In This Review

That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back
That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back
By Thomas L. Friedman,Michael Mandelbaum
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, 400 pp

A decade ago, foreign policy experts like Friedman and Mandelbaum were focused on the changing global order. Now, they are increasingly concerned that the American power on which that order rests must be renewed at home, or else it will fail abroad. Although noting the achievements of other countries, especially China, the authors believe that the United States does not need to imitate others so much as renew its commitment to policies and ideas rooted in its own past. In particular, the authors propose a return to the idea of a strong national government, committed to sound finance and acting as the partner of and advocate for a vigorous private sector. They support substantial public investments in infrastructure (including high-speed rail) and alternative methods of energy generation, and they want to see social welfare entitlements rationalized and trimmed. This is a book that the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street will both reject. But the authors, bent on appealing to centrists and moderates on both sides of the aisle, are not too worried about persuading those further out on the left and the right.