OFF CENTER

Reviewed 11/13/2006

Off Center, by Hacker & Pierson

OFF CENTER
The Republican Revolution & the Erosion of American Democracy
Jacob S. Hacker
Paul Pierson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005

Rating:

5.0

High

ISBN-13: 978-0-300-10870-5
ISBN-10: 0-300-10870-2 261pp. HC/GSI $25.00

The argument of this book is that America's political market no longer looks like the effectively functioning markets that economics textbooks laud. Rather, it increasingly resembles the sort of market that gave us the Enron scandal, in which corporate bigwigs with privileged information got rich at the expense of ordinary shareholders, workers, and consumers.

– Page 16

The authors — professors of political science at Yale and UC Berkeley, respectively — draw on the University of Michigan's National Election Studies Cumulative Data File, on voting records for the U.S. Congress compiled by Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, and on research published by other scholars.

This all points up some startling and significant conclusions:

The authors provide an assessment of our current political process that is thorough without being tedious. Even better, their diagnosis of the afflictions that beset it is followed by a set of generally sound prescriptions for curing those ills. The prescriptions include:

Reading the book will give you a keen insight into what the GOP hard-liners have done to hijack the political process, and how they've managed it under our noses. It also goes some way toward being a good refresher on civics. It's well indexed and extensively end-noted. I recommend it.

1 According to these data (graphed on page 27), the 20% level, which the Democrats did not quite reach at their peak departure from center, is where the Republican rightward move began.
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