June 08, 2018

Credit: AP Photo / John Minchillo

Our trust in government is at historic lows. Inequality is at historic highs. Americans are more pessimistic about the future. It can seem like the United States is in decline. And Steven Brill, author of “Tailspin: The People And Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall - And Those Fighting To Reverse It,” says that’s true… though not for the reasons you might think.

Three Takeaways: 

  • Brill notes that in the 1960s and 70s, the old boys network of monied elites that essentially ran the country gave way to a more meritocratic system. Professions like law and finance were opened up to smart, talented people from more diverse backgrounds. Jews, women, and some minorities were able to attain positions of power, and, on average, these positions of power were filled by smarter, more talented people.
  • These smart, newly-powerful folks had a lot of clever ideas that advanced their careers. They championed expanding corporate free speech, created bundled mortgages, and stoked an economy that prioritized corporate profits. But Brill believes that it was exactly this short-term, profit-motivated thinking that has caused America’s decline.
  • Still, Brill is hopeful about the future. He thinks that, even though the government is behind the curve, there are lots of job-training programs, educational institutions, and policy wonks that are doing what they can to restore power to the little guy. 

More Reading: 

America, Culture, Decline, inequality, Steven Brill

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