Faith in the free market--the idea that, for instance, profit-seeking managed care companies will improve the health care delivery system--has become a basic tenet of public policy debate. But as Joel Blau demonstrates in this eye-opening book, so-called "free market" programs have been a dismal failure, heightening inequality, lowering the median standard of living, and steadily eroding the quality of our social and political life.
In Illusions of Prosperity, Blau launches a far-reaching assault on idea that "the market" knows best. Blau writes that while the share of the national income held by the bottom four fifths of the population (the poor and broad middle class combined) has continued to decline, the top fifth gained 97 percent of the increase in total household income between 1979 and 1994. "Few experiments," Blau comments, "yield such clear outcomes. Although many had hoped to benefit from the new market economy, this affluent fifth is the only segment of the population that truly has." Blau looks at recent reforms in NAFTA, education, job training, welfare, and much more, showing that the new social policies have made matters worse, because reforms that rely on the market can't compensate for the market's deficiencies. Instead, he calls for a stronger, more caring government to counter the debilitating effects of the market, and he urges the development of the broadest possible political alliances to ensure economic security.
Sure to raise controversy, Illusions of Prosperity turns today's conventional wisdom inside out, making a profound case for the importance of a strong government in a world where markets do not have all the answers.
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Joel Blau is an Associate Professor, and Director of the Ph.D. Program, at the School of Social Welfare, State University of New York, Stony Brook. He is the author of The Visible Poor: Homelessness in the United States. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
"Joel Blau has written a thoughtful and cogent analysis of the state of American society today, the impact of the market system on working families, and the consequences likely to flow from weakening the safety net further. The 'Next Deal' solutions he proposes full employment policies,
living wages, protection of the right to organize, stepped up infrastructural investments and meaningful social welfare protections are cornerstones of any economic and political democracy, which lawmakers would do well to keep in mind as they shape policy for the 21st century."-- John Sweeney,
President, AFL CIO
"Blau has compiled a powerful brief against the neo-laissez faire doctrines that have dominated American economic and social welfare policy for three decades."--Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, authors of Breaking the American Social Contract
"Clearly written, closely argued, and carefully documented, Illusions of Prosperity is an indispensable guide to public policy in these uncertain times. Blau not only charts how the American government's embrace of laissez-faire ideology has wreaked havoc...he tells us what can be done to undo
the damage. Must reading for anyone who cares about what's happening to the average American."--Charles Noble, Professor of Political Science, California State University, Long Beach, and the author of Welfare As We Knew It: A Political History of the American Welfare State
"Blau's analysis is rigorous, readable, and prophetic. It should be widely consulted."--Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare
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