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The Conscience of a Liberal

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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  3,906 ratings  ·  329 reviews
In this "clear, provocative" (Boston Globe) New York Times bestseller, Paul Krugman, today's most widely read economist, examines the past eighty years of American history, from the reforms that tamed the harsh inequality of the Gilded Age and the 1920s to the unraveling of that achievement and the reemergence of immense economic and political inequality since the 1970s. S ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 12th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2007)
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Trevor
It is interesting to read this book, which was written a couple of years before Obama was elected, now that it is a couple of years after his election. This is an important book and one I would encourage you to read.

There was a time when America was a country that was interested in equality and was not really a ‘class’ society – but more a ‘middle-class’ society. There were rich and poor people, but mostly there was a kind of extended middle. That is no longer the case. Now the US is perhaps be
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Dylan
In the 1990s Paul Krugman famously asserted that 70% of the wealth that had been accumulated between 1977-1989 belonged to the top 1% of the population. Those facts still remain, but history has distorted the legacy of President Reagan, turning an actor and communicator into a great policy maker. The truth is that for the average American, Ronald Reagan was anything but a great policy maker. In fact, he was the ultimate creator of the income inequality that we live with today.

In 2007, with a cri
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sheena
You want to understand how the two major political parties came to be what they are today.

You're curious about how racism and the history of slavery play an uncomfortable but undeniable role in America's resistance to provide her citizens with the care and basic support other wealthy nations deem fundamental.

Also you're an elitist baby-killing commie.

Well, that means you want to read this book.

Krugman demystifies the surge of movement conservatism and calls on liberals to be progressive in their
...more
Pete Sikora
Mar 09, 2008 Pete Sikora rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: commies in training
What's with the well-reasoned arguments and incontrovertible facts, Paul? Enough with the "evidence" and "studies". I mean, why do you want to show that your arguments are correct with actual data. Jeez.

But seriously, folks. Krugman writes like the really good teaching economist that he is. This book rocks.

He's got a great - if not entirely original - dissection of the right wing movement's growth. Ditto arguments on income inequality and health care. He's got this great teaching manner that is
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Kaethe
Jul 16, 2014 Kaethe marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Krugman is a rare thing: an economist who makes good predictions. He's also one who cares about how economics affects people.

I was reading along, getting an overview of income inequality at the turn of the 20th century, and I just couldn't take any more. Over my lifetime it's gotten steadily worse until we are once again in a time of Gatsbys, and it pisses me off so much I want to scream. Every time anyone says anything good about Reagan I want to point out that real wages have been falling sinc
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Robert
The Concience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman plays off the title of Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative.

Although Krugman's book was published in 2007 (Goldwater's back in the 1960s), it remains worth reading. In fact, it is prescient in two major ways.

First, Krugman focuses hard on income inequality, which is a hot topic in 2014. His argument is that over the last 30+ years, taxes on the wealthy have gone down, social programs have been constrained, unions have been busted, and the
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Matt
Inequality and American politics according to Krugman. Unlike Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative, from which this book took its title, Conscience of a Liberal is not really a manifesto of "Liberal" principles or values. Instead the book tries to convey two main ideas that are more political and historical: 1) Inequality in America is driven more by political and social forces than by market forces. 2) Republicans owe their political success purely to greed and bigotry (oh and cheatin ...more
Vannessagrace Vannessagrace

I found Chapter 8, Politics of Inequality, the most informative. The chapter outlines how George W. Bush and Dick Cheney came to lead the country and how it's tied to William F. Buckley defending the right of the South to prevent blacks from voting— the white community is so entitled because it is, for the time being, the advanced race. And how they praised Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who overthrew a democratically elected government in the name of church and property.

Another passage that ca

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Julia
Apr 04, 2008 Julia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alayne, Katijane, Amber, Nate
Did you know that, at the start of the 1970s, the highest tax rate was 70 percent, as opposed to 35 percent now? This is the kind of thing you learn from The Conscience of a Liberal.

I love PK; I think he is heaven sent. In fact, he just became my best friend. This book falls just short of a perfect read, but I doubt very much that many agree with me. In it, Krugman is trying to sell the welfare state by coherent economic argument - bril! I love that he is unabashed in his desire for a progressiv
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Deborah
Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman takes us on a journey from the New Deal's advent to its creation; relates the resulting three-decade era of relative prosperity, equality, and bipartisanship; navigates the rise of "movement conservatism" and the assaults on the New Deal (and thus on equality) which occurred from the early 1970s through the present; and finally prescribes an agenda for the (predicted) Democratic congressional majority and presidency in 2009, with a focus on socialized health insur ...more
Mark
The weakness of this book is that it is largely preaching to the choir. Yes, the national Republican Party is run by a bunch of lying bastards who hate minorities, the poor, democracy, and Christianity. BUT...you've either accepted that or you've closed your eyes in denial. Writing a partisan tract isn't going to change anyone's mind.

The best part of the book is a history of the evolution of the Republican party in the twentieth century. Krugman layers this with comparisons of how the economy is
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Bobby
Krugman already has one Nobel (for economics); he should get another for writing about economic policy in a way that's actually easy to understand and enjoyable! In this surprisingly fast read he explains--among other things--the fundamental goals of "movement conservatism," the historical context of FDR's era and the New Deal, and the worsening social inequality that has been going on for the last few decades. It's refreshing to hear intelligent arguments backed up with data, though Krugman doe ...more
Benjamin Church
Nov 06, 2007 Benjamin Church rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those hoping the democrats don't choose hillary
Paul Krugman is obviously a remarkably intelligent writer and political economist and this book is a concise and convincing case for the reinstitution of welfare state politics as the backbone of a resurgent democratic political party. Hopefully something like what Krugman hopes for will actually happen, but I'm not too hopeful. Remember Bush? Anyway, not too dry and strongly agrued in its appeal to Keynesian and New Deal economic theories instead of just a basic appeal to help out the less fort ...more
Paul
Outstanding book. Krugman’s historical treatment of the conservative movement and the politics of race is unflinching. I’ve heard the criticism that he often cherry picks his facts in order to bolster an argument however, the data he presents leaves his call for a return to New Deal style policies and progressive taxation on solid ground. His presentation of all the detrimental effects of movement conservatism is spot on. This book sums up what should be the core beliefs of the modern democratic ...more
Edward
50 years ago I read Barry Goldwater’s CONSCIENCE OF A CONSERVATIVE and became a follower of Barry, even voted for him in l964. Now I find myself in Krugman’s camp. Granted this is no Damascus lightning bolt, but has it taken me half a century to find political wisdom? Or is it a half century slide into foolishness?
Leaving aside reasons why I made such a autobiographical u-turn, interesting or boring as they might be, Krugman makes sense to me today. He argues that Democrats are the TRUE conser
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Nigel
At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book. To be honest, I thought Krugman was just going to be too liberal for me. I was expecting to be bowled over with statistics and numbers, and I imagined I would read this book thinking, "yeah, but.. I'm not so sure if I buy this argument."

Well.. there are a lot of statistics and numbers, sure. But.. that's not really the point of this book, I don't think. Krugman IS liberal -- but he makes a convincing case for why that's a very GOOD thing
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Karen
(Summer reading for 12th grade)

This is an ambitious book that covers a vast range of topics concerning American politics and economics since the 20th century. Krugman draws parallels between the present and the past and offers many ways to return America to the way it was under FDR: democratic, middle-class, and with greater social and economic equality than there is now. It's a very interesting and surprisingly easy to understand book, and I definitely learned a lot.

--

Favorite quotes:

"The most
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Erik
The Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Krugman

Krugman, who just garnered a Nobel Prize in Economics this past year, is an unapologetic liberal. Or more specifically, as he likes to re-clarify at the end of his two-hundred-some page treatise, progressive. Coming out just a year before the recent election of the Democratic candidate to the U.S. Presidency and the economic fallout of eight years of Republican policies – effectively a mass repudiation of the cronyism and bullishness of movement conser
...more
Bryan
The thing about Paul Krugman is that, even though some of the things he says are far from the middle of the road, he is so modest in the way he says it and lacks the arrogance you might expect from someone espousing such views that I don't even notice. He really is a good writer that way, and probably reaches a much broader audience because of it.
This isn't my favorite work of Krugman's. I didn't think anything was added to the argument. The first half of the book, which focuses on historical pe
...more
Otto Lehto
Krugman the economist jumps into the role of a partisan pundit of the progressive-liberal wing of the Democratic party.

That jump doesn't stretch Krugman's skills nor the reader's imagination. The Nobel laureate in economics has always made his views clear, but here he spells out the political message of his thought.

The clarity of the message, akin to the loud drum-call of war, is the rhetorical strength of the many essays of the book.

The very same straightforwardness and singularity of vision (c
...more
Tim
This book was excellent.

According to Krugman, "...political change in the form of rising polarization has been a major cause of rising inequality." The sad story goes like this:

"Over the course of the 1970's, radicals of the right determined to roll back the achievements of the New Deal took over the Republican Party, opening a partisan gap with the Democrats, who became true conservatives, defenders of the longstanding institutions of equality. The empowerment of the hard right emboldened busi
...more
David
a worst book of any kind of pushing America into more neo-liberalistic territory..Often America, like the rest of the world, has also been skillfully played by the Elites into view any matters into bi-polarity..with the clear understanding of what the world is constructed..this is a book written specifically to attack conservatism..nothing wrong with the conservatism..but putting social benefits, welfare in the front as a disguise is not neo-liberal point of view..the truth that previous readers ...more
Tamra
May 18, 2009 Tamra rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Liberals, and open-minded Conservatives
Recommended to Tamra by: my True Liberal Friend, whom I love and adore
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
This was a hard book to rate. In terms of the information presented, I would give it 4.5 stars, at least. But as for presentation, organization and readability, I give it 1 star, at most. All in all, I give it 2.5 stars rounded DOWN to 2 stars (that's all I can feel good about giving it. I couldn't even finish the book, for crying out loud. It was just so tedius to read).

I read 140 pages--enough to get a lot out of the book. And the information, the history, is FANTASTIC. It put into words, and
...more
Mateo
If you're an unreconstructed lefty like me, you'll enjoy Paul Krugman's unapologetically liberal--emphatically not radical--new book. If you're not, you may find the book contains some surprising facts, figures, and conclusions.

Krugman's thesis is that, against conventional wisdom, politics have driven economics, and not vice-versa, over the last 30 or so years of right-wing dominance, resulting in the profoundly unequal society we live in. He claims that before the Reagan Revolution (which had
...more
Sean
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny
If you want to understand the current political and economic situation in the U.S., read this book.

Krugman clearly and concisely explains the economic and political history of the 20th century United States. He argues that politics drives economics (not the reverse), and he focuses on how our current economic situation, in which the rich keep getting richer and the poor and middle class poorer, is a reversal of the economic equalizing that New Deal legislation--Social Security, unemployment ins
...more
Mary
Nov 02, 2008 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: political junkies; people interested in economics (most of us now); current events
This book should be mandatory reading for voters. It is a historical economic history of the US since the Depression/New Deal and makes clear the implications of conservative tax structures on economic equality of the middle class. His theory when beginning the book was that economics = politics. By the middle of the book it becomes apparent that politics = economics. An answer to the question of why people continue to vote against their own econmic interests. Guess what - its the manipulated so ...more
Brandon Byrd
This book was interesting, but had many opposing virtues. Sometimes he'd take a very reasonable tone when discussing an issue; other times he'd view things through a hyper-partisan lens. He was intriguing while wearing an economist hat; he was irritating when wearing a political one.

He does give fairly good support for many arguments, but his problem is his initial assumption that equal outcome is the goal. If you accept this premise, he makes some sense. But if you correctly view such a mentali
...more
Karen
I couldn't decide whether to give this book three vs four stars, but I settled on four because it's basically well-written, informative, and clearly explained, despite some redundancies and (no fault of Paul Krugman) and being a little out of date. Or "passee," as my 90-year-old father said when I offered to lend him the book. I'm also a little frustrated. I don't understand why neo-cons are so fond of the grating and degrading inequality they have created. Is it pure greed? Malice towards the h ...more
Jon
It's so much fun watching him gracefully decimate political and economic dogmas that I wish he would've put in a section debunking the myth that the Great Society was a failure. (He defended the War on Poverty pretty excellently in a recent column). The big success here is that unlike every other one of these "what we ought to do" books, his prescription isn't some "tah dah" hocus pocus about "reframing" issues or devising electoral strategies or whatever. It's this: "Hi. Remember the New Deal? ...more
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Paul Robin Krugman is an American economist, liberal columnist and author. He is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. In 2008, Krugman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his contributions ...more
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