Book Review: The Conscience of a Liberal

I’ve been reading Paul Krugman‘s New York Times column for quite a while now and am a big fan. I especially like his ideas about the government setting a floor price on gasoline. After he won the Nobel Prize in Economics this year I decided to read his latest book, The Conscience of a Liberal.

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Mr. Krugman is an excellent writer and, therefore, this book was easy to read and flowed nicely. It is, above all, a pragmatic book about economic policy, history, and politics. He begins with a long explanation of the history of economics in the United States and how public policy has had dramatic effects on income and class inequality over time. He then spends significant pages discussing the history of the Republican party and the rise in power of “movement conservatism”. Finally, he describes specific policies we should enact to fix the problems that plague our country economically.

What I enjoyed most about this book was reading about the political and economic history of the United States. It strengthened my opinions about our urgent need for single-payer universal health care and totally changed my views about labor unions. Mr. Krugman is a brilliant intellectual and an incredible communicator. I can only hope he has some advisory role in an Obama administration.

Now I have to purchase my own copy so I can reread it and mark it up. Unfortunately, the copy I read must be returned to the library. :)

2 Comment

  1. Can you expand on your change in views about labo(u)r unions?

  2. @stevenpam – Before I grew up I identified as a fiscal conservative. I watched UPS drivers, who don’t require any special skills, put a halt to the service because they wanted a pay increase to something over $20 per hour. At the time that seemed absurd to me. Then, in the Wichita aerospace industry, unions never seemed important because there is so much competition for skilled labor. All the local companies compete for the same skilled workers. Pay and benefits are good.

    In my mind unions bullied companies and made them less competitive.

    In this book Krugman describes how unions increase worker pay and benefits while lowering executive pay. Strong unions, he argues, are key to a robust middle class and class compression overall. I think he’s right. I was looking at the issue too closely and lacked valuable insight.

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