Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land

The basic premise of Judt’s great book is that the West is in a very bad way and this is because of its ever growing inequality. The rich are too rich and the poor are too poor. The solution is a retooling of the conversations we have around public policy.

He’s for social democracy. Social democracy is not socialism, mind. The latter is an old-timey notion that tried to displace capitalism for some other regime. Social democracy, Judt argues, uses capitalism as a means to address the “hitherto neglected interests of large sections of the population” (229). It’s basically how the U.S. operated from like 1939 to 1980.

Here’s the problem, as he paints it: the decline in social democracy since the postwar period (accelerated by Reagan’s top-first policies) has resulted in just one section of the population getting its interests met: the superrich. Let’s call them Satisfied Americans (this is my term, obviously). We could call them the not-poor, but let’s call the Satisfied Americans.

They’re not you. You’re not one of these people.
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