The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics

Halstead, Ted; Lind, Michael

Published by Anchor, 2002
ISBN 10: 0385720297 / ISBN 13: 9780385720298
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Synopsis: Record numbers of Americans describe themselves as “independents” and reject the conventional agendas of Left and Right. In this widely acclaimed book, Ted Halstead and Michael Lind explain why today’s ideologies and institutions are so ill-suited to the Information Age, and offer a groundbreaking blueprint for updating all sectors of America society. Taking on partisans and experts on both sides of the political divide, they propose far-reaching reforms for the way we provide health and retirement security, collect taxes, organize elections, enforce civil rights, and educate our children.

Twice before the United States has dramatically reconfigured itself, shifting from an agrarian to an industrial society after the Civil War and successfully adapting to the massive technological and demographic changes of the early twentieth century during the New Deal era. Uniting a sweeping historical vision with bold policy proposals, The Radical Center shows us how to reinvent our nation once again so that all Americans can reap the benefits of the Information Age.

Review: This bold book proposes to take American politics in a totally new direction--away from "our rigid two-party cartel" of Republicans and Democrats, and toward a centrism that currently doesn't exist in an electoral sense. "Our nation's politics are dominated by two feuding dinosaurs that have outlived the world in which they evolved," write Ted Halstead and Michael Lind. Both men are affiliated with the New America Foundation, and Lind is the provocative author of The Next American Nation and Vietnam: The Necessary War. They believe the ongoing technological revolution will transform American politics in fundamental ways, and most of The Radical Center advocates specific shifts across a range of issues. The result is a mishmash that isn't so much a set of new ideas as a blend of existing ones. Halstead and Lind want to enact private-school choice for students and parents (a conservative idea), for instance, and also to equalize funding by essentially abolishing the states' role in education (something that might appeal to liberals). Their goal, they say, is to increase personal choices where possible and minimize class inequalities where feasible.

Much of The Radical Center reads like a wonk's fantasy; Halstead and Lind identify policy problems everywhere they look--from voting rights to health care--and suggest solutions with the confidence of technocrats who believe they can remake the world. What they produce is a grab bag that will simultaneously fascinate and frustrate readers who start off ensconced on either the right or left of the political spectrum. How many people will favor both their idea of abolishing all corporate income taxes as well as their notion of implementing a new nationwide tax on consumption? But that's the point: Halstead and Lind try to forge a new politics that takes the best parts of today's left and right and abandons the rest as so much dead weight. The Radical Center is at once jarring and invigorating; readers willing to engage with it will wrestle with hard questions. Many may come away persuaded by large parts of Halstead and Lind's argument. And if the whole project sounds a tad ambitious, there's a reason: "Major political change in the United States, in short, tends to be revolutionary, not evolutionary." If that's true, then consider The Radical Center a manifesto for a new age that's right around the corner. --John Miller

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Title: The Radical Center: The Future of American ...
Publisher: Anchor
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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Ted Halstead, Michael Lind
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