarily driven by the rising cots of Medicare and Medicaid (not Social Security). In other words healthcare reform, reduction of military overspending, and investment in infrastructure, technology, and education would lead to greater economic prosperity. 

What I appreciate about his work is the value he places on the sphere of the common good--a sphere distinct from that of competition--and the role government has to play in protecting the common good from enchroachment by the sphere of competition. The failure of the free market (or neoliberal) ideology since the 1970s (practiced by both Democrats and Republicans) has been to assume that the sphere of competition will naturally lead to justice in the realm of the common good. And this ideology is an illusion--Madrick supports this refutation through a deep reading of US history. 

Here is part of an interview with Madrick and Amy Goodman on the subject. I highly recommended the full video (via Cspan's BookTV here) of him speaking and giving an overview of the book. 

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