Reviewed by Veronica Alvarado
The year 2016 was inarguably one of the most tumultuous in American society in recent memory. A bitterly contested election between two unfavorable candidates, and the surprise dark horse win of populist Republican nominee Donald Trump, has prompted a desire amongst American readers to actively understand both the inner workings of their political society and how they reached the current political moment. To help fill this need comes Swiss economist Werner Neff’s Reclaim American Democracy: Economic Solution to Dysfunctional Politics. With deft insights and easy-to-comprehend prose, Neff presents his readers with a working hypothesis of the evolution of current American politics and admirable solutions towards countering growing social and economic injustice.
Taking an undoubtedly liberal point-of-view, Neff essentially begins his argument with the somewhat controversial stance that “Today, it seems that America has lost its glory,” and follows that with the all-important question, “Why?” (Neff, 9) The rest of the work attempts to answer this brief, but all-encompassing query. Neff begins by discussing the nature of division in America, the weightiest among those being political and economic divisions. He gives much explication to the three interrelated topics of poverty, deficit, and employment. These three problems within American society all are instrumental towards maintaining the ever-widening gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. With the aid of informative charts and precise language, Neff is able to explicate his thesis that many of the socio-economic problems that stand in the way of the progress of American democracy. Some, but by no means all, of the sources of these issues that Neff touches upon or explains thoroughly include a Republican corruption of the core values of conservatism, polarized political parties, gerrymandering, massive corporate tax breaks, excessively large political campaign contributions, and a belief in the effectiveness of supply-side economics.
To remedy these aforementioned issues, Neff offers variety of liberal solutions. He calls for, among other solutions, a mandatory pension plan, an immediate end to polarizing political practices, and an increase in social contributions and taxes for wage earners. He underlines the importance of achieving these goals within American society, as their implementation will no doubt greatly ease some of the economic burden and mitigate much of the social unrest that currently resides within the United States today. Neff’s concluding chapter forms a helpful summary of his insights and again highlights the need for change. An extensive works cited section at the end of the book bolsters the validity and scholarly insight that Neff provides. All of the works cited are readily accessible to the curious reader.
Werner Neff’s Reclaim American Democracy: Economic Solution to Dysfunctional Politics is undoubtedly a work for the current age. While it may alienate some more conservative readers, Neff’s book ultimately will serve as a useful aid and an insightful read for any who are looking to understand the existing state of American society and who hopes to work towards democratic progress.