Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson provide a leading-edge examination of American political and economic landscape in a topical and timely manner to ascertain the interests of citizens and their businesses in American Amnesia. The authors describe the strategies employed by political elites to exercise, control, and push for plutocracy. In the first two centuries of the United States history, Americans willingly accepted the necessity of healthy skepticism about their government with the aim of pushing for viable courses in order to develop the country. However, the authors declare that present-day citizens, especially conservatives, overlook the ancient balanced outlook of the government. Immediately after the Second World War, America led many countries when it comes to growth, health, and technology to untangle years of stagnated political, economic, and social development.
Amnesia means the loss of short-term memory, which prevents people from remembering events of the recent past. Therefore, the principal themes used in American Amnesia work to remind Americans of the economic potential of their country. The themes in the book revolve around the government’s efforts to develop the country along with the growing number of critics behind its present-day disorder. The authors also give an account of how the populace quickly forgets their past and present historical values by criticizing the government.
The United States depends on a “mixed economy,” which is public-private plan whereby markets are the dominant side when it comes to the production and distribution of goods and services for meeting the demands of consumers. For example, Samsung Electronics Company provides mobile phone products to Americans to earn massive profits. In American Amnesia, Hacker and Pierson explain that the government plays a dominant role in areas where markets fail (88). Even though the economy has many segments that require help of the government, healthcare along with energy and finance stand out as leading sectors. These three sectors have a major influence on the government. The United States spend most of its cash reserves to improve health sector, which has undergone many reforms over the past few decades (Spence and Sandile 705). In American Amnesia, the authors depict that during this period, the mixed economy has played a significant role to stabilize the economy of the United States. The only challenge is the government’s participation in monitoring and averting the taxes it pays to robber barons.
America has always had freewheeling entrepreneurial capitalists who have worked tirelessly to ensure that they own the biggest part of wealth at the expense of ordinary Americans. They are the principal private owners of production means, which grants them the power to control land, labor, and capital. Capitalism embraces a social class structure of free wage earners and private owners helping capitalists to increase their wealth and profits easily (Connolly 230).
According to Hacker and Pierson, the immense changes and innovations that took place in the 20th century have enabled the capitalists to accumulate massive wealth in the name of vouching for “effective governance” (Hacker and Pierson 141). The authors claim that capitalist ways of governance have revealed crucial details of a “mixed economy” disguised with improved physical infrastructure and education even for the grassroots and affordable health care. In this way, capitalists have reserved massive funds for “blue skies research,” which they claim have facilitated the successful innovation of products and infrastructure such as antibiotics and the Internet.
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Capitalism in America propelled with a mixed economy, which became the most significant social innovation of the 20th century. Hacker and Pierson argue that such practice advanced to an unfathomable level of far-reaching prosperity. Mixed economy helped to increase expenditures on health, education, and economic security. However, it has made several ordinary American citizens to ridicule and criticize current political and economic elites. As such, the United States has seen the rise of the campaigners against free market fundamentalist, who have grown in authority for eradicating the instrument used to blind the populace with unparalleled economic and social development (Gilens and Benjamin 567).
American Amnesia gives a detailed account of the notion that achieving freedom and prosperity calls for an extraordinary level of government commitment to its citizens with the aim of helping their societies to flourish both rapidly and innovatively. However, Americans are yet to recognize and acknowledge current roles played by the government to support courses aimed at achieving According to the authors, the past century has seen Americans progressively deviating from criticizing the government constructively and even lending a hand to encourage development. The modern-day population has the mindset of deep skepticism about government’s efforts to address the issues affecting freedom and prosperity. American Amnesia seems to awaken Americans in terms of the perception that “prosperity was not an individual product; it was generated through bargaining and compromises among stakeholders (managers, workers, public officials, and the local community) as well as through individual initiative” (Hacker and Pierson 44).
To achieve prosperity, freedom is the most important element that the American people would use in the contemporary political discourse to pursue and advance their goals. However, the authors explain that the modern-day American embraces a political agenda that perceives an interminable conflict between liberty and intimidation. The capitalists have failed to address the spiteful effects of their selfish gains of wealth to the public and instead complained about the same problems to other people. (Hacker and Pierson 10).
It seems that battle between the “big government” and the “free enterprise” usually ends in a win-lose situation. However, the fact remains that the present collaboration between the government and economic markets has a major influence on humanity’s freedom and prosperity in America. In the United States, the majority of present-day political elites became financially free and prosperous with negligible help from the government. However, the authors counter this notion by elucidating that the opposite is true. The accumulated wealth in the United States of America came about because of the cooperation between the government and the populace (Hacker and Pierson 169). Currently, the Americans are suffering because they have forgotten the historical struggles of their ancestors; hence, American Amnesia reminds them of it.
American Amnesia delves into the reasons behind the most baffling political problems catalyzed by guilt and blame from members of American political divide. America has undergone several political and economic problems, which the authors comprehensively blame to the elite political class (Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin 583). Many questions have revolved around the notion that the poorest states still hate the federal agencies even though the government endows them with the biggest part of development funds.
The political divide has blamed the government for the existing problems in the country without considering that “the era of big government is over” even though the federal government is only answerable to the states. Before the 1990s, the United States had only one federal government employee for every 110 Americans as compared with approximately 150 today (Spence and Sandile 729). The authors argue that the guilt and blame that ensued from poor decisions by the capitalists have come back to haunt the citizens because of the fading mutual understanding. Politicians and business capitalists have resorted to carrying out their activities without the consent or consultation of one another, which reduces the country’s international standings of social development in education and public health. In their book, Testing Theories of American Politics, Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin declare that in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rankings, the United States of America stands at 25th place when it comes to early childhood education of three-year-olds.
In summary, American Amnesia gives an in-depth outlook of political problems that the America currently goes through due to the blame game amongst political and business elites. However, the biggest call by the authors trickles down to the establishment of a broad-based program in order to focus on the restoration of an evenhanded government as demanded by the majority of the contemporary Americans.
The title of the book gives a sneak peek to the theme of collective ignorance, as the authors prepare the readers on the proposition of the contents. With contemporary Americans dismissing and criticizing the government about most of their political and economic problems, they seem to forget their historic struggles. Instead, many Americans have launched a war against the federal government grounded on a “collective amnesia” regarding the economic policy used in the country. In a deeper perspective, “willful ignorance” would serve a better catchphrase to describe modern-day citizens. For instance, when the authors state that Americans have failed to recall the roots of their prosperity (Hacker and Pierson 299), this means that every citizen should first refer to the ideological warfare left approximately half a century ago to reveal the truth about the existing economic model.
According to Spence and Sandile, the Americans have ignored the perception that the government is not an active partner in the production process, but instead, it is an extortionist of levies from the revenues generated by successful businesses (720). The American government employs many people who use corrupt approaches of embezzling funds for improving the growth and development of various sectors (Hacker and Pierson 398). The authors illustrate that Americans have willfully ignored or forgotten many developmental milestones, which could jog their minds about the status of their society and economy. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) currently ranks the country 19th when it comes to the completion of college education, which is a massive drop from the dominant lead catapulted by the GI Bill (Spence and Sandile 723). Furthermore, Gilens and Benjamin echoes the authors’ sentiments that the government had globally one of the best infrastructure in the past, but currently, it allocates only three percent of the GDP for its maintenance (Gilens and Benjamin 572).
When it comes to the theme of mixed economy, the authors argue that the reestablished government that focuses on the prosperity of all citizens could work as the starting point of reversing this spiral. According to Hacker and Pierson, ordinary American people have the capacity to triumph over other governmental interests, which could serve as a catalyst towards rescuing the epitome of the mixed economy from the political elite (349). Politics, along with the lack of policy alternatives, are the most disturbing concerns of the mixed economy. In summary, with the contemporary world of increased complexity and interdependence, it uses the theme of mixed economy to show that the American government could still push for better politics and policies.
The authors also argue that American people have begun to pay the price, as the book delves into political and economic history of the country over the past 100 years to demonstrate that the government has predominantly hinged to a sustainable mixed economy for prosperity. The American government established a mixed economy, a driving force of capitalism, that ensures the accomplishment of sustainable growth as well as healthy social development. During the industrial revolution era, the United States government and various businesses worked in partnership; at the same time, both parties accepted constructive criticism (Hacker and Pierson 152).
As most Americans continue to suffer from collective ignorance and amnesia, Hacker and Pierson claim that the populace has deep anger and resentment against the government. Such reactions have led to a war fueled by a contemporary agenda of eliminating the demeaning capitalist policies favoring the political elite, government bureaucrats, and leading corporations who thwart American efforts to grow the economy for everyone’s benefit. According to those advocating for change, the eliminating policy regulators is the best way of dealing with this situation (Hacker and Pierson 322). However, the economic policies in America are deeply rooted in its history. Therefore, since the country has become more complex, bigger, and more technologically advanced as compared to its status approximately 200 years ago, American citizens have to wake up from their reverie to ensure they counterbalance capitalists as well as corporate players seeking selfish benefits (Hacker and Pierson 269).
The book has made me learn that prosperity in America relied on public investments in infrastructure, education, science, and technology, which helped to lay a sturdy foundation for future businesses. Furthermore, the government initiated agendas for economic security including acceptable taxation to create a protective measure for businesses dedicated to make profit. As such, the government addressed business demands as the way of achieving extraordinary economic and social development (Connolly 230).
American Amnesia has developed my knowledge about the historical problems the Americans have gone though in the last century. Hacker and Pierson suggest many recommendations to help the government solve such problems. These include limiting Senators from using filibusters, developing well-managed electoral facilities, reforming the institute campaign finance, and introducing regulatory restructuring to address embezzlement of funds in health care, energy, and financial sectors of the economy (Hacker and Pierson 157).
I have also learnt that the top one percent of political elites own the majority of wealth in America, which has led to rebellion among most Americans to fuel the theme of guilt and blame. Another related issue is the struggle by the American government to combat global warming without infringing the livelihoods of its populace and even other nations. Hacker and Pierson state that, “today, the message most commentators take from Adam Smith is that government should get out of the way” because “whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counselors are always the masters” (Hacker and Pierson 132).
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The authors claim that war on government has shrunk their efforts to advance the notion that the government is about “redistribution”, while the private sector takes care of “production.” Even though this perception appears far-fetched in explaining the animosity between the government and the businesses, the authors maintain that the former has erred by only restructuring the economy instead of holding people responsible for their actions (Hacker and Pierson 194). I have also learnt that the United States has maintained a political process in which economic prosperity automatically reflects governmental policy, and such a standing has made the Americans one of the richest nation globally (Hacker and Pierson 201). However, as the political elite grow richer by the day, other Americans continue to struggle for making ends meet because they have willingly ignored the historical foundation and originality of their political and economic policies.
The principal themes in American Amnesia focus on exposing the truth behind the mixed economy, which the conservative proponents have unfairly used in their policies in order to restrict the factors of production to their control. Hacker and Pierson comprehensively examine the forces of externalities in unchecked markets, along with their effects on ordinary American citizens. The authors depict that the problems linked to such externalities have grown in the past few decades to match population growth and the innovative trend of urbanization. In conclusion, the principal themes in American Amnesia have made me learn that rampant capitalism and political dysfunction has underestimated the power of the American government to carry out its vital duties.
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