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The Resurgent Liberal (and Other Unfashionable Prophesies).

The Resurgent Liberal (and other unfashionable prophecies) Reich's hit parade of our economic follies are all on view in this lively collection of Reagan-era essays. It's a spectacle of myopia. Diapered MBAs and trembling CEOs shuffle zillions of dollars in paper while new products languish. The Pentagon devours the few engineers and scientists we turn out, dooming our shriking R&D efforts to commercial irrelevance. The government, meanwhile, fights yesterday's "us versus them" battles, imposing quotas to stem a tide of imports that include American companies' offshore production. Who's "us" anyway, Reich asks, when there's more American workmanship in today's Tennessee-built Nissan than in today's offshore buick?

Reich's most compelling (and frequently repeated) theme stresses skilled labor as our only likely source of sustainable advantage in a global low-wage marketplace. But realizing this potential requires a brave new workplace--one where managers issue fewer commands and share more information and where broader incentives (like employee ownership) give all in enterprise a shared stake in success. Above all, however, the skills of skilled labor depend on education and training, an area we continue to leave unreformed despite the usual sound and fury.

Several of Reich's pieces shed light on the symbolic costs that come with seeimingly positive policy changes. He notes, for example, that tax reform's scrapping of progressive tax rates and the earlier move to a voluntary army both eroded the democratic values of shared sacrifice.

One quarrel: Like many writers infatuated with a thought, Reich has an irritating habit of recycling pet phrases. "We're told several times, for example, that yesterday's "muckrakers" are today's "investigative journalists." So read these essays, but not in one sitting.

The Resurgent Liberal (and other unfashionable prophecies). Robert Reich. Times Books, $19.95.
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Author:Miller, Matthew
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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