Never Enough: Capitalism and the Progressive Spirit

Public policy wonk Neil Gilbert calls into question almost every comfortable assumption of modern progressivism in his well-structured and well-argued treatise, Never Enough: Capitalism and the Progressive Spirit.

Gilbert, author of numerous books, including A Mother's Work: How Feminism, the Market and Policy Shape Family Life, is a professor at the Berkeley School of Social Welfare and a senior research fellow at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. His expertise becomes apparent as he navigates thorny issues of poverty, inequality, capitalism, public spending and income redistribution, specifically in the United States.

Whether addressing broad political concepts or nuances of complex data, Gilbert writes deftly, with clear analysis and factual authority. At the crux of his argument is what he deems "institutionalized discontent"--the ingrained presumptions in progressive circles that capitalism is the root of all social ill, even in modern welfare states. With careful comparative analysis of public spending and changing demographics over the years, Gilbert shows the incredible gains in living standards in first-world countries. He addresses methods of measuring poverty, inequality and social mobility, and argues that prevailing approaches focus on incomes and consumerism relative to richer peer groups, rather than on actual material deprivations associated with chronic poverty. Furthermore, he exposes a disconcerting trend of welfare spending going to middle-class families rather than to society's most needy.

Besides making progressives question their own data, Gilbert offers a new approach that he calls "progressive conservatism." He proposes graduated public assistance at the family level, including home-visiting services that assist struggling single parents. Likely to produce plenty of critical discussion, Never Enough is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in public policy. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist and fiction author

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