In this winding polemic—albeit a rather gentle one, lacking the fire and brimstone of Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism (1978)—journalist Roberts (The End of Food, 2008, etc.) laments the end of the kind of long-term thinking that once allowed Americans to work their way out of the deep hole of economic depression. That has now given way to “a society that wants it now, regardless of the consequences”—that wants a quarterly dividend instead of long-view economic health and low or nonexistent taxes at the expense of infrastructure and education, two things that, of course, are themselves economic engines. For our sins, we have a political class that refuses to address pressing big-picture problems like educational reform, climate change, financial reform or meaningful economic growth—and we’re not likely to get one that’s better anytime soon, as long as we can amuse ourselves into the poorhouse and graveyard. Roberts tries not to wear too heavy a moralist’s helm, and he tries gamely to be bipartisan (“Here, too, we find room for left-right compromise”), but it’s pretty clear that his chief target is the fat-and-unhappy baby boomers who don’t want to play along with the rest of the world, which will one day mean that the rest of the world is going to take over our playground and eat our lunch. As befits a book more descriptive than prescriptive, Roberts doesn’t develop much in the way of a program out of the mess, but just to be reminded that Adam Smith wasn’t a right-wing advocate of an unregulated market and even Reagan made a few adult decisions might open a few eyes—once the screaming stops.
More worthy of shelving alongside Allan Bloom than Ann Coulter, though still on the pop sociology side of things.