Posted by: Dirk | December 21, 2008

The future of US capitalism

For almost a generation, our society has been identified in the eyes of much of the world as a nation that is rich but indifferent; peace-loving in rhetoric but aggressive in behavior; boastful of its economic strength, blind to the misuse of that strength. Now the years are at hand in which that image – and the realities that are uncomfortable close to that image – can be change. We will continue to be a rich nation; we must cease to be in so many ways a poor one. We will continue to be a powerful nation; we must learn the limits of our power. We will continue to be an economic colossus, but our economic system must now become the undergirding for a good society.

In view of our heritag, our traditions, our deeply rooted failings, this will not be an easy transformation for America to make. It may even prove to be an impossible one, although I strongly believe that this is not the case.  But in any event, the all-important thing is to make the effort. The challenge is to change America today into a different and much better America tomorrow. In my view, this will be the the most searching test of its character that American society has ever faced.

Robert L. Heilbroner,
in: The Making of Economic Society, p. 289-90, 1980

Since economic history has been banished from universities, there is a lot of insightful books out there that students do not read. The above quote from Heilbroner is just one example of what economics could also be: an analysis of how our society works, how it is organized and where the structural problems are. The book includes discussions of the military subeconomy (p. 183), problems with the environment regarding pollution (p. 187) and unsustainable growth (p. 188). It covers the Great Depression (ch. 7), multinational corporations (ch. 11) and discusses planning vs market (p. 266).

To sum it up, this book is well written, focusses on the real problems of the time, and looks very relevant in retrospect. It contains neither mathematics nor models. But it is extremely good at achieving its goal: What we want is a general understanding of the economic system in which we live (p. 2).

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