NEWS 2013

The Land of Too Much

Book explores U.S. poverty and welfare-state/progressive tax puzzle

The Land of Too Much

IPR sociologist Monica Prasad’s latest book, The Land of Too Much: American Abundance and the Paradox of Poverty (Harvard University Press, 2012), centers around three key questions:

  • Why does the United States have more poverty than any other developed country?
  • Why did it experience an attack on state intervention starting in the 1980s, known today as the neoliberal revolution?
  • And why did it recently suffer the greatest economic meltdown in 75 years?

Prasad explores the puzzle of why the United States has the most progressive tax system of the advanced industrial world, yet one of the world’s smallest public welfare states. She traces how U.S. economic development grew from a model based on consumption while European states focused on an economic model driven by exports and investment. Fueled by a tradition of sweeping government interventions, U.S. economic growth and strict financial regulation increased private credit, which became the means for meeting citizens’ needs—a stark contrast to the cradle-to-grave social policies of a more protectionist Europe. In turn, the U.S. economic path eventually wound its way to more poverty, the “mortgage Keynesianism” that created the housing bubble, and an anti-tax and anti-regulation sentiment embodied by the recent rise of the Tea Party.

Read a related op-ed in The New York Times here.

Monica Prasad is associate professor of sociology and an IPR fellow.