Enormously important ... in the very top ranks of sustained efforts to make some policy sense of the political realities of our era. It offers a vision of the sort of direction the American right should have taken in recent years if it were actually responsive to the challenges and pressures the country now confronts, rather than succumbing to a frantic cult of personality moved by every batty whim of a raving narcissist. And so it offers a vision of where the right could still go in the post-Trump era if we’re lucky ... Cass’s argument has something in it to make everyone uncomfortable...Ideas that make us uncomfortable are exactly the sorts of ideas we all now need to confront, so that we can at least consider how the political earthquakes of the last few years ought to alter our perspectives ... in fact, I left Cass’s book, and his American Interest essay previewing it, wondering if his ideas actually point beyond his own comfort zone — and so if he might be underselling them. Cass treats his core insight as a different way to think about economic policy. But I think it’s more like an assertion of the limitations of economic policy, and economic thinking ... This is a book you’re not going to want to miss.
Occupied with a bevy of policy proposals ... The merits of these proposals are ultimately up to the discerning reader to weigh. Cass seems intent on including something for everyone to like, which means inevitably that there is something for everyone to hate. But the total purpose of the package is less important than the goal that directs them—the core idea that a man or woman with a high school education should be able to feed his or her family ... It is not obvious if changes in trade policy or environmental regulation can transform how we think about political economy. But Cass is also right that the consumptive model is likely a key part of our dissatisfaction as a country. As such, The Once and Future Worker is a vital text for those interested in undoing it.
That [Cass] and others see a problem and identify workers as now centrally important to Republicans’ future is significant. Cass wants to move beyond identifying and channeling their anger and seeks instead to present public policy that can address the issues workers face. But let’s be clear, this isn’t really a book about 'workers,' it is a book about labor markets and (abstractly, theoretically) those who work. Like many books trying to explain how we got to the age of Trump, Cass seeks a usable past, and as such romanticizes a golden age that never was ... One of the problems with Cass’s argument is that he never fully or adequately defines families or community, but one assumes he means them in their traditional and historical form—with all the identitarian limitations and exclusions that come to mind ... Cass presents us with a book that demonstrates a renewed interest in work from conservatives. It demonstrates how they are stumbling for a set of policies that address the pain working-class communities have endured, without recognizing their culpability in policies that destroyed unions and safety nets. Maybe simply recognizing that the pain is real and that current Republicans have too long ignored the problem is the first step?