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That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Backby Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
Synopses & Reviews
America has a huge problem. It faces four major challenges, on which its future depends, and it is failing to meet them. In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, analyze those challenges — globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nations chronic deficits, and its pattern of energy consumption — and spell out what we need to do now to rediscover America and rise to this moment.
They explain how the end of the cold war blinded the nation to the need to address these issues. They show how our history, when properly understood, provides the key to addressing them, and explain how the paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies the country needs. They offer a way out of the trap into which the country has fallen, which includes the rediscovery of some of our most valuable traditions and the creation of a new, third-party movement. That Used to Be Us is both a searching exploration of the American condition today and a rousing manifesto for American renewal.
"As we were writing this book," Friedman and Mandelbaum explain, "we found that when we shared the title with people, they would often nod ruefully and ask: 'But does it have a happy ending?' Our answer is that we can write a happy ending, but it is up to the country — to all of us — to determine whether it is fiction or nonfiction. We need to study harder, save more, spend less, invest wisely, and get back to the formula that made us successful as a country in every previous historical turn. What we need is not novel or foreign, but values, priorities, and practices embedded in our history and culture, applied time and again to propel us forward as a country. That is all part of our past. That used to be us and can be again — if we will it."
"Reflecting on America's past greatness and its slipping position among global powers, Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist Friedman (The World is Flat) and foreign policy expert Mandelbaum (The Frugal Superpower) warn against the United States' 'dangerous complacency' in the face of increasingly complex global challenges. They repeat a question first posed by Bill Gates ('What was all that good stuff we had that other people copied?') and prescribe a set of sensible government practices for prosperity: invest in public education and infrastructure, foster immigration and scientific research, and set up effective financial regulation. The rapid upheaval of the Arab Spring exemplifies the dynamism of today's intertwined world ('Flat World 2.0'), where ideas and innovation — not goods or skills — are an individual or country's top economic commodities. American workers must approach the global marketplace with creativity in order to remain globally competitive. To that end, they also support reigning in the national debt and committing to the use of alternative energy sources. Broad ranging in its anecdotes and research, conversational (if pedantic) in its tone, and hopeful in its patriotism, they look the challenges of the 21st century squarely in the eye. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Friedman and Mandelbaum are men of the American elite, and they write to salute those members of the American elite who behave public-spiritedly and to scourge those who do not. They are winners, writing to urge other winners to have more of a care for their fellow citizens who are not winners. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that! ... American society has had a big serving of that ugly anti-elitist spirit in the recent past. It could use more of the generous responsible spirit Friedman and Mandelbaum recommend." David Frum, The New York Times Book Review
"This is a book of exceptional importance, written on a sweeping scale with remarkable clarity by two of our most gifted thinkers. A soon-to-be best seller, it should be read by policymakers and every American concerned about our country's future." Elizabeth L. Winter, Library Journal
"[In That Used to Be Us there] are big truths, and the authors see them clearly and whole. As is usual in Mr. Friedman's work the power of the core argument is buttressed by detailed reportage and blizzards of specific fact and detail, but the accumulation of anecdote and evidence never detracts from the book's central thrust. That Used to Be Us is an important contribution to an intensifying debate, and it deserves the widest possible attention." Walter Russell Mead, The New York Times
"[An] important and eminently readable book." Stanley Hoffmann, The New York Review of Books
About the Author
Thomas L. Friedman is a three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his work with The New York Times and is the author of five bestselling books, including The World Is Flat (2005). Michael Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy program at Johns Hopkins, is the author of The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World's Government in the Twenty-first Century (2005).
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