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America's Economic Dilemma

Jeffrey Madrick, in The End of Affluence: The Causes and Consequences of America's Economic Dilemma, explains the meaning of his title and in doing so summarizes his work:

By "the end of affluence," I mean the period of slow economic growth . . . which began in 1973 and shows no sign of ending as we enter the late 1990s. . . . Slow economic growth over two decades has created conditions in America that are significantly different from those that shaped our earlier history. In my view, slow growth is the main cause of the political and social problems we find most critical today (x).

Madrick argues that Americans have developed a new way of looking at their lives, at the American economy and the way that economy affects their lives, and at their futures. Because of this long-term economic slowdown, a sense of uncertainty about life, politics, society, and economic reality has pervaded the nation.

Basically, Madrick offers two roads to the future. First, all will be well again "if rapid economic growth does return, our wages will rise, we will be more willing to pay taxes, we will save more," and the nation as a whole on every level will benefit. However, "if rapid growth does not return," Madrick warns that

we will have to learn to deal with the social and political consequences differently than in the past. Such changes will be difficult and politically dangerous. We can face this challenge wisely only if we acknowledge the true source of our problems (xii).

Madrick should be congratulated for his realistic view of the economic picture in the United States. He eschews both the extremely pessimistic and misleadingly optimistic views which other analysts have adopted, choosing instead a middle course in which he accepts the slow growth as a given and yet sees ways in which the country can navigate a diminished future while carrying out sound policy in both the economic and social spheres.

Madrick's would have benef...

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America's Economic Dilemma. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:54, August 12, 2020, from