2 out of 4 stars
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The United States faces significant political and economic challenges. Restore Trust: Economic Solutions to Current Social and Political Issues in the U.S. by Werner Neff addresses a number of the underlying issues within the American democratic system that have created, and continue to create, inequities within fundamental social endeavours such as healthcare and welfare. Whilst the book focuses on the U.S., it would appeal to readers interested in the intricacies, and ironies, of a democratic system, from corporate tax loopholes and the pervasive influence of wealthy lobbyists to the legal manipulation of voting results and the illusive ‘American dream’.
This is an informative book with specific views on how the U.S. could improve its economic situation through legislative reform. Neff doesn’t hold back with his views but is certainly not oblivious to the complexities of a national economy and doesn’t pretended that his proposed solutions are straightforward or without their own challenges. I would expect most readers will have their own views and knowledge from which to draw the strings in multiple directions. In Neff's analysis of the U.S. corporatisation of prison and education systems, for example, I detected subliminal hints of Michel Foucault’s criticisms of our social structures as designed by, and serving, those in power.
Neff explains the impacts of legislative changes in the country’s history; highlighting how the disfunction within politics, namely the inability or lack of desire for parties to work together, has greatly affected the nation’s economy and ability for the government to serve its people. Toward the end of the book the dialogue rails into a critique of the Libertarian ideology of the current Republican government and how the intention to cut social services programs that support the poor flies in the face of the ‘American dream’ promised to those who voted in favour of this party.
The book delves into the emergence of self-interest over community mindedness as a source of the current materialistic idealisms and how these ambitions drive voters to support policies that actually prevent them from ever attaining what they desire; inspiring self-reflection on one’s own ideologies, beliefs and behaviours. Neff implores a return to democratic principles stating that the desire for material wealth has skewed society’s views on good decision-making; favouring a nice car and house and full bank account as proxies for desirable human qualities.
I think this book deserves to be promoted and read widely, however, it was evident that stronger editing was required to polish it to a standard worthy of publication. The noticeable grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors which proceeded throughout the book, compelled me to drop my rating from a 3 to a 2 out of 4 stars. A combination of stats and anecdote makes this book an easy read with enough data and insight for it to stimulate contemplation. If you’re prepared to stomach some unpolished editing, this book is an interesting and intelligent opinion piece grounded in a solid grasp of U.S. politics, economics and decent background research to support the author’s message.
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