As dark as our time is in so many ways, there exists one great ray of hope: that we may finally have reached the end of the line for neoliberal economics, the theories advanced by Milton Friedman and others in the 1960s and 1970s that replaced Keynesianism as the country’s reigning economic philosophy (and that, frustratingly and for some confusingly, have nothing whatsoever to do with liberalism).
The economy is doing very well at the moment, it’s true; but increasingly, recognition that it’s doing especially well for only a few has grown and grown. More and more people have come to see that the market, left to its own devices, does not distribute goods equitably, that lack of public investment hurts our economic position in the world and our communities, and that all the philanthropy in the world can’t address problems like climate change on anywhere near the scale required. We need taxes, investment, and public purpose.
But if we are to replace neoliberalism, we must have an answer to the question: with what? That’s the question this symposium seeks to answer. With the support of the Hewlett Foundation, we assembled a prominent group of contributors who are deeply engaged in finding that answer. Together, these essays describe what this new economics would look like, and the support structures that would be needed to nurture and sustain it. Let’s get to work.
Our friend Nick Hanauer, the Seattle venture capitalist, has established himself in recent years as probably the leading voice among the zillionaire class for a sensible progressive economic policy built not around more tax cuts for him but around more investments in the middle class. In numerous venues, he’s made a strong case against supply-side economics and the view of human nature (that we’re all just greedy self-maximizers) that underpins it.
In this issue, Hanauer argues that to revive labor, the largest employers must be made to lead the way to pay better wages and benefits—and should be penalized when they fail to. It’s exactly the kind of reform package we need to be talking about: big and bold, but also achievable. Democratic presidential wannabes, take note.
We are—we hope—halfway through the Trump era, which inspired our symposium “Halfway Home,” in which we invite a number of contributors, some old friends of the journal and some first-timers, to share their thoughts about where they think things stand, and what our side needs to be doing as we hurtle toward 2020. Things got better on November 6, but there’s still a lot of building to do, and this symposium helps show the way.
We also publish in this issue two important foreign-policy essays. Daniel Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Obama, assays President Trump’s attacks on NATO, and insists that it must be defended against Trump’s assaults. And Ganesh Sitaraman argues that it’s not right-wing populism that is the real threat to liberal democracy—it’s nationalist oligarchy. Both are bracing and provocative essays. Also, Didi Kuo issues a bracing call for corporate civic responsibility, and Ian Millhiser lays out the controversial case for changing the Supreme Court.
Few conservative writers have made as interesting and thorough a journey in the Trump age as Max Boot. Suzanne Nossel reviews Boot’s new book and comes away only somewhat convinced. Brentin Mock reaches similar conclusions about DeRay Mckesson, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter. And Jon Shelton reviews a new book about why Wisconsin, with its strong progressive history, moved to the right in recent years—a movement that, happily, was arrested in November.
We open this issue with more entries in the “what Democrats need to do” series. First, we welcome our publisher Bernard Schwartz to our pages, who writes a sharp essay with former Foreign Policy magazine editor David Rothkopf on the needed Democratic priorities heading into this fall’s midterms and especially to 2020. We follow that with an important piece from Jake Sullivan, who was Hillary Clinton’s top policy adviser, discussing lessons from the campaign about what issues and areas the Democrats need to emphasize next time around.
Longtime readers will know that defending the positive contributions of gov- ernment has been a cause of this journal’s for some time. In this vein, we are delighted to publish an adaptation from The Value of Everything, due out this fall from University College of London economist Mariana Mazzucato. She shows how, for centuries, economics has totally failed to measure the true value of wealth created by or with the help of the public sector. Her work should spark a wholesale reassessment in how we measure public value, which in turn would change the way we think about public investment.
Rounding out the feature well are two provocative essays. The first, by James Traub, details the assault—in North Carolina and other states, not to mention Hungary and Poland—by right-wing regimes on the independent judiciary. The second, by Stephen J. Rose and Ruy Teixeira, argues against the standard liberal-left notion that automation is going to take away millions of jobs and posits instead that the real problem of the future will be our failure to prepare enough people to succeed in the high-end economy, which is easily picking up the slack.
The issue features four excellent book reviews. Writer Sarah Jones, whom we welcome to our pages for the first time, digs into the topic of the opioid crisis through a book that describes the bleak situation in her native southwest Virginia. The veteran journalist Joe Klein assays the strange (and often strained) relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and Al Smith. Princeton political theoretician Jan-Werner Müller reviews William Galston’s take on the future of the West. And political scientist Norman Ornstein discusses a lively and original history of polarization by the young historian Samuel Rosenfeld.