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Plenty of Nothing: The Downsizing of the American Dream and the Case for Structural Keynesianism Hardcover – Mar 9 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 9 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691048479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691048475
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #825,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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First Sentence
THIS BOOK is about the American economy and the gradual dismantling of mass prosperity that has been taking place over the last twenty-five years. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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By A Customer on Sept. 24 2002
Format: Hardcover
A staff economist at the AFL-CIO, Palley presents labor's views on current economic issues. His grand thesis is that globalization and the decline of US unions have shifted the balance of economic power in favor of capital and to the detriment of labor. The result has been declining wages, increased economic inequality, and soft aggregate demand -- all of which have led to lower economic growth. Palley writes about specific issues such as monetary policy, trade, and taxation.
On the plus side, Plenty of Nothing is clearly written. Palley is very good at demonstrating how free-market economics often masks a pro-corporation bias. At the same time, he doesn't engage with rival points of view or provide adequate empirical support for his thesis. For example, he claims ad nauseum that national income is being reallocated from labor to capital -- but his statistics don't prove this. Instead, they show that average wages have declined over the last few decades while average profits have increased -- but this doesn't entail that labor's overall share of national income has decreased.
Similarly, he pooh-poohs the argument that growing inequality is caused by a skills/jobs mismatch in the labor market. If the supply of low-skill labor and hig-skill labor is inelastic, and demand shifts from low-skill to high-skill labor, then a wage gap will open up. Palley belittles this analysis as the conventional wisdom -- but he doesn't show that it's wrong.
Palley also contends that the Federal Reserve deliberately keeps interest rates high in order to service the needs of Wall Street and to restrain wage increases. Anybody who knows the latest rates on T-bills can only laugh at this. A lot can change in only four years (Palley's book was published in 1998).
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Format: Hardcover
"Plenty of Nothing"
A consensus is stifling America. It stretches across the Republican Party and through to the Clinton Democrats. It is the rallying cry of business and the default perspective of the media. The consensus is over economic policy, and its tenets are free trade, tight credit and a slack labor market. Its conceit is saddled atop the current cyclical economic recovery which consists of low inflation, low unemployment and moderate economic growth. The consensus demands of any critic, "What's possibly wrong with that?" Palley has brought forth a powerful rebuttal. Briefly stated, he argues that economic activity, even self-interested private individually motivated competitive activity, occurs within a structure of laws and rules. Those structures affect the outcomes of the competition. The current structure has produced increased competition between working people and has failed to continue the mass prosperity of the 1945 to 1973 era. He writes, "The failure to recognize that widespread prosperity rests on appropriately designed market rules and regulations is the cancer that is killing the American dream." Palley then takes apart, both theoretically and empirically, the major policy issues that make the U.S. regulatory structure: tight fiscal policy, low inflation, free trade, collective bargaining, and international capital mobility. His theoretical model is what he calls "Structural Keynesianism." That framework focuses on the failures of "natural" capitalism and the policies of tight credit and fiscal austerity to properly manage demand so as to maintain full employment (i.e. very low unemployment).
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book. I took economics in college. It was a mix of graphs for laughs combined with a totally pro-business outlook. Unions were bad and workers were described as responsible for unemployment because of greedy wage demands. The idea that bargaining power might matter was completely absent. Thomas Palley has written an antidote to this. This is economics written clearly and lucidly. Best of all, I did not feel that I was being not told what to think, but rather I felt lead through the economy in a way that gave real understanding. For anyone who wants to understand how the economy and how globalization work and what their effects are, this is a must read. This may sound excessive, but this is the best economics book I have ever read. Compensation at last for the money I wasted on Econ 101.
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Format: Hardcover
Every now and then a book comes along that causes readers to change the way they think in important ways. This is such a book. The discipline of economics has become ever more narrow over the last three decades. Most economists can speak with great expertise about the minutia of obscure policy debates, but know nothing that is really relevant to the world. Given this trend, Palley's book is a breath of fresh air. It tackles the big subjects. He examines the accepted wisdom on such issues as the NAIRU, free trade, and inflation, and exposes its flaws. It points out inconsistencies that other economists either overlook or are willing to ignore.
This book presents a new way of viewing the economy. It builds on the work of Keynes and the best of the Post-Keynesian economists. It is well worth the reader's time.
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