The Predator State — More Progressives Who Saw True and Through
Following the ground breaking legacy of his father, James Galbraith’s Predator State, strives to rectify this obsolescence at a pivotal moment for the economy of the United States and the rest of the world.Â The Predator State is a book that provides above all a clairvoyant, stinging but constructive critique of the current economic order, exposing the truth about today’s “conservative” economics, masterfully revealing why conservative policies have dramatically, inevitably and fortunately failed.
More importantly however, Galbraith cleverly demonstrates how this fact does not really matter today, as epitomized during the Bush Presidency: Conservative governments use their ideology and dogmas only as a facade to camouflage their own interests and the shameless pursuit of power they are engaged in. In a government of vested interests not of the people, the real agenda behind policy debate boils down to the politics of who gets cut in, versus the politics of who gets cut out of the deal.
In the same vein as his father, Galbraith questions, and masterfully disables the now dysfunctional theoretical foundations that the market mechanism deserves infallibility when it comes to pursuing the public interest.Â He shows how market power, asymmetric information and regulatory capture lead to “rampant predation against both a public system and the public itself” in key areas such as healthcare, education, social security, energy, financial policy and the growing complexity of a fraudulent financial system.Â He draws strength from Keynesian science and values, adjusting them to the modern reality to develop in the last three chapters of his fourteen chapter book carefully considered and well-founded solutions. In these chapters, he also offers concrete action steps that stem from both a Keynesian and Institutional vision that combine both the small and big-picture.
James Galbraith challenges conventional wisdom by tackling a major blind spot in today’s economic culture: the lack of economic planning, scoffed at by mainstream economists since the debacle of the Soviet Union.Â Separating the baby from the bathwater, he makes a compelling case for a responsible capacity to plan, as evidenced by the dramatic example of Hurricane Katrina.Â Only responsible and sustainable economic planning, coupled with the imposition and reinforcement of high regulatory standards can reverse the erosion of vital human, institutional and physical infrastructure.Â This includes the major economic institutions of the post-war era that have been steadily eroded since the 1970s, and which have nevertheless protected Americans and their economy against their own predatory regimes. Chapter eight, “The Enduring New Deal”, demonstrates the reality of how strongly the United States has resisted the mayhem of the conservative onslaught of recent decades because of the integrity of the institutions created during Roosevelt’s New Deal, essentially allowing the economy to survive the threat of the predator state.
While he rejects some of the ideas of his father’s era, James Galbraith, as an “evolutionary economist”, makes the case for a holistic and inclusive approach to economics that factor in modern realities and challenges like climate change, energy policy, immigration and international markets.
Galbraith also predicted with an unmatched prescience the current economic meltdown. Indeed, he is one of the few economists to have been able not just to foresee the current situation, but also to explain it by clearly identifying the root causes, propose meaningful solutions within a social-democratic perspective.Â His ability to predict and make sense of the current situation makes a careful reading of this work all the more pressing.
The Obama administration in the US and the NDP in Canada, should give an especially close and careful attention to this book.Â Though it is centered on the American situation, the economic phenomenon that Galbraith treats, in addition to the deeper social visions he expresses, is just as pertinent in Canada as south of the border.
The integrity of Galbraith’s book, and the relative ease with which one can sift through its 210 pages, will make every economist and activist proud. This book is an essential accompaniment read for anyone that cares about building a just and sustainable society.