This campaign season has seen the attack on the concept of government in full swing, with Republican candidates pledging to cut taxes and downsize federal agencies.
But one Connecticut thinker said America has forgotten how successful the partnership of government and private industry can be.
Jacob Hacker, writing in his new book with Paul Pierson, American Amnesia, said that during the mid-20th century, government regulation increased life spans by promoting public health and cracking down on industry abuses.
“We started to see government being used actively,” Hacker said, “in part in response to popular pressures and part in response to greater knowledge, to really improve the welfare of citizens. So in the early twentieth century, there was a public health revolution that added years to the American lifespan. Before public authorities stepped in and cleaned up water and made sure children had access to clean water and clean milk, three in ten kids were dying before the age of one in many urban centers in the United States.”
Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, Hacker said starting in the 1970s, anti-government rhetoric became an entrenched part of our political discourse.
He contends that Americans no longer recognize that an active government in a mixed economy leads to more prosperity and wellbeing for its citizens.
“That kind of view of government as for someone else, as really about redistribution rather than about broad based disparity -- that shift, I think, also really makes it hard for people to have faith in the mixed economy,” Hacker said.
Hacker, a professor of political science at Yale University, describes the mixed economy as a tense partnership between government and private industry. He said that its failure in recent decades is actually leading to a decline in public health and increased death rates in America.