RaveThe New RepublicPutnam and Garrett are rewriting the political history of the twentieth century here ... they skirt a crucial issue: As Francis Fukuyama makes clear in his discussion of the twentieth-century Progressive movement in his book Political Order and Political Decay, its moral inspiration was very much rooted in the egalitarian Protestantism dominant in the Northeast and Midwest at the time. It was the Social Gospel campaign of Protestant ministers that countered the ideology of Social Darwinism, and its perverse claim that the theory of evolution justified the inequities of the Gilded Age. With an American left as disconnected from religion as the one we see today, where will the moral fervor for a new movement come from exactly? A single charismatic preacher operating out of North Carolina will hardly suffice ... serves as a call to the generations who have succeeded the baby-boomers to imagine a better future for the American project, and to pursue it. Rather than focusing on the tension between generations the authors encourage young people to look for an earlier precedent for themselves. They remind us that the problems of today with which the new generations must grapple—the skyrocketing costs of health care, the weakness of environmental regulations, the power of corporate monopolies, and the urgent need for campaign finance reform—are almost exactly the same as those that confronted the original Progressives in their day, even if the solutions to these problems must be new and different ones ... magnificent and visionary.
PositiveThe New RepublicSitaraman provides us with a much-needed reminder of how economic inequality has been adjudicated in the past—and how it can be more effectively alleviated in the future. He raises the possibility of passing tougher inheritance laws, but absent an actual revolution, that doesn’t seem any more feasible today than it did in the time of Madison and Jefferson. He rejects outright the idea of a 'class warfare constitution' to divide power between rich and poor. His most powerful suggestion for change lies in a return to the cooperative commonwealth and the rise of a new labor movement—one focused not purely on collective bargaining within the workplace, but more broadly on the empowerment of workers.