In This Review

Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall—and Those Fighting to Reverse It
Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall—and Those Fighting to Reverse It
By Steven Brill
Knopf, 2018, 464 pp
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Brill blends journalism and history to tell a complex but vital story: how the stable world of postwar U.S. capitalism transformed into the volatile and often ruthless economic system of today. There is no single culprit in Brill’s account. He shows how a series of apparently unrelated developments in law, finance, corporate management, and campaign funding combined to cause a dramatic decline in the fairness, decency, and prosperity of the United States. Perhaps the most interesting theme is how often liberal reforms led to massive, unforeseen problems later on. Brill blames the catastrophic fall in U.S. social mobility, for example, on the shift to meritocratic college admissions policies in the 1960s. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to corporate money in politics, began with a lawsuit filed by the Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Brill offers a rare thing: an intelligible summary of the political and policy changes that transformed American life in the last 50 years. But one is left wondering why, as Brill describes the havoc wreaked by the unforeseen consequences of one liberal reform after another, he is so confident that one more round of liberal reforms will set the country right.