“This is the end of the world as we’ve known it,” Kurt Andersen writes in Reset. “But it isn’t the end of the world.” In this smart and refreshingly hopeful book, Andersen–a brilliant analyst and synthesizer of historical and cultural trends, as well as a bestselling novelist and host of public radio’s Studio 360 –shows us why the current economic crisis is actually a moment of great opportunity to get ourselves and our nation back on track.
Historically, America has always shifted between wild, exuberant speculation and steady, sober hard work, as well as back and forth between economic booms and busts, and between right and left politically. This is one of the rare moments when all these cycles shift dramatically and simultaneously–a moment when complacency ends, ossified structures loosen up, and enormous positive change is possible.
The shock to the system can enable each of us to rethink certain habits and focus more on the things that make us authentically happy. The present flux can enable us as a society to consolidate the enormous gains of the last several decades in areas such as technology, crime prevention, women’s and civil rights, and the democratization of the planet. We can reap the fruits of a revival of realism and pragmatism at home and abroad. As we enter a new era of post-party-line common sense, we can start to reinvent hopelessly broken systems–in health care, education, climate change, and more–and rediscover some of the old-fashioned American values of which we’ve lost sight.
In Reset, Andersen explains how we’ve done it before and why we are about to do it again–and better than ever.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Reset|
|Release Date: 07-28-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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We Let the Good Times Roll
Let’s be honest: we all saw this coming for a long, long time.
In the early 1980s, right around when Ronald Reagan became president and Wall Street’s great modern bull market began, we Americans gave ourselves over to gambling (and winning). We started thinking magically. From 1980 to 2007 the price of the average new American home quadrupled, and almost doubled even after adjusting for inflation. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed from 803 in the summer of 1982 to 14,165 in the fall of 2007–a 500 percent increase after inflation.
From the beginning of the 1980s through 2007, the share of disposable income that each household spent paying off its mortgage and consumer debt increased by 35 percent. Back in 1982, the average American household saved 11 percent of its disposable income, but then the percentage steadily dropped, to less than 1 percent in 2007.
Not coincidentally, it was during this same period that state- sanctioned and state- run gambling became ubiquitous in America. Until the late 1980s, only Nevada and New Jersey had casinos, but now twelve states do, and forty- eight of the fifty have some form of legalized betting. It’s as if we decided that Mardi Gras and Christmas are so much fun we ought to make them year- round ways of life. We started living large literally as well as figuratively. From the beginning to the end of the long boom, the size of the average new American house increased by half, even as the average family became smaller. During the two de...