The State of the Nation: Government and the Quest for a Better Society

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9780674292109: The State of the Nation: Government and the Quest for a Better Society

Never before have Americans been so anxious about the future of their society. But rarely has anyone offered a clear statement about why, in a nation so prosperous, free, and stable, we tend to assume that the country is in dire straits and that the government can do little to help. This book is just such a statement, an eloquent assessment of where America stands, how our society has changed in the past half-century, and who or what is responsible for our current frustrations.

Derek Bok examines the nation's progress in five areas that Americans generally consider to be of paramount importance: economic prosperity, quality of life, opportunity, personal security, and societal values. He shows that although we are better off today in most areas than we were in 1960, we have performed poorly overall compared with other leading industrial nations. And when it comes to providing adequate health care at a reasonable cost, educating our young people for high-skilled jobs, alleviating poverty and urban blight, and reducing crime, our record has been dismal. Comparing the United States with other leading industrial nations on more than sixty key indicators, Bok shows that we rank below average in more than two-thirds of the cases and at the bottom in more than half.

What has caused this decline, and what can be done about it? In virtually all important areas of American life, Bok concludes, government policies have played a significant, often decisive role in accounting for our successes as well as our failures. But whereas others call for downsizing the federal government, Bok argues that government is essential to achieving America's goals. In short, Ronald Reagan was only half right. Government is the problem. But it is also the most important part of the solution. By assessing the state of the nation and identifying the reasons for its current condition, this book helps set the agenda for improving America's performance in the future.

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Review:

Derek Bok, a former Harvard president, understands the power of statistics. At their best, statistics provide a vital means to grasp the size and scope of a problem or to present a lucid image of a potential solution. Numbers are a powerful tool for interpreting the world. But few statistics are so potent that they can persuade without the accompaniment of artful rhetoric. In The State of the Union, Derek Bok sets aside the purple prose of many books on public policy and attempts to move readers with the clear light of comparative quantifiers. Comparing the rankings and measures of the United States with other industrialized countries, Bok marshals forth an argument for a more activist government that works to improve education, lessen poverty, and expand access to health care in the mode of most other welfare states. The numbers provide interesting jumping-off points, but the middle is missing. Bok delivers only conclusions to follow his data, leaving out the heavy lifting required to craft the underpinnings for the reforms he thinks desirable. As a ready collection of data on the comparative positions of industrialized countries this book is a useful resource.

From the Publisher:

Scholarly Audio brings this work by one of the nation's leading scholars to you in an audiobook format that is easily accessible, time-conserving, and cost-effective. This audiobook provides a productive use of your time while you are commuting, traveling across country, exercising, gardening, or engaging in other activities that permit you to "read through your ears."

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Derek Bok
Published by Harvard University Press (1997)
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Bok, Derek
Published by Harvard University Press (1997)
ISBN 10: 0674292103 ISBN 13: 9780674292109
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