Great Society: A New History

Harper. Nov. 2019. 528p. ISBN 9780061706424. $32.50. HIST
In this meticulously researched and detailed U.S. economic history of the turbulent years of 1960–71, Shlaes (Calvin Coolidge Presidential Fnd.) argues that well-meaning but faulty social programs of the Great Society are the seeds of our present-day financial and monetary turmoil. The author describes how under the presidential administrations of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon grew massive government-funded social programs in the areas of health care, housing, and transportation. These policies transformed the lives of every American, in one way or another, says Shlaes, and for many, the development of government intervention into the daily lives of citizens was (and still is) despised as pure socialism. Throughout, Shlaes subtly endorses capitalism as the remedy, and though some readers may be receptive to her interpretation of these historical events, political figures, and policies of the period, others will disagree.
VERDICT While far from a polemical text, Shlaes’s work raises a point of view that represents a specific spectrum of economic ideology; for readers who share the author’s beliefs.

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