Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future

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9781400053063: Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future
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A peculiar feature of our country today, says Michael Barone, is that we seem to produce incompetent eighteen-year-olds but remarkably competent thirty-year-olds. Indeed, American students lag behind their peers in other nations, but America remains on the leading edge economically, scientifically, technologically, and militarily.

The reason for this paradox, explains Barone in this brilliant essay, is that from ages six to eighteen Americans live mostly in what I call Soft Americathe parts of our country where there is little competition and accountability. But from ages eighteen to thirty Americans live mostly in Hard Americathe parts of American life subject to competition and accountability. While Soft America coddles, Hard America plays for keeps.

Educators, for example, protect children from the rigors of testing, ban dodgeball, and promote just about any student who shows up. But most adults quickly figure out that how they do depends on what they produce.

Barone sweeps readers along, showing how we came to the current dividefor things werent always this way. In fact, no part of our society is all Hard or all Soft, and the boundary between Hard America and Soft America often moves back and forth. Barone also shows where America is headedor should be headed. We dont want to subject kindergartners to the rigors of the Marine Corps or leave old people uncared for. But Soft America lives off the productivity, creativity, and competence of Hard America, and we have the luxury of keeping part of our society Soft only if we keep most of it Hard.

Hard America, Soft America reveals:

How the American situation is unique: In Europe, schooling is competitive and demanding, but adult life is Soft, with generous welfare benefits, short work hours, long vacations, and state pensions

How the American military has reclaimed the Hard goals and programs it abandoned in the Vietnam era

How Hardness drives Americas economyan economy that businesses and economists nearly destroyed in the 1970s by spurning competition

How Americas schools have failed because they are bastions of Softnessbut how they are finally showing signs of Hardening

The benefits of Softness: How government programs like Social Security were necessary in what was a harsh and unforgiving America

Hard America, Soft America is a stunningly original and provocative work of social commentary from one of this countrys most respected political analysts.

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Review:

America is divided into two camps, according to U.S. News and World Reports writer and Fox commentator Michael Barone. No, not Red and Blue, though one suspects Barone may taint the two groups in the hues of the 2000 presidential election. Barone's divided America is one part Hard, one part Soft. Hard America is steeled by the competition and accountability of the free market, while Soft America is the product of public school and government largesse. Inspired by the notion that America produces incompetent 18 year olds and remarkably competent 30 year olds, Barone embarks on a breezy 162-page commentary that will spark mostly huzzahs from the right and jeers from the left. Certainly the unforgiving nature of the marketplace can sharpen skills in upstarts, but what's softer than the landing of a CEO with a golden parachute? And one would assume Barone would favor toughening up coddled kids by retaining, if not drastically raising, the inheritance tax, but the subject never comes up. Still, the Washington, D.C.-based pundit's premise is provocative, his arguments are nuanced, and his writing is sharp. Ultimately, Barone forecasts "a Harder America on the horizon." Would that be what they used to call "hard times"? --Steven Stolder

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781400053247: Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future

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ISBN 10:  1400053242 ISBN 13:  9781400053247
Publisher: Crown Forum, 2005
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9781400081196: Hard America, Soft America: Competition Vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future

Crown ..., 2004
Softcover

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