Monday, April 23, 2012

That Used To Be Us - by Thomas L. Friedman & Michael Mandelbaum

In That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times columnist) and Michael Mandelbaum (professor and foreign policy expert) collaborate as friends and patriotic citizens on a book they intend as a wake-up and call to action for Americans.  As a nation, the authors claim that adapting to globalization, adjusting to the information revolution, coping with budget deficits, and managing energy consumption and climate change are the key hurdles requiring the type of collective response that Americans have employed in our past to achieve greatness.

Your like or dislike of this book may depend upon your political viewpoints.  Friedman and Mandelbaum take the position that both major parties have become increasingly polarized, making our political system ineffective. Instead, they endorse the "radical center" that more accurately portrays the more moderate values and viewpoints of the majority.  They argue that Democrats will have to cooperate on hard decisions to cut spending on government programs that are important and/or affect a lot of people.  Likewise, they assert that Republicans will have relent on their refusal to raise taxes.  They believe that government must invest in education, infrastructure, and research and development, as well as open our society more widely to talented immigrants and fix the regulations that govern our economy.  In the end, however, they claim that there is no magic potion for returning to greatness, no easy answers. “Americans will have to save more, consume less, study longer, and work harder than they have become accustomed to doing in recent decades.”  They point out, however, that America, in spite of its current problems, is still in the best position to spur innovation and success.  As we have in the past, they encourage us to embrace our uniquely American formula for greatness to adapt and succeed in the face of our current challenges.

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