The Zero-Sum Society: Distribution and the Possibilities for Economic Change

The Zero-Sum Society: Distribution and the Possibilities for Economic Change

The Zero-Sum Society: Distribution and the Possibilities for Economic Change

The Zero-Sum Society: Distribution and the Possibilities for Economic Change

Synopsis

Written during a period of acute economic stagnation in 1980, this bestseller discusses the human implications of economic problem solving and offers a classic set of recommendations about the best way to balance government stewardship of the economy and the free-market aspirations of upwardly mobile Americans.

Excerpt

After decades of believing in their economic invulnerability, Americans were jolted by the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. the actions of a few desert sheiks could make them line up at the gas pump and substantially reduce their standard of living. Sudden economic vulnerability is disconcerting, just as that first small heart attack is disconcerting. It reminds us that our economy can be eclipsed.

When the shutdown of a major oil exporter for just a few months in 1979 once again resulted in the convulsions of gas lines, it was possible to ask whether that first mild heart attack was not the harbinger of something worse. Seemingly unsolvable problems were emerging everywhere—inflation, unemployment, slow growth, environmental decay, irreconcilable group demands, and complex, cumbersome regulations. Were the problems unsolvable or were our leaders incompetent? Had Americans lost the work ethic? Had we stopped inventing new processes and products? Should we invest more and consume less? Do we need to junk our social welfare, health, safety, and environmental protection systems in order to compete? Why were others doing better?

Where the U.S. economy had once generated the world's highest standard of living, it was now well down the list and slipping farther each year. Leaving the rich Middle East sheikdoms aside, we stood fifth among the nations of the world in per capita gnp

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