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The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America

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"[Cass's] core principle--a culture of respect for work of all kinds--can help close the gap dividing the two Americas...." - William A. Galston, The Brookings Institution The American worker is in crisis. Wages have stagnated for more than a generation. Reliance on welfare programs has surged. Life expectancy is falling as substance abuse and obesity rates climb. These woes "[Cass's] core principle--a culture of respect for work of all kinds--can help close the gap dividing the two Americas...." - William A. Galston, The Brookings Institution The American worker is in crisis. Wages have stagnated for more than a generation. Reliance on welfare programs has surged. Life expectancy is falling as substance abuse and obesity rates climb. These woes are not the inevitable result of irresistible global and technological forces. They are the direct consequence of a decades-long economic consensus that prioritized increasing consumption--regardless of the costs to American workers, their families, and their communities. Donald Trump's rise to the presidency focused attention on the depth of the nation's challenges, yet while everyone agrees something must change, the Left's insistence on still more government spending and the Right's faith in still more economic growth are recipes for repeating the mistakes of the past. In this groundbreaking re-evaluation of American society, economics, and public policy, Oren Cass challenges our basic assumptions about what prosperity means and where it comes from to reveal how we lost our way. The good news is that we can still turn things around--if the nation's proverbial elites are willing to put the American worker's interests first. Which is more important, pristine air quality, or well-paying jobs that support families? Unfettered access to the cheapest labor in the world, or renewed investment in the employment of Americans? Smoothing the path through college for the best students, or ensuring that every student acquires the skills to succeed in the modern economy? Cutting taxes, expanding the safety net, or adding money to low-wage paychecks? The renewal of work in America demands new answers to these questions. If we reinforce their vital role, workers supporting strong families and communities can provide the foundation for a thriving, self-sufficient society that offers opportunity to all.


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"[Cass's] core principle--a culture of respect for work of all kinds--can help close the gap dividing the two Americas...." - William A. Galston, The Brookings Institution The American worker is in crisis. Wages have stagnated for more than a generation. Reliance on welfare programs has surged. Life expectancy is falling as substance abuse and obesity rates climb. These woes "[Cass's] core principle--a culture of respect for work of all kinds--can help close the gap dividing the two Americas...." - William A. Galston, The Brookings Institution The American worker is in crisis. Wages have stagnated for more than a generation. Reliance on welfare programs has surged. Life expectancy is falling as substance abuse and obesity rates climb. These woes are not the inevitable result of irresistible global and technological forces. They are the direct consequence of a decades-long economic consensus that prioritized increasing consumption--regardless of the costs to American workers, their families, and their communities. Donald Trump's rise to the presidency focused attention on the depth of the nation's challenges, yet while everyone agrees something must change, the Left's insistence on still more government spending and the Right's faith in still more economic growth are recipes for repeating the mistakes of the past. In this groundbreaking re-evaluation of American society, economics, and public policy, Oren Cass challenges our basic assumptions about what prosperity means and where it comes from to reveal how we lost our way. The good news is that we can still turn things around--if the nation's proverbial elites are willing to put the American worker's interests first. Which is more important, pristine air quality, or well-paying jobs that support families? Unfettered access to the cheapest labor in the world, or renewed investment in the employment of Americans? Smoothing the path through college for the best students, or ensuring that every student acquires the skills to succeed in the modern economy? Cutting taxes, expanding the safety net, or adding money to low-wage paychecks? The renewal of work in America demands new answers to these questions. If we reinforce their vital role, workers supporting strong families and communities can provide the foundation for a thriving, self-sufficient society that offers opportunity to all.

30 review for The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amora

    I liked this book for the most part but I had to give it three stars because of the author’s attacks on free-trade. His chapter on free-trade has been criticized by economists because he relies on controversial research that has been under criticism. That being said, this book is still full of data and facts that changed my perspective. The chapters I especially liked were the chapters on healthcare and on the environment. Oren Cass makes the case that we should not just focus on economic growth I liked this book for the most part but I had to give it three stars because of the author’s attacks on free-trade. His chapter on free-trade has been criticized by economists because he relies on controversial research that has been under criticism. That being said, this book is still full of data and facts that changed my perspective. The chapters I especially liked were the chapters on healthcare and on the environment. Oren Cass makes the case that we should not just focus on economic growth but also the condition of workers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charles Haywood

    I have often complained that human flourishing cannot consist of increases in GDP that permit us all to buy more cheap Chinese crap every year. Oren Cass has arrived to say exactly why that is, and what we should focus on instead. He also adds important related thoughts, including very specific and reality-based policy recommendations. Thus, in many ways, this book completes my circle of thoughts on political economy, providing the basis for an economic program in opposition to the modern veriti I have often complained that human flourishing cannot consist of increases in GDP that permit us all to buy more cheap Chinese crap every year. Oren Cass has arrived to say exactly why that is, and what we should focus on instead. He also adds important related thoughts, including very specific and reality-based policy recommendations. Thus, in many ways, this book completes my circle of thoughts on political economy, providing the basis for an economic program in opposition to the modern verities of both Left and Right. Aside from that I agree with the author, I’m a good person to review "The Once and Future Worker" because unlike the vast majority of people who will read this book, I actually employ people in working-class jobs—hundreds of people. I have also worked as a blue-collar worker myself (finish carpentry), which further sets me apart from the eggheads who write and read books like this. And let’s be honest—Cass is an egghead, and he writes like one. Nobody will give this book an award for its sparkling prose. But that doesn’t make it less interesting. Cass’s core datum is what is often noted, but just as often ignored, by our ruling classes—that all the increases in GDP in the past forty years have not changed workers’ wages, the median of which (in real terms) has basically stayed still. His concern is not the trendy worry that such stagnation leads to support for Trump (who appears almost nowhere in this book), nor that inequality as such is bad (though Cass thinks that too). Rather, it is that workers with good jobs and good wages are the bedrock requirement for strong families and communities, and only with strong families and communities is long-term economic prosperity and societal flourishing possible. It is therefore not a substitute for good jobs for all workers to instead maximize GDP through societally destructive methods and then hand out cash to unemployed workers to “make them whole”—because neither they, nor we, are in fact made whole by such balance sheet maneuvers. Cass offers a fresh way of looking at this, by directly rejecting the metaphor of the “economic pie.” That pie is treated by both Republicans and Democrats as the summum bonum of all government policy, when the reality is that pie omits many economic and social elements critical to society. This obsessive focus on “economic piety” (get it?) results in part from the error of prioritizing consumption over production. While naturally consumption and production are closely related, making consumption society’s sole end results in the denigration of producers, and thus of workers. “Most of the activities and achievements that give life purpose and meaning are, whether in the economic sphere or not, fundamentally acts of production.” Another way of saying this, though Cass does not go quite so far, at least explicitly, is that we are capable of being happy if we are productive yet very poor, and much more likely happy than if we are unproductive yet are still able to buy more cheap Chinese crap every year. Cass’s plan, in opposition to “economic piety,” is “productive pluralism”—creating ”the economic and social conditions in which people of diverse abilities, priorities, and geographies, pursuing varied life paths, can form self-sufficient families and become contributors to their communities.” Productive pluralism will lead to human flourishing, genuine opportunity tailored to individual needs, and if done right, to a healthier and stronger overall economy over time, one that leads to sustainable growth through increased productivity. We have triple the GDP we did in 1975 (though not triple per capita), and among much of society, we have broken families, destroyed communities, dependent people, and rampant suicide and addition. Per capita GDP therefore is not an accurate measure of prosperity. In many ways, Cass is reacting to the portrait of parts of America shown in J. D. Vance’s "Hillbilly Elegy" and Charles Murray’s "Coming Apart"—but he is showing a path out. Cass does not go into great detail about what constitutes a strong family. But it’s clear enough what he means—a two-parent family where the income that, ideally, one parent earns can comfortably support the whole family over decades in the place they live, including children, without government assistance. That family should be based on the obligation to provide and the obligation not to be a burden on society; responsibility is key. Such families, it is indisputable, produce the best outcomes for children, for the parents, and for the communities of which they have always formed the backbone. And it’s good jobs at good wages that makes such families possible. Moreover, increasing such families will erode dependence on the welfare state, and will diminish the contempt in which workers are held by the professional-managerial elite (I think Cass is wrong about that, though—the contempt comes from class hatred, not economic difference). Republicans are wrong because efficient markets only maximize GDP, and that is far from enough. Democrats are wrong because their policies, while claiming to help workers, actually cater to a coalition whose interests do not lie with workers, and therefore their “solutions” are no solutions at all. What Cass wants to do is define our social goal with precision, then implement non-partisan policies that achieve that goal, knowing, of course, that everything has costs and benefits. His goal is a stronger labor market, that leads to a stronger society. By “labor” or “workers” he means not the small slice of professional-managerial elite who dominate the national conversation and politics, but, roughly, the “working class.” He doesn’t define that, but it’s apparently roughly coterminous with Joan Williams’s definition in White Working Class, the middle 55% or so of families by income, and without a college degree. His purpose is to lift up and renew the lives of that large group of people, accepting that will not be free, even for those people. Cass rejects the idea that automation will effectively eliminate workers. He correctly identifies that if the prophets of automation are correct, productive pluralism is a fool’s errand. But he says all the indicators show no movement at all to workers losing their jobs to automation. Instead, to the extent automation grows significantly, it will mostly just make workers more productive, not obsolete, thereby increasing output with the same number of workers. This truth is masked by that output has been held basically constant for some time—if it were allowed to increase, the same number of workers would be employed, just to produce more. Recent GDP increases, in other words, have not come from increased output. Increasing output by each worker is practically the definition of economic progress. (This line of thought is a variation on Say’s Law.) Automation is not a phase change; citing Robert Gordon, Cass notes that even the fantastic technological advances of the late Industrial Revolution never powered output increases greater than 2.5 percent per year. Everything takes time. Plus, a great many jobs simply can’t be automated, whatever boosters like Elon Musk may say. Therefore, automation is not actually an existential threat to workers’ jobs, and may in fact benefit them hugely. I agree with this analysis from personal experience. As I have discussed elsewhere, neither strong artificial intelligence nor things like true driverless cars are ever going to arrive, if “ever” means in my children’s lifetimes. Six years ago I spent quite a bit of money trying to design robots to perform the industrial functions around which my business revolves (basically, putting liquids into bottles). It did not work. The simple fact is that for my business, which involves a wide range of constantly changing form factors, people in combination with “dumb” machines is an infinitely superior solution—and it always will be. My industry will never be any more automated than it is. For similar operations that have fewer form factors, the same is true—for a long time, there has already been more automation in those types of operations, but again, it is “dumb,” with minor incremental improvements over time, and making it smart would add nothing at all. True, other industrial processes may be susceptible to automation. For example, we tend to think of car manufacturing—but their production has been automated for decades, and Cass cites “experts” who tell us that among the most automatable jobs “are tour guides, real estate agents, and fashion models,” along with school bus drivers. My conclusion is that this is all vaporware, and it’ll never arrive at all, since it’s based on the same defective magical thinking as driverless cars. But if it does, Cass is probably right that the impact will not be disastrous at all for workers, and he’s also probably right that a more likely technological future is more jobs for workers from jobs in new industries like additive manufacturing (i.e., “3D printing”). Cass also defines “work.” It is labor activities that are actually productive, and known and felt by the worker to be productive. Substitutes are not acceptable. Cass has no patience with Andrew Yang, tech entrepreneur and pusher of the “universal basic income”—the idea government should pay all people for existing, wholly disconnecting consumption from production, because automation is going to take all their jobs, and that video games are an excellent preparation for, and if necessary substitute for, work. Cass holds that productive work is meaningful to the worker because it allows him to provide and offers him a role, in his family and in his community, which set of roles and actions creates the building blocks of society. It does not matter if his job is considered a “dead-end” job by the professional-managerial elite. To make those jobs exist and to make them available, social policies should encourage domestic industrial growth through regulatory reform, adopt specific worker-friendly education policies, limit immigration and unbridled cross-border trade, both expand and modify collective bargaining, and change tax policy. Each of these five areas Cass addresses in turn. First up is growth-killing regulation, with a focus on environmental regulation, where he attacks the fantasies of benefits and ignoring of costs that drive regulations that kill enormous numbers of good jobs. He points out that just because past environmental regulation was beneficial, it does not follow that more is still needed, and will always be needed. Mostly, he blames Congress, not regulators. In truth, the blame is really shared, since the administrative state is a law unto itself, and further shared with the federal courts, who often collude with left-wing plaintiffs to avoid not just the democratic process, but the regulatory process, through consent decrees imposing new regulations. Cass is right, though, that only Congress can fix the problem, through mechanisms like revising the Clean Air Act to eliminate new source review (making it extremely difficult to build new facilities, but allowing older facilities to continue operating), and streamlining NEPA (requiring environmental impact reviews), mandating real cost/benefit analysis along with a regulatory budget that limits the total costs imposable across the entire government, and forbidding new rules to be issued after final rules are issued under any given statute (instead of permitting, as we have now, completely new rules to be issued under fifty-year-old laws). Next is education. I had no idea that only about twenty-five percent of America’s young workers have a college degree. No other industrialized country follows America’s system of pushing all young people into a college degree from which they often receive little benefit (and is often socially destructive). Instead, they use tracking of students in early high school (disfavored here for a long time on grounds that it was anti-egalitarian, and totally eliminated forty years ago); in other countries, up to seventy percent of high school students are on vocational or apprenticeship tracks, often in cooperation with local industry. Cass points out that the innumerable charts braying that those with college degrees make more money over their careers say nothing about causation. He also points out that the trillions of money we have thrown at education have produced a grand total of zero additional achievement. The goal should not be college as an abstraction, but the right track that allows each student to get the right job, in order to be able to support a family while contributing to and building society. In most cases, this will be technical or vocational education. (I suspect that Cass thinks, or would think if he allowed himself to be honest, that such tracking would necessarily result in different tracks for men and women, but he does not address that question.) He notes that the huge subsidies we give to college (the federal government spends eight times the amount on college funding that it does on vocational funding) are handouts to the employers of the professional-managerial elite. Cass then turns to borders. Unsurprisingly, he calls for sharply restricting admitting unskilled immigrants and for privileging skilled immigrants. He rejects that there are many jobs Americans simply won’t do. As far as illegal immigrants currently in the country, he suggests a LIFO approach—last, in, first out. If you just got here, you get kicked out right now. If you have been here for five years, you get a work permit for some years. Longer than ten years, you get ten years of work, and a path to citizenship. Then Cass cues up global trade. He goes through an analysis not dissimilar to Clyde Prestowitz’s in "The Betrayal of American Prosperity." Cass’s key point is that free trade isn’t good for us in the long term if trade is imbalanced in type (exchanging electronics from China for our garbage, the same example on which Prestowitz focuses) or funded with debt. Those imbalances with key trading partners result largely from the deliberate intervention by foreign governments to achieve specific strategic objectives benefitting their countries in the long term. We have no such policies at all. “The trade war has already started, but only one side is fighting.” This imbalanced trade reduces our productive capacity, encourages a focus on consumption, and erodes our future relative ability to trade on good terms. And it harms American workers—who, to be sure, are also consumers, but their being able to buy more cheap Chinese crap does not offset the erosion in their wages, their stability, and their communities. That said, the solution isn’t tariffs, which are a crude and easily politically distorted device, nor should we get rid of agreements like NAFTA, which are mostly beneficial to workers. Nor does Cass really endorse the mercantilist policies found in many other countries (which I, on the contrary, think would be a good idea, but not in the current American ship-of-fools political dispensation). Many of the other policies Cass advocates in his book, including vocational education and regulatory reform, he thinks would also help here, along with others specific to this area, such as greatly expanded government funding for R&D in manufacturing. That’s carrot; stick should also be applied, in the form of punishing trade-discriminating countries by denying student visas (read: China, whose students flood American universities), denying medical technology, and denying access to capital markets, as well as prohibiting any imports tied to stolen intellectual property, and blocking or taxing Chinese acquisition of private assets in the United States. Cass has little patience for claims that free flow of capital is some form of wonderful benefit, and in any case, as with all these policy prescriptions, he is more than happy to trade off some drag on GDP for an economy with real strength, and workers who can contribute to a better society. Next is unions. Cass thinks that regulatory costs, applied with a broad brush by government functionaries ignorant of workers’ real needs, often harm the ability to offer good jobs—but the goals of regulation, such as worker safety, are often sound. But as with new environmental regulations being issued using as authority fifty-year-old laws, the National Labor Relations Act is past its use-by date. The solution is to allow workers to collectively bargain with employers—not through traditional unions, which are wholly corrupt and, since most of the old goals of workers such as safety were achieved long ago, spend their days demanding “destructive work rules, circuitous grievance procedures, and counterproductive seniority systems.” Moreover, they are merely a tool of the Democratic Party (ninety-seven percent of political donations from unions go there), not advocates for actual workers. Workers know that unions as constituted now don’t actually represent their interests, which is why union membership has dropped so sharply and is still dropping. (Cass only addresses private employee unions, not government employee unions. This is probably because for the most part government employees are not workers in the sense Cass uses at all; they are parasites, and in any case unions of government employees should be totally forbidden, for reasons I have laid out elsewhere.) Instead, we should have “co-ops,” partially on the German model, and also integrated with the vocational/apprenticeship model that Cass recommends when discussing education. The co-op can tailor workplace conditions more precisely, including by negotiating certain terms of workplace regulation. It would be forbidden from engaging in political advocacy. Such alternative collectively bargaining arrangements are currently illegal under the NLRA, so again, Congressional action would be needed. Cass caps his analysis with offering generally applicable prescriptions, mostly relating to tax policy. Rather than encouraging domestic investment through narrowly tailored subsidies like the Wisconsin Foxconn plant, or cutting corporate taxes to encourage investments, which acts as a bludgeon with much of its benefits not accruing to workers, we should encourage hiring by offering companies large direct tax credits for each worker employed. Most of all, though, we should simply offer a wage subsidy—government payments that increase worker pay without increasing employer expense, thereby encouraging employment. This is most efficient and least distorting solution. Sure, it’s redistribution. So what? I’m a member, or rather my company is a member, of our local Chamber of Commerce. That’s only because we get 10% off health insurance that way. Otherwise, I hate their guts. Every time they say something, I cringe, because their view is the same “economic piety” that Cass attacks. I just was never really able to say with specificity what that was wrong (though much else the Chamber says is obviously wrong, like their stupid virtue-signaling advocacy of leftist social demands). Cass has helped me identify the flaws in their thinking. Of course, the problem is that if I went to a Chamber meeting and said all this, they would look at me like I was the problem. They would be completely uncomprehending and just think I was some kind of drunk cretin. That’s the problem—there is no powerful constituency for any of these proposals, or even for any of Cass’s goals. Even if there were, Congress could never bestir itself to adopt any of Cass’s proposals. Which is too bad, but doesn’t make this book any less worthwhile.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason Furman

    A thoughtful, provocative, carefully argued book that made me change my mind on some issues that I thought I’d thought about quite a lot, which is about the best a book can do. Cass agrees with many progressives on the problem (the lack of work for less-skilled workers), proposes some solutions that are not just the standard trickle-down, laissez faire ideas like wage subsidies, but also finds new arguments for a number of old conservative ideas like less environmental regulation. Overall a refr A thoughtful, provocative, carefully argued book that made me change my mind on some issues that I thought I’d thought about quite a lot, which is about the best a book can do. Cass agrees with many progressives on the problem (the lack of work for less-skilled workers), proposes some solutions that are not just the standard trickle-down, laissez faire ideas like wage subsidies, but also finds new arguments for a number of old conservative ideas like less environmental regulation. Overall a refreshing take on center right economic policy. I strongly agree with Cass on the definition of the problem. Cass rejects the Panglossian views of some the people who like to deny the increased economic dysfunctions we are facing. Cass goes through a familiar recitation of the standard data on the slowdown of median income growth, the reduction in absolute mobility, and rising mortality rates. (Cass never uses the word “inequality” but in talking about the gap between mean and median incomes he is talking about the same topic.) The novelty was hearing this from the Manhattan Institute which I associated with the Scott Winship perspective that all these data were flawed and everything was much better than it appeared. Cass goes one step further, rejecting the emphasis on growth and instead establishing a “working hypothesis” that “a labor market in which workers can support strong families and communities is the central determinant of long-term prosperity and should be the central focus of public policy.” I am sympathetic, in many ways being excluded from the workforce is much worse than income inequality, creating a downward spiral of exclusion for people and communities. But I also think Cass goes too far given the strong correlation between growth and median/bottom income and broader positive effects, many of them documented in, among other places, Ben Friedman’s Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. This orientation sets him apart from both the “welfarism” that dominates economics by focusing on incomes and income distribution not the jobs and broader meaning Cass focuses on. It also separates him from supply siders and their relentless focus on economic growth over everything else. Some of this makes sense but, again, I think Cass understates the degree to which more money—especially for families with children—improves long-run outcomes in areas like health, education, crime and the labor market. The second part of Cass’s book focuses on policy issues and in almost every case he evaluates them based on their impact of the employment prospects of less-skilled men. This leads him to be more supportive of manufacturing and less supportive of free trade and immigration than your typical center right conservative or, for that matter, myself. In other places, it leads him to familiar arguments—like the need for less environmental regulation, a shift from cost-benefit analysis to a regulatory budget, and a lexicographic focus on less-skilled employment over environmental protection. Some of his arguments on the misapplication of cost-benefit analysis ring true but in my view the solution is better cost-benefit analysis not less of it. And he does not acknowledge the ambiguous relationship between environmental protection and employment (e.g., does requiring scrubbers create jobs retrofitting power plants or cost them?) Cass’s discussion of unions is a mostly one-sided case against them but is followed by a thoughtful set of ideas on alternative work relationships that have much in common with Richard Freeman and what many on the left are thinking about, only in Cass’s case these would be in lieu of standard work protections. The leading “big idea” in the book is Phelps-style wage subsidies for low wage work, an idea that I think deserves serious consideration although I would pilot it first since it is relatively untested and lends itself to fraud (people and employers can agree to report higher hours worked and thus record lower wages and collect a bigger subsidy). Finally, the third part of Cass’s book is in many ways the most interesting, covering cultural and community issues that many progressives shy away from, including what Cass perceives as the increased denigration of more blue collar jobs and what this means for images and support for this work. In the end, I disagree with many of Cass’s recommendations but I’m glad he is in what is mostly the right debate to be having about our economic future.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I read this based on the glowing recommendation from David Brooks, and perhaps I had my expectations set a bit too high that this was going to be a Totally New and Revolutionary Book full of Super Exciting and Visionary Ideas. It's a really clear and helpful articulation of a generally conservative perspective on our country's current economic situation. He was Mitt Romney's advisor on domestic policy, so that's where he's coming from. He's a principled, reasonable conservative guy with some goo I read this based on the glowing recommendation from David Brooks, and perhaps I had my expectations set a bit too high that this was going to be a Totally New and Revolutionary Book full of Super Exciting and Visionary Ideas. It's a really clear and helpful articulation of a generally conservative perspective on our country's current economic situation. He was Mitt Romney's advisor on domestic policy, so that's where he's coming from. He's a principled, reasonable conservative guy with some good ideas. I also listened to several podcasts with him discussing the book, mostly on conservative and right-wing shows, and on some of them the extreme horribleness of the hosts really contrasted with his non-horribleness. He's not hateful or repulsive or dumb. (Hey, I didn't make any comparisons to You Know Who, you just went there on your own.) The main idea of the book is that GDP is not really the correct or only metric to determine if everything is going ok. Overall the country can be getting richer and more efficient and consuming more stuff, but as is pretty apparent, there can still be quite a bit of suffering and inequality and stress among a significant portion of the population. If people cannot find jobs given their actual skills and abilities that will support their family in a decent standard of living, things are not ok. Work matters, and he thinks we need to evaluate everything based on how well people have that opportunity. "Growing the economic pie" is not enough on its own. (I think that is a different way to say "trickle down" and "rising tide" etc don't work without upsetting his people.) The most interesting and concrete and well developed idea in the book is the idea of wage subsidies, which are basically the government adding on a few dollars per hour onto every worker's paycheck. This is in contrast to a minimum wage, which is a cost born by employers and passed on to consumers and thus can act as a disincentive to hiring and also a regressive tax on consumers. (Although the data out of Seattle looks less-bad all the time, so I think there's still discussion to be had about that.) A wage subsidy is born by "the taxpayers" which can be whomever we decide to tax, ie could theoretically be rich people and/or big corporations, etc. so isn't necessarily regressive. It also incentivizes work which is a plus. The issue is, of course how to pay for it. His idea is that we are already spending about $20,000 per poor person in aggregate with all our social safety net programs, so take some/most/all of that money and put it into wage subsidies instead. Which of course has big issues that I didn't think he adequately addressed in the book, namely: many beneficiaries of that money cannot work so will be left out of any of the benefit of wage subsidies. As I said, he doesn't seem like a heartless jerk and therefore acknowledges the existence of such people, but doesn't really bridge that gap. If they exist, then programs to help them will still need to exist, and we are definitely not going to get all $20,000 back to dish out in wage subsidies. Some things I thought were unsatisfying: 1. I thought he just kind of brushed off automation and it's effect on work by stating that people were exaggerating how big a deal it is, la de da. I was completely unconvinced by it and it still seems to me like a potential revolution in the structure of our society. I am not a big fan of UBI, but I would really love to find some alternative that deals with the reality that potentially many people's skills are not going to be needed anymore, and how are we going to deal with that? Yes, the industrial revolution really changed the structure of our economy, and it seemed like it took us about a century to figure out how to deal with it and in the meantime a lot of people went through living hell, and I'd love if we could be more proactive this time. 2. Environmental regulation, he just kind of says maybe we should stop trying to improve things and prioritize jobs above the environment. He picks a few examples that he thinks are ridiculous. I wasn't especially convinced. I mean, yes, there is always that balance between jobs and regulation. But he is kind of vague and just thinks the balance should be more towards jobs. Fine, everyone puts the needle at a different spot. This isn't an especially new or useful idea. 3. Labor unions. He doesn't like them, and explains a completely different way to organize workers that he calls "co-ops" and thinks would be really beneficial and important to workers that honestly sound almost exactly like unions to me. It seems that the main issue he has with unions is the way they are ensconced in our law, which is something that I know almost nothing about so maybe he's right on about that. If we want to call things co-ops instead, fine with me. 4. He thinks we need to get serious about training people for blue-collar jobs and start respecting blue-collar work and quit this failed fantasy about everyone going to college. Right on. The thing I think is interesting about this is I think everyone agrees, but I get the strong sense that the right has this idea that the left disagrees and that this is a partisan idea. From how they talk about it, they get all heated and confrontational about it. I think it must be a talking point of more militant right talk show hosts or something. Is it because the Dirty Jobs guy Mike Rowe is conservative? Yes, by all means, lets train people for work that our society needs and value them for it. Anyway, I'm glad I read it. It wasn't as different or surprising as I was expecting but I think it's super important to have smart conservatives thinking about ideas and offering possible solutions and I appreciate Cass laying out his ideas in such a readable book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    The neoliberal consensus is breaking up finally and there are a lot of books now on the left and on the right proposing solutions for the future and theories for why the last 30 years produced so much inequality and political chaos. This book comes from the center right and though it seems to grapple with some of the failures of the last 30 years, its proposals (except on trade and immigration) just seem to double down on the same tired and failed policies. I honestly cannot take seriously any b The neoliberal consensus is breaking up finally and there are a lot of books now on the left and on the right proposing solutions for the future and theories for why the last 30 years produced so much inequality and political chaos. This book comes from the center right and though it seems to grapple with some of the failures of the last 30 years, its proposals (except on trade and immigration) just seem to double down on the same tired and failed policies. I honestly cannot take seriously any book that proposes that the EPA should ease up on environmental regulation. Maybe particulate matter is not the main issue, but we are in the midst of a catastrophe. We are beyond cost/benefit analysis. I think the underlying theory of the book is sound and right--people need meaningful work and our policies have not recognized that. We need more state intervention to create healthy labor conditions--even at the risk of free markets. He opposes UBI and other solutions because they do not reward work, but I was turned off by the tenor of the book. It seems to be a big thinking book, but its ideas are so small and uncreative.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Figueiredo

    This book is crucial to the discussion about what a post-Trump Republican agenda could look like, as Ezra Klein noted when he interviewed Oren Cass. Cass challenges both left and right with a conservative populist angle in favor of what he calls "productive pluralism". Defined, this refers to a situation in which people can (and are encouraged to) pursue dignified work in a variety of fields, provide for their families, and contribute to their community (30). Cass rejects the use of traditional This book is crucial to the discussion about what a post-Trump Republican agenda could look like, as Ezra Klein noted when he interviewed Oren Cass. Cass challenges both left and right with a conservative populist angle in favor of what he calls "productive pluralism". Defined, this refers to a situation in which people can (and are encouraged to) pursue dignified work in a variety of fields, provide for their families, and contribute to their community (30). Cass rejects the use of traditional numerical prosperity and consumerism as a measuring stick for economic policy, recognizing how community, family, and culture all play a less tangible role in ordering policy, but nonetheless an important one. That's an insight I wish the Democrats and Republicans would take note of. Following from this and his upholding of work as a high order social good, Cass proposes reforms in various fields to encourage productive pluralism. His solutions expand the government beyond what Ted Cruz types would be comfortable with, but they're still couched in conservative rhetoric that could make them more palatable to Republicans. First, the ones I take little issue with. On trade, Cass is exactly right. Tariffs aren't very prudent, but asymmetric tools are crucial in our arsenal. Additionally, we can't let foreign market distortions find a place in our market, so cracking down on IP theft and unfair advantages other countries take is critical to re-establishing our global competitiveness. On the environment, Cass focuses mainly on pollution policy and how it should be better costed and more adjustable. Not a terrible idea but I wonder how he would address climate change, the elephant in the room. Next, the fields where he's on the right track but could have proposed a more refined solution. On education, he eschews the regular conservative diet of charter schools and vouchers for more tracking towards vocational education and less of an emphasis on college education. Once again, an idea I can support. That said, he addresses the criticism that tracking might deny deserving poorer students the chance at college by saying that's a problem with the system... and then not addressing how to fix that issue! Maybe universal pre-k but that isn't brought up here. If you're going to point to a deeper problem, maybe at least provide a hint of a deeper solution. Then there's an area I can't quite wrap my head around. It's ostensibly pro-worker but also guts itself. On labor, I took issue with his solution because it goes in the right direction but not nearly far enough. While I support a more cooperative model like the one Cass backs with a good deal of support, I feel like his solution is a halfway one that would gut organized labor. He makes good points about the inflexibility of the NLRA but operates from a presumption that labor is far more powerful than it actually is. Allowing regulations to be default rules may sound like a pro-flexibility move, but in reality, due to power relations, it could easily become a mess for workers. For that matter, he kind of ignores information asymmetry and proposes barring multiemployer negotiation and implementing a version of Right to Work, elements that undermine the plan to help workers, as Suresh Naidu points out in (this critique ). Other solutions seem more practical and pro-worker, but they're more discussed by the left than the populist right. Why not sectoral bargaining? Why not Lind-like ideas of wage boards? Cass' idea of collective bargaining would weaken the position of workers, even if it represents a step towards a more sustainable model in the long term. This is most evident in his approach to wage subsidies and welfare. Much more compassionate than many on the right, Cass proposes using wage subsidies to encourage employment by incentivizing both hiring and getting jobs. It's not a bad idea at all, and the benefits he points to make sense. Shifting the cost of employment, supporting communities that lose their tradeable sector, providing some form of redistribution (168). Additionally, it really is a hand up instead of a hand out (as cliche as that is). Actively putting people to work is great for the reasons Cass notes and I'd love to see more research on this plan! But he also supports it to make welfare>work less attractive. In so doing though, he plays up the level of welfare aid people get and misses some important solutions like expanding housing voucher funding like Joe Biden suggests. Do that many people really stay home and collect checks? This seems like a right-wing talking point that needs more statistical backing for me to take. Also, granting states full freedom with a lump-sum kind of payment based on population would likely lead to abuses by right-wing state governments. And his attacks on Medicaid are cherry-picked/overly aggressive. There it is again; the deviation that makes me shake my head. Of course, with wage subsidies, there would be some paring back of welfare benefits (just because you need to provide less), but it doesn't require such a radical change as Cass proposes. A wage subsidy system is indeed a good idea for lifting people out of poverty while encouraging work. As he notes, it would be less paternalistic and bureaucratic. What's not to like about workers getting money in their pockets? But Cass doesn't mention modestly raising the minimum wage simultaneously to prevent employers from cutting their base rate pay in return for subsidization. In fact, he embraces the fact that employers could adjust their pay as Pareto-efficient, ascribing a hell of a lot of benevolence to employers whose power would likely go less checked in his system. He bemoans Seattle's high minimum wage increase but notes that there was little negative effect from the initial increase to $11. Some economists support wage subsidies with a higher minimum wage, but that's not in Cass' plan, leaving a hole I struggle with. Why not support a small increase to ensure that the benefits really do accrue to workers? I also don't think Cass does enough to propose a fleshed out job creation agenda. Lessening our trade imbalance and "building American advantages" would help create these jobs in the first place, but there's not enough ambition here. Job creation is a crucial step to making wage subsidies work like he wants them to. Investment in infrastructure, use of government procurement, antitrust enforcement, and restraining the excesses of private equity are all pieces missing from this puzzle. To his credit, Cass accommodates many of these ideas at American Compass. They're just not prominent enough in his book, which is still constrained by a marketphilic outlook. Samuel Hammond of the Niskanen Center got it exactly right when he wrote for The American Conservative that "ideological confusion has carried over into Cass’s vision of post-Trump conservatism, suggesting less of a break with fusionist dogma than advertised". The issue I have with Cass is that he takes great steps towards a new paradigm and then falls just short of an even better solution. Maybe I should cut him some slack; he already gets enough hate from the economic libertarian right and has to operate in the right-of-center realm. Getting funding for American Compass is imperative. But maybe he genuinely doesn't want to take that extra jump. It's not up to me to guess which is the case, but this shortcoming prevents me from giving this book 5 stars. Two steps forward and then a big one back I guess. At the very least, he's starting an important conversation.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scriptor Ignotus

    A survey of economic policy proposals for the segment of the right that has recognized the insufficiency of the corporate tax-cutting, GDP growth-idolizing, consumption-prioritizing Reaganite orthodoxy. Proposing a shift in focus from consumption to production, Cass discusses a number of worker-oriented policies that would facilitate the acquisition and maintenance of stable, remunerative, and socially edifying employment by the lower and middle classes. His suggestions include easing certain su A survey of economic policy proposals for the segment of the right that has recognized the insufficiency of the corporate tax-cutting, GDP growth-idolizing, consumption-prioritizing Reaganite orthodoxy. Proposing a shift in focus from consumption to production, Cass discusses a number of worker-oriented policies that would facilitate the acquisition and maintenance of stable, remunerative, and socially edifying employment by the lower and middle classes. His suggestions include easing certain successful but increasingly draconian environmental regulations to encourage the growth of the domestic energy sector, the introduction of a “tracking” system in K-12 education that would combine classroom training and paid internships for the majority of students who will not obtain a four-year university degree instead of promoting the idea of “college for all”, curbing the immigration of low-skilled workers and resolving the illegal immigration controversy with a “last in, first out” policy that would summarily deport recent arrivals while allowing more time for those more firmly established in the country to undergo a legal pathway to citizenship or to depart, and a direct wage subsidy that would help equalize the disparity in effective cost between foreign and domestic labor that has typically motivated employers to outsource their workforce. An interesting read, if a bit wonkish, for those dissatisfied with the prevailing economic consensus.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vance

    Oren Cass posits that there’s much more to work than just a paycheck. I agree! The value of work provides tangible satisfaction throughout our lives. This sacrifice supports our desires along the way. Cass builds on this thesis by looking at a number of social and economic factors. The current and future problems of the lack of work in particular jobs and the number of jobs likely displaced by automation give him reason to suggest the rise of voluntary coordination of workers, wage subsidy, bett Oren Cass posits that there’s much more to work than just a paycheck. I agree! The value of work provides tangible satisfaction throughout our lives. This sacrifice supports our desires along the way. Cass builds on this thesis by looking at a number of social and economic factors. The current and future problems of the lack of work in particular jobs and the number of jobs likely displaced by automation give him reason to suggest the rise of voluntary coordination of workers, wage subsidy, better education that meets the latest labor market, limited immigration, improving the welfare system, and more would improve this outlook. While the book is well-written and there are valid arguments throughout about the state of work today and likely tomorrow, the proposed policy initiatives too often expand government without considering how the government contributes to those problems. There’s little discussion that we are taxed too much, government spends too much, and there’s too much regulation keeping work from being as valuable and accessible as possible. My take is that government is the main problem today and could be a continual problem to increasing the marginal returns to valuable work no matter the skill set of an individual if there isn’t a push to reduce the size and scope of government. I appreciate this book and the thoughtful approach throughout but think it ultimately steers off the course of sound policy to best support human flourishing, which is why I give the book 3 stars. I do recommend that you read it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    Cass believes, reasonably, that we should determine economic policy based on how it affects actual working people, rather than just examining overall GDP. This book is a bit wonky, but he makes some excellent points about how we can improve our economy to benefit more people without resorting to the typical, and ultimately harmful, socialist remedies. I gave this book 4 stars which means it’s highly recommended, but I’d give Charles’ review of the book 5 stars if I could: https://www.goodreads.co Cass believes, reasonably, that we should determine economic policy based on how it affects actual working people, rather than just examining overall GDP. This book is a bit wonky, but he makes some excellent points about how we can improve our economy to benefit more people without resorting to the typical, and ultimately harmful, socialist remedies. I gave this book 4 stars which means it’s highly recommended, but I’d give Charles’ review of the book 5 stars if I could: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex O'Connor

    Very interesting discussion on the future of work- in a very opaque package.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    In "The Once and Future Worker" Oren Cass gives a poignant historical survey of work, labor culture and economic policy in the United States and explains how both the left and right have failed all levels of the workforce, but mostly the working class. Tax-and-spend Democrats AND free-market-at-all-costs Republicans have both done their share to promote policy that ultimately excludes many American workers from the progress enjoyed by the top college-educated income earners. The serious implicat In "The Once and Future Worker" Oren Cass gives a poignant historical survey of work, labor culture and economic policy in the United States and explains how both the left and right have failed all levels of the workforce, but mostly the working class. Tax-and-spend Democrats AND free-market-at-all-costs Republicans have both done their share to promote policy that ultimately excludes many American workers from the progress enjoyed by the top college-educated income earners. The serious implications for the economic future of the country depend on everyone -- particularly the younger segments of the workforce -- being willing to rethink what goals should be regarding work and what it truly means to make a good living. Since the 1960s, well-meaning social and educational programs, such as the "college for all" guiding principal in education, and the ever-expanding number and scope of anti-poverty entitlement programs have had an ever-worsening effect on the percentage of people living below the poverty line. One of the most telling statistics Cass included in the book is how little economic value a basic high school education has today in terms of its use in supporting a family -- and that it's getting worse. In the late '70s, a man with no more than a high school diploma could support a family at twice the poverty rate, but now that earning ability can provide no more than 40 percent above the current poverty level. Where high schools in other countries -- and in the United States two generations ago -- provide career-track curricula starting in middle school or high school, preparing students to enter the workforce with marketable, job-ready skills, higher and higher percentages of today's high school graduates (and those rates have dropped precipitously as well) struggle to make even the most basic ends meet. Staggering percentages of young men remain on Medicaid, living in government subsidized housing than ever before. Much of the disappearance of the jobs that these young men may have had in the manufacturing sector in a previous generation have disappeared as a result of policy that favors "statistical lives" --- data points crafted by analysts at the EPA and other government agencies -- rather than the actual lives of the people and communities that depended on long-shuttered factories. Cass makes some very compelling proposals for turning around punishing regulations and helping to empower lower-income earners, such as through wage subsidies, better job training and a re-examination of what priorities matter most with federal policy -- issues such as the health and well-being of foreign workers and environmental regulation, or the health and welfare of domestic workers, their communities and a truly sustainable labor force? The time has come for all of us to make a reckoning with these questions.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jim Milway

    I don't agree with two of main his main premises - that wages are stagnating (not if you include benefits and use the correct measure for inflation) and production is to be preferred over consumption. And he is very concerned about losing our manufacturing base to unfair trade practices. Yet, I can agree with many of his remedies for what ails the US economy. Instead of minimum wages, why not provide aware subsidy for low-wage workers? Don't fall for the allure of a guaranteed basic income. Work I don't agree with two of main his main premises - that wages are stagnating (not if you include benefits and use the correct measure for inflation) and production is to be preferred over consumption. And he is very concerned about losing our manufacturing base to unfair trade practices. Yet, I can agree with many of his remedies for what ails the US economy. Instead of minimum wages, why not provide aware subsidy for low-wage workers? Don't fall for the allure of a guaranteed basic income. Work is a main source of our human dignity and we should not tell people that they can survive without it. A great work that should be informing the economic agenda of both parties.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ron Peters

    I periodically like to read a book by a conservative, if it’s getting good press, to see if I (a die-hard progressive) can find any areas of common ground or new ideas. Oren Cass is a pretty good egg; he’s an old-fashioned conservative, not a neocon libertarian. In terms of his values I can align with him on things like his concern for workers and, to some extent, for families (just don’t look too close at what counts or doesn’t count as “family” in his mind). In terms of policies I can also get I periodically like to read a book by a conservative, if it’s getting good press, to see if I (a die-hard progressive) can find any areas of common ground or new ideas. Oren Cass is a pretty good egg; he’s an old-fashioned conservative, not a neocon libertarian. In terms of his values I can align with him on things like his concern for workers and, to some extent, for families (just don’t look too close at what counts or doesn’t count as “family” in his mind). In terms of policies I can also get on-board with some of what he says about education – for example, that it would be good to re-introduce career or vocational tracks into our public-schools. But I can’t come close to agreeing with his recommendations for rolling back the Clean Air Act, or with the fact that climate change never even gets mentioned in this book. Also, his discussion of immigration is framed in the context of “free trade” versus “open borders.” This fits with the basic frame of the book: everything is viewed through the lens of the labour market. I largely agree with his discussion of selecting immigrants who have skills needed in their new country. But he never mentions refugees once, just people looking for better jobs than they can find in their home country. (He also discusses unions, wage subsidies, and people who cannot work.) So, there were some values where I could the mental space to work with his ideas, plus a few specific policies, though I disagreed with most of them. But he writes in a reasonable, mostly balanced manner and strikes me as someone you could have a good debate with, rather than running smack into an ideological brick wall.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Todd Davidson

    Excellent. He argues we do not reward work enough both economically and socially. This insufficient reward to work has led to many social ills; unemployment , depression, poverty. He then makes a case economic growth and redistribution are not enough to solve these ills. He calls this growth and redistribute strategy “economic piety” (grow the pie, split the pie). I have been, and am, a proponent of what he calls “economic piety” but I found his criticisms of “economic piety” insightful and pers Excellent. He argues we do not reward work enough both economically and socially. This insufficient reward to work has led to many social ills; unemployment , depression, poverty. He then makes a case economic growth and redistribution are not enough to solve these ills. He calls this growth and redistribute strategy “economic piety” (grow the pie, split the pie). I have been, and am, a proponent of what he calls “economic piety” but I found his criticisms of “economic piety” insightful and persuasive. Since Reagan the conservative economic agenda has been cut taxes and deregulate. That’s fine but we need more ideas. Oren’s work offers a much broader set of policy tools to make work pay and strengthen our families and communities. The books is an infusion of the creative thinking needed in the right of center policy shops.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David

    Here's a book that attempts to bring together the value of open markets with the need for community. It's a healthy, relevant blend of the local and the international and may well be the best way forward for humanity in an age of globalization and the irrational belief that a world without borders is a good thing. This books should be 2018's Book of the Year but it's written by an economist and is dry as dust to read, but it is maybe the most important book published in 2018... A MUST READ for th Here's a book that attempts to bring together the value of open markets with the need for community. It's a healthy, relevant blend of the local and the international and may well be the best way forward for humanity in an age of globalization and the irrational belief that a world without borders is a good thing. This books should be 2018's Book of the Year but it's written by an economist and is dry as dust to read, but it is maybe the most important book published in 2018... A MUST READ for those looking for a middle, rational, and compassionate way through the maze of competing socio-economic theories floating about out there. Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

  16. 5 out of 5

    E

    This is one of the best public policy books I've read in a long time. It's reassuring, for one thing, just to know that there are people actually doing this sort of spadework. It is clear, principled, ambitious yet realistic. It is conservative but not hidebound. Cass divides the work into three parts. The chapters are detailed but not overly long. Part 1 deals with the concept of work itself. Cass makes a strong case for its intrinsic value, and also for how it provides self-worth while also se This is one of the best public policy books I've read in a long time. It's reassuring, for one thing, just to know that there are people actually doing this sort of spadework. It is clear, principled, ambitious yet realistic. It is conservative but not hidebound. Cass divides the work into three parts. The chapters are detailed but not overly long. Part 1 deals with the concept of work itself. Cass makes a strong case for its intrinsic value, and also for how it provides self-worth while also serving to build strong communities. This is in strong contrast to those who view it as optional or something to be avoided if possible. He makes an entirely secular case, but he nevertheless tracks closely with those who believe humans were created for work. Part 1 also addresses the decline of work in this country, and the deleterious effects of that decline. Part 2 is the meat of the book. In five chapters Cass looks at five areas in which policy changes could lead to a greater valuation and pursuit of work. These areas include environmental law, education, immigration, labor law, and wage subsidies. I won't go into great detail, but suffice it to say that if these changes were implemented--even if I don't agree with every last detail--people would be motivated and empowered toward work in a way that would revolutionize both the lower and the middle classes. Everything from strong families to healthy patterns of spending and savings could be potential results. I'll zero in on one chapter: education. At the end of the day, only 20% of students will end up in a job that requires a college degree that they have earned. For the other 80%, they will either end up in a job that didn't require a degree, or end up with a degree for which they can't find a job, or never make it to college, or drop out after one semester. So why is the goal of public education to get everyone to college? And now it seems that leading liberal politicians want to make it "free" so that everyone gets a college degree sans tuition! Cass wants to introduce "tracking" and vocational efforts in a wholesale way. It cuts against the grain of "you can be anything you want when you grow up," but it's far more sensical. I have no plans to insist my own children go to college; why do we act like it's the end-all and be-all of childrearing? Part 3 addresses entitlement programs, and how they can be reformed in ways that encourage, rather than discourage, work. Again, lots of common sense that would make a profound impact on work (not to mention the moral implications of what it means to be poor in this country), if only someone would give it a try. Speaking of giving it a try, Cass ends with a strong critique of a plan that many on both sides of the aisle would like to try--universal basic income (UBI). Read these pages to understand why this is a horrible idea. It really comes down to what we want to be as a people; what we want to encourage our children to aspire to.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Russel Henderson

    Cass's central hypothesis is that the priorities of both "sides" are misplaced as regards economic and social policy. That is, the right's intellectual embrace of GDP growth, libertarian immigration and trade policy, and free market fundamentalism are as misguided as the left's emphasis on redistributive and ecological justice, as neither expressly encourage and prioritize meaningful work, especially for those in the middle and lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. Cass proposes a wide range Cass's central hypothesis is that the priorities of both "sides" are misplaced as regards economic and social policy. That is, the right's intellectual embrace of GDP growth, libertarian immigration and trade policy, and free market fundamentalism are as misguided as the left's emphasis on redistributive and ecological justice, as neither expressly encourage and prioritize meaningful work, especially for those in the middle and lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. Cass proposes a wide range of solutions, from wage subsidies to environmental deregulation to cooperatives as a replacement for NLRA unions. These have varying degrees of merit, and certainly some of his characterizations are debatable and even inflammatory. But the book shines in putting its finger on the central sort of malaise and rot that seems apparent in our social and political life. That is, the solutions of both sides have limited resonance with the wider public. Redistributive economics and social security programs are producing second and third order effects that are skewing incentive structures and even the social fabric, while libertarian-inspired approaches to immigration and trade policy are distributing benefits and burdens unevenly. Cass seeks to orient the discuss toward the encouragement of meaningful work, by tailoring trade, immigration policy, education and the social safety net toward the incentivization of the creation of such jobs and the development of the skills necessary for young and working-class Americans to hold them. There is no guarantee that an approach geared toward "productive pluralism" will fix the myriad social problems that afflict the country right now. However, Cass's book helps open the discussion toward improving a social and economic landscape riven by opioid abuse, disintegrating family life, and eroding community structures. Cass's work, like JD Vance in Hillbilly Elegy, represents another of the right's attempts to reckon with populism and its catalysts while recognizing that the dominant intellectual trends of conservatism from Goldwater forward have proven inadequate.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eduardo Paez

    Oren Cass offers a political policy game plan and set of public policy prescriptions that will boost opportunity, decrease inequality, revive America's industrial/manufacturing base, make international trade fair, and that will strengthen America's overall societal structure and roots. Key to Oren Cass's strategy are moving towards a skills-based immigration plan, the implementation of large working class worker's subsidy to immediately boost wages, the transformation of high schools into two-tr Oren Cass offers a political policy game plan and set of public policy prescriptions that will boost opportunity, decrease inequality, revive America's industrial/manufacturing base, make international trade fair, and that will strengthen America's overall societal structure and roots. Key to Oren Cass's strategy are moving towards a skills-based immigration plan, the implementation of large working class worker's subsidy to immediately boost wages, the transformation of high schools into two-track schools to prodigiously boost the numbers of skilled Americans and to drastically increase vocational job prestige, lowering environmental standards so that they are on the level of Europe and so that American industry can better compete, and changing the culture so that work is valued for it's service to the community, fulfillment of societal obligations, and the difficulty of the work, not freedom at work, wages, and pleasantness. The elite has guided America wrong for the past 50 or so years and it's time to change course in the United States. With multicultural, elite, secular liberalism failing, the opportunity is ripe for conservatives to steal the march. The key is moving the Republican Party from globalist to nationalist, because only an America that puts its workers, community, and its God first can have the strength, confidence, and position to lead. A phenomenal book by Oren Cass. Has something for everyone on the political spectrum because it weaves above right-left lines and focuses on the national community, rather than ideology. This book provides a responsible nationalist-populist platform that can unite America and restore her culture, economic, and social structures to their former glory. One can only leave with the hope that the Republican Party adopts this platform. The alternative is that the Republican party fails and that America diminishes and fails with it with America falling into a 1984/Brave New World-esque dystopia where elites create a paradise for themselves and a hell for the rest.

  19. 4 out of 5

    T.

    Excerpt at the Atlantic: Residential mobility is the issue that best captures policy makers’ misunderstanding of prosperity and the social endowments that foster it. The willingness to pack up and move in pursuit of opportunity is part and parcel of the American Dream and a key element of the nation’s economic vitality. Yet, as hardship has increased in recent decades, the share of the population that relocates has declined. If things are so terrible, some economists grumble, why won’t anyone mo Excerpt at the Atlantic: Residential mobility is the issue that best captures policy makers’ misunderstanding of prosperity and the social endowments that foster it. The willingness to pack up and move in pursuit of opportunity is part and parcel of the American Dream and a key element of the nation’s economic vitality. Yet, as hardship has increased in recent decades, the share of the population that relocates has declined. If things are so terrible, some economists grumble, why won’t anyone move? They have built elaborate models to show how much higher GDP would be if only people lived where their productivity would be highest. This gets things backward. Strong families and communities launch people into the world to seek their fortune. Relocation requires deep stores of social capital. Without the skills and habits to access opportunity, failure is likely. Lacking a strong support base, it can be hard to get started. If someone is already dependent on government benefits and a move places those benefits at risk, staying put can seem the better bet. Geographic mobility can’t rescue America from the consequences of its socially unsustainable growth—because lower geographic mobility is one of those consequences.... Relocation tears people away from their communities. If a critical mass relocates, it can decimate the community left behind. The idea that struggling communities should disband themselves is not a return to “how things used to be”; it is an admission of catastrophic failure and a prescription for further disaster. If Americans want to enjoy the fruits of long-term prosperity, including widespread relocation in pursuit of opportunity, they will need to restore its prerequisites.. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/11/emphasize-production-not-consumption/576625/

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cgallozzi

    I read the hard copy of this book. The premise informs the reader that the US labor market needs to be "tended to" with policies -- different from traditional Kaiserslautern fairs thinking. Frankly not sure whether this is an honest attempt at a revised thought model for the right - or a Trojan horse. Against unlimited immigration - depresses wages - has one interesting idea about how to advance the conversation. Policies need to be introduced to benefit labor - the major sorting a la Germany and t I read the hard copy of this book. The premise informs the reader that the US labor market needs to be "tended to" with policies -- different from traditional Kaiserslautern fairs thinking. Frankly not sure whether this is an honest attempt at a revised thought model for the right - or a Trojan horse. Against unlimited immigration - depresses wages - has one interesting idea about how to advance the conversation. Policies need to be introduced to benefit labor - the major sorting a la Germany and the creation of a robus trade school model/several examples South Carolina apprentice programs feeding recruits into BMW - but these are exceptions. The educational model he claims still assumes 100% of the high school children will go to college when less than twenty five percent do.....his solution take money from assisting all people equipped or unequipped to go to college and repurpose for technical and apprenticeship training. Hard chapter on Unions. Interesting chapter on the concept of a wage subsidy paid for by reductions in minimum wage overall? One idea I wholeheartedly support comes a jacket blurb... Class core principle a culture of respect for work of all kinds cN help close the gap dividing the two Americas. William Galton, The Brookings Instituion.. Carl Gallozzi

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Anthony Sam

    If you do not believe that increasing GDP will automatically make everybody well-off and create more jobs despite low-wage competition fro overseas, this book offers an alternative. Likewise, if you do not believe that more spending on social safety nets that seem to lock people into dependency will ever create the self-sufficiency of a good job done well and paid well, you may also want to read this book. Cass is not your usual ideological Conservative. In fact, he is more nearly a radical than If you do not believe that increasing GDP will automatically make everybody well-off and create more jobs despite low-wage competition fro overseas, this book offers an alternative. Likewise, if you do not believe that more spending on social safety nets that seem to lock people into dependency will ever create the self-sufficiency of a good job done well and paid well, you may also want to read this book. Cass is not your usual ideological Conservative. In fact, he is more nearly a radical than many on the Left. He is a thoughtful systems thinker who does believe in compassionate action. True, there are moments when his ideology seems to get the better of him, but he quickly pivots. The idea that being productive in any job leads to higher self-worth and that our society which values consumption over all is dysfunctional resonates more than all the Make America Great protectionism or New Socialist give-a-ways.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Everyone needs to read this book. It does a great job of looking at the current failures of economic policy with an even hand, shuts down many of the myths that are used to maintain the status quo, and offers workable solutions that begin change with minimal disruption so things can keep functioning rather than tearing it all down and starting over from scratch. "The Once and Future Worker" points out how our current policies have focused on increasing productivity and GDP without taking other f Everyone needs to read this book. It does a great job of looking at the current failures of economic policy with an even hand, shuts down many of the myths that are used to maintain the status quo, and offers workable solutions that begin change with minimal disruption so things can keep functioning rather than tearing it all down and starting over from scratch. "The Once and Future Worker" points out how our current policies have focused on increasing productivity and GDP without taking other factors of societal health and well-being into consideration. By focusing on consumption at the expense of production, the United States has handicapped itself in the global market and fostered a culture that devalues work and self-sufficiency. I can't do this book justice with a summary, but unlike many other books that talk about policy, it doesn't indulge in accusatory finger-pointing, but states the facts and offers potential solutions to rectify these problems. Highly recommended!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

    Cass's basic premise is that the average American is not able to (or even encouraged to) support themselves through work, either because jobs are not available or do not pay enough. He offers lots of ideas for restructuring society to fix this. His suggestions for more trade-focused high schools, government funded wage subsidies, and more state control over safety net distributions were all reasonable. I disagreed with his conclusions on environmental and immigration related topics, and at times Cass's basic premise is that the average American is not able to (or even encouraged to) support themselves through work, either because jobs are not available or do not pay enough. He offers lots of ideas for restructuring society to fix this. His suggestions for more trade-focused high schools, government funded wage subsidies, and more state control over safety net distributions were all reasonable. I disagreed with his conclusions on environmental and immigration related topics, and at times his straw-man like arguments got annoying, but overall interesting ideas that are at least different from the status quo.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    Why read this book? First understand the author works at a conservative think tank and served as advisor to Mitt Romney. Marco Rubio writes in support of the ideas. There is an agenda in this description of what work should be and it has a bias. I firmly believe a reader must explore alternate ideas and debate them. You may or may not agree with the hypothesis of the book. Still, I am glad I read this and can consider the ideas as well as understand the perspective it represents. I found it repe Why read this book? First understand the author works at a conservative think tank and served as advisor to Mitt Romney. Marco Rubio writes in support of the ideas. There is an agenda in this description of what work should be and it has a bias. I firmly believe a reader must explore alternate ideas and debate them. You may or may not agree with the hypothesis of the book. Still, I am glad I read this and can consider the ideas as well as understand the perspective it represents. I found it repeat at points so lower my rating but am glad I picked it up to read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    john m graney

    A stretch for Liberals There’s a lot of conservative orthodoxy here but also some thinking that liberals like myself will find worthwhile. We all want people to have the chance to work and to have their work adequately compensated. This book looks at our past and current policies and suggests how we might reorient our goals from growth in consumption to growth in jobs and how best to achieve this.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve Wegman

    Author makes the case that both Republicans and Democrats are wrong in their approach to improving the economic well-being of Americans. He says we need to focus on the worker, giving wage subsidies to bring workers to living wages rather than handouts or other programs like tariffs. I don't see that he has a great answer, but it can hardly be worse than what we're doing now that discourages people from working. Author makes the case that both Republicans and Democrats are wrong in their approach to improving the economic well-being of Americans. He says we need to focus on the worker, giving wage subsidies to bring workers to living wages rather than handouts or other programs like tariffs. I don't see that he has a great answer, but it can hardly be worse than what we're doing now that discourages people from working.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eloy Colombo

    Excellent book. The only thing he is wrong, economically speaking, is about immigration. The problem is not low skilled workers immigrating to the US, but it's the bad trade deals that turn impossible for someone to develop industry in the US: Foreign companies can sell almost everything to the US with low tariffs, but the US companies can't sell US production to those countries due to high tariffs. Those unfair trade deals keep poor people in poor condition. Excellent book. The only thing he is wrong, economically speaking, is about immigration. The problem is not low skilled workers immigrating to the US, but it's the bad trade deals that turn impossible for someone to develop industry in the US: Foreign companies can sell almost everything to the US with low tariffs, but the US companies can't sell US production to those countries due to high tariffs. Those unfair trade deals keep poor people in poor condition.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Sargent

    3,5/5 Too wonkish for its own good, and relies heavily on presumptions that while I generally agree with, could have been more heartily defended. Particularly bad is the chapter on the social safety net; if youre just retreading basic con talking points from the last 30 years I'm just going to be bored. Overall it almost feels like a great thesis that's underdeveloped with specific policy points. 3,5/5 Too wonkish for its own good, and relies heavily on presumptions that while I generally agree with, could have been more heartily defended. Particularly bad is the chapter on the social safety net; if youre just retreading basic con talking points from the last 30 years I'm just going to be bored. Overall it almost feels like a great thesis that's underdeveloped with specific policy points.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Interesting book from a very conservative perspective that I didn’t always agree with, but I did find to be fair and pretty well argued. He argues that jobs are much more important than we give credit for, on a personal, family, neighborhood, social, and national level. In some funny ways it reminds me of the Marxist valorization of the working class.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Cunningham

    I will (probably) get around to writing a real review of this book in the next several days, but suffice it to say this is a compelling indictment of the current American status quo on trade, immigration, welfare, work, markets, and so forth from the perspective of getting American living-wage jobs created... from a conservative standpoint.

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