read: 3 June 2003
Two quick observations that I was thinking about before I start. One, when I saw Tom Frank speak at Left Bank Books when the Conquest of Cool came out, he freaked me out by wearing a very tweedy jacket with elbow patches which I thought was an odd outfit to wear to speak to a bunch of anarchists. Second, I bet the fact that this book has the word “Extreme” in the subtitle [which is"Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy"] sold more than a few copies.
Okay, I drove my boyfriend completely crazy by reading out loud from this book every five seconds. Frank is the most readable kind of historian, he is equally facile quoting from TV commercials or from Hume. He’s educated, yet not in a rub-your-face-in-it way. On the other hand, his conclusions are so well backed up, so rooted in real Things that Happened and Were Documented, that he’s very very persuasive. Not that I needed to be persuaded that America is tossing away real political democracy in favor of this BS “democracy of the market” tripe that we see in the media, on the TV and in the management styles that invade our workplaces even as they fire more and more people. Frank calls this phenomena “market populism” and he hates it. But he doesn’t just hate it in a [this is bad] way but he sneers at it; he is incredulous that we as a society have been duped into giving up democratic control of our institutions and handing it over to people to use for profit.
More specifically, he covers the weird stock market boom of the late nineties when anyone with a TV or newspaper was sure that everyone was investing in the market, everyone was getting rich and no one was being harmed by this newfound wealth surplus America was experiencing. Or, as my Dad put it “The market creates wealth, it’s not taking money from one person and giving it to another” [with the hidden caveat that this is what you government is doing any maybe that’s not so great...]. Frank debunks this myth with lots and lots of hard-to-argue with facts that illustrate why the superrich have a solidly vested interest in making you believe that you control your own econonmic destiny while at the same time trying to influence and strongarm you into giving them more money in the form of mutual fun and stock investing and more and more consumer spending.
It’s a rare history book that I could read a second time, but this could be the one.
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