Review: American Amnesia

Book cover of American Amnesia: American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker
American Amnesia: American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hacker and Pierson present a striking, convincing, and important argument for the American electorate: government has and continues to be an important facet of growth, success, and improvements for individuals, businesses, and society as a whole, but a sustained and broad-sweeping effort by conservatives over the last 80 years has left many Americans blind to this. They structure their argument first by delving into history to show the ways in which a prominent government that played an active role in a mixed-market (as opposed to free market) was the foundation of the United States and the ways in which it has done so through from the 1800s and the expansion of the railroads to providing increasing balance and protection for citizens against the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age and then, of course, in the Post-WOrld War II boom in which they funneled money in research, medicine and the like, creating inventions, technologies, medical breakthroughs from which all Americans benefitted. They identify historically how different leaders of industry understand and even appreciated the role of government. They highlight how Republican leaders from President Wilson to Vannevar Bush to President Eisenhower to even Richard Nixon saw that government has a key role to play the mixed market and it creates more opportunity for growth. However, by the mid-20th century, conservatives have worked tirelessly undermine government through dark money, think tanks, media, and intentional obfuscation. One main method the authors go into substantial depth with is identifying how often conservatives create the problem in government and then point to the problem as evidence of government as a failure. Often, they do this by slowing down the governing process (when they are the minority) so that nothing gets done or by defunding or restricting government entities (when the majority), the resulting failures that result become the proof that such endeavors are wastes of taxpayers' money. It is a powerful and frustrating book, more so when one gets to the end and think about how much of this has gotten worse under the Trump administration (published in 2016, some of their conclusions and points anticipate the ways in which conservatives have behaved in the time since).

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