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Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"John Mueller deftly paces us through the practical realities of democratic development, rescuing the very idea of democracy from the idea mongers who have oversold the links between democracy and prosperity and between democracy and virtue. Stepping nimbly through the historic and contemporary links among democracy, capitalism, and virtue, he makes an important contribution to a practical theory of democracy."--Sam Popkin, University of California, San-Diego

"John Mueller has written an outstanding book about capitalism and democracy. He argues that each system has existed without the other, but that both are improved when they occur in tandem. Capitalism and democracy differ in cultural repute. Capitalism has a bad press even though as a result of competition, it tends to treat the customer well. Capitalist leaders are not 'robber barons,' but nice guys who finish first. Democracy, on the other hand, is perhaps over-praised: it embodies the play of special interests and while conceding political rights, only benefits the people as a whole when it is tied to a capitalist growth strategy. Fortunately, economists are now able to provide that strategy so that by following their advice, societies can progress. Neither democracy nor capitalism, however, satisfies all human or psychic wants. They are at best a reflection of Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery (where you can get everything you really need) rather than Alice's Restaurant (where you can get anything you want). Mueller has contributed a new and provocative interpretation that will resonate for years to come."--Richard Rosecrance, University of California, Los Angeles

"This is a lively, smart, well-written, and often compelling book. The frequent and pointed comments that visions of perfect democracy and markets miss the point of how a society can work are well made."--Russell Hardin, New York University

"We have here a seasoned political scientist and thinker with total control over his material. The result is an extremely engaging text, one that will be read for its excitement in the best graduate seminars and the best political science programs in the country. I have little doubt that, even in this heavily researched area of economics and democracy, his book will make a big splash, comparable to Inglehart's Culture Shift or Putnam's Making Democracy Work."--Michael Lewis-Beck, University of Iowa

Synopsis:

"John Mueller deftly paces us through the practical realities of democratic development, rescuing the very idea of democracy from the idea mongers who have oversold the links between democracy and prosperity and between democracy and virtue. Stepping nimbly through the historic and contemporary links among democracy, capitalism, and virtue, he makes an important contribution to a practical theory of democracy."--Sam Popkin, University of California, San-Diego

"John Mueller has written an outstanding book about capitalism and democracy. He argues that each system has existed without the other, but that both are improved when they occur in tandem. Capitalism and democracy differ in cultural repute. Capitalism has a bad press even though as a result of competition, it tends to treat the customer well. Capitalist leaders are not 'robber barons,' but nice guys who finish first. Democracy, on the other hand, is perhaps over-praised: it embodies the play of special interests and while conceding political rights, only benefits the people as a whole when it is tied to a capitalist growth strategy. Fortunately, economists are now able to provide that strategy so that by following their advice, societies can progress. Neither democracy nor capitalism, however, satisfies all human or psychic wants. They are at best a reflection of Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery (where you can get everything you really need) rather than Alice's Restaurant (where you can get anything you want). Mueller has contributed a new and provocative interpretation that will resonate for years to come."--Richard Rosecrance, University of California, Los Angeles

"This is a lively, smart, well-written, and often compelling book. The frequent and pointed comments that visions of perfect democracy and markets miss the point of how a society can work are well made."--Russell Hardin, New York University

"We have here a seasoned political scientist and thinker with total control over his material. The result is an extremely engaging text, one that will be read for its excitement in the best graduate seminars and the best political science programs in the country. I have little doubt that, even in this heavily researched area of economics and democracy, his book will make a big splash, comparable to Inglehart's Culture Shift or Putnam's Making Democracy Work."--Michael Lewis-Beck, University of Iowa

Synopsis:

Democracy is overrated. Capitalism, on the other hand, doesn't get enough credit. In this provocative and engaging book, John Mueller argues that these mismatches between image and reality create significant political and economic problems--inspiring instability, inefficiency, and widespread cynicism. We would be far better off, he writes, if we recognized that neither system is ideal or disastrous and accepted instead the humdrum truth that both are "pretty good." And, to Mueller, that means good enough. He declares that what is true of Garrison Keillor's fictional store "Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery" is also true of democracy and capitalism: if you can't get what you want there, "you can probably get along without it."

Mueller begins by noting that capitalism is commonly thought to celebrate greed and to require discourtesy, deceit, and callousness. However, with examples that range from car dealerships and corporate boardrooms to the shop of an eighteenth-century silk merchant, Mueller shows that capitalism in fact tends to reward behavior that is honest, fair, civil, and compassionate. He argues that this gap between image and reality hampers economic development by encouraging people to behave dishonestly, unfairly, and discourteously to try to get ahead and to neglect the virtuous behavior that is an important source of efficiency and gain.

The problem with democracy's image, by contrast, is that our expectations are too high. We are too often led by theorists, reformers, and romantics to believe that democracy should consist of egalitarianism and avid civic participation. In fact, democracy will always be chaotic, unequal, and marked by apathy. It offers reasonable freedom and security, but not political paradise. To idealize democracy, Mueller writes, is to undermine it, since the inevitable contrast with reality creates public cynicism and can hamper democracy's growth and development.

Mueller presents these arguments with sophistication, wit, and erudition. He combines mastery of current political and economic literature with references to figures ranging from Plato to P. T. Barnum, from Immanuel Kant to Ronald Reagan, from Shakespeare to Frank Capra. Broad in scope and rich in detail, the book will provoke debate among economists, political scientists, and anyone interested in the problems (or non-problems) of modern democracy and capitalism.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER I Capitalism and Democracy: Images and Image Mismatches 5

Capitalism 6

Democracy 7

Ralph's Grocery 10

The Plan of the Book 12

CAPITALISM

CHAPTER 2 Capitalism's Image 21

The Capitalist Virtues 22

The Capitalist Virtues and the Monopolist 38

The Essential Insincerity of Capitalist Morality 38

My Nice Guys Finish First 42

Extrapolating the Capitalist Virtues 43

Capitalist Culture, Capitalist Inequality and Unfairness, Capitalist Competition 45

The Profound Irrationality of Capitalism: Investors as Unintended Altruists 54

CHAPTER 3 Sources of Capitalism's Negative Image 57

Socialists and Communists 57

storytellers 58

Intellectuals 61

Religion 65

Aristocrats and the Honorable 66

Ineffective Capitalist Propaganda 68

Capitalists 70

CHAPTER 4 The Consequences of Capitalism's Image for Economic Development 72

The Unequal Rate of Economic Development 73

Superimposing the Capitalist Virtues 75

Virtue as a Business Innovation 77

The Rise of Business Virtue 83

The Relative Importance of Business Virtue in Economic Development 93

The Relevance of an Effective Legal System to Economic Development 95

CHAPTER 5 Development, Happiness, and the Rise of the Politically Incorrect One-Handed Economist 99

One-Handedness 100

Political Incorrectness 104

Four Economic Propositions That Have Become Increasingly Accepted 106

The Prospects for Massive Economic Growth 122

Economic Development, Professed Happiness, and the Catastrophe Quota 123

Development and the Quest for Happiness 132

DEMOCRACY

CHAPTER 6 Images and Definitions 137

Defining Democracy: Responsive Government 138

Elections: Useful, but Not Essential 140

Political Inequality 145

Democracy in Practice: Coopting the Wealthy 147

Minority Rule and Majority Acquiescence 152

Democracy in Comparison 153

Democracy and Real People 161

CHAPTER 7 Consequences of the Democratic Image 164

Cynicism about the Democratic Process 166

Hyperdemocracy 185

The Rebellion of Minorities 187

The Trouble with Transitology 189

CHAPTER 8 The Rise of Democracy 192

A Democratic Dialogue 193

The Historical Movement of Ideas 195

The Correlates of Democracy 197

The Marketing of Democracy 202

Examining the Third Wave 212

The Future of Democracy 222

CONCLUSION

CHAPTER 9 Democracy and Capitalism: Connections and Disconnections 231

Capitalism without Democracy, Democracy without Capitalism 231

Democracy's Connection with Capitalist Prosperity 234

Democracy's Connection to Capitalist Growth 235

The Connection of Democracy and Capitalism with Crime 238

Conceptional Connections between Democracy and Capitalism 240

APPENDIX An Inventory of Propositions 243

Notes 255

References 289

Index 317

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691090825
Author:
Mueller, John E.
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Author:
Mueller, John
Location:
Princeton, N.J.
Subject:
Democracy
Subject:
Capitalism
Subject:
Free Enterprise
Subject:
Political Ideologies - Democracy
Subject:
Political philosophy
Subject:
Economics
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
Business Writing
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
01-6
Publication Date:
July 2001
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Illustrations:
2 line illus., 2 tables
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 17 oz

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Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery New Trade Paper
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Product details 352 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691090825 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "John Mueller deftly paces us through the practical realities of democratic development, rescuing the very idea of democracy from the idea mongers who have oversold the links between democracy and prosperity and between democracy and virtue. Stepping nimbly through the historic and contemporary links among democracy, capitalism, and virtue, he makes an important contribution to a practical theory of democracy."--Sam Popkin, University of California, San-Diego

"John Mueller has written an outstanding book about capitalism and democracy. He argues that each system has existed without the other, but that both are improved when they occur in tandem. Capitalism and democracy differ in cultural repute. Capitalism has a bad press even though as a result of competition, it tends to treat the customer well. Capitalist leaders are not 'robber barons,' but nice guys who finish first. Democracy, on the other hand, is perhaps over-praised: it embodies the play of special interests and while conceding political rights, only benefits the people as a whole when it is tied to a capitalist growth strategy. Fortunately, economists are now able to provide that strategy so that by following their advice, societies can progress. Neither democracy nor capitalism, however, satisfies all human or psychic wants. They are at best a reflection of Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery (where you can get everything you really need) rather than Alice's Restaurant (where you can get anything you want). Mueller has contributed a new and provocative interpretation that will resonate for years to come."--Richard Rosecrance, University of California, Los Angeles

"This is a lively, smart, well-written, and often compelling book. The frequent and pointed comments that visions of perfect democracy and markets miss the point of how a society can work are well made."--Russell Hardin, New York University

"We have here a seasoned political scientist and thinker with total control over his material. The result is an extremely engaging text, one that will be read for its excitement in the best graduate seminars and the best political science programs in the country. I have little doubt that, even in this heavily researched area of economics and democracy, his book will make a big splash, comparable to Inglehart's Culture Shift or Putnam's Making Democracy Work."--Michael Lewis-Beck, University of Iowa

"Synopsis" by , Democracy is overrated. Capitalism, on the other hand, doesn't get enough credit. In this provocative and engaging book, John Mueller argues that these mismatches between image and reality create significant political and economic problems--inspiring instability, inefficiency, and widespread cynicism. We would be far better off, he writes, if we recognized that neither system is ideal or disastrous and accepted instead the humdrum truth that both are "pretty good." And, to Mueller, that means good enough. He declares that what is true of Garrison Keillor's fictional store "Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery" is also true of democracy and capitalism: if you can't get what you want there, "you can probably get along without it."

Mueller begins by noting that capitalism is commonly thought to celebrate greed and to require discourtesy, deceit, and callousness. However, with examples that range from car dealerships and corporate boardrooms to the shop of an eighteenth-century silk merchant, Mueller shows that capitalism in fact tends to reward behavior that is honest, fair, civil, and compassionate. He argues that this gap between image and reality hampers economic development by encouraging people to behave dishonestly, unfairly, and discourteously to try to get ahead and to neglect the virtuous behavior that is an important source of efficiency and gain.

The problem with democracy's image, by contrast, is that our expectations are too high. We are too often led by theorists, reformers, and romantics to believe that democracy should consist of egalitarianism and avid civic participation. In fact, democracy will always be chaotic, unequal, and marked by apathy. It offers reasonable freedom and security, but not political paradise. To idealize democracy, Mueller writes, is to undermine it, since the inevitable contrast with reality creates public cynicism and can hamper democracy's growth and development.

Mueller presents these arguments with sophistication, wit, and erudition. He combines mastery of current political and economic literature with references to figures ranging from Plato to P. T. Barnum, from Immanuel Kant to Ronald Reagan, from Shakespeare to Frank Capra. Broad in scope and rich in detail, the book will provoke debate among economists, political scientists, and anyone interested in the problems (or non-problems) of modern democracy and capitalism.

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