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The Conscience of a Liberal

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The Conscience of a Liberal

The Conscience of a Liberal
The Conscience of a Liberal cover
Author Paul Krugman
Country United States
Language English
Subject Modern liberalism
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher W. W. Norton
Publication date
October 1, 2007[1]
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 296 pp
OCLC 154706837
339.2/20973 22
LC Class HC110.I5 K74 2007

The Conscience of a Liberal is a book written by economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman. It was 24th on the New York Times Best Seller list in November 2007.[2] The title was used originally in Senator Paul Wellstone's book of the same name in 2001. Wellstone's title was a response to Barry Goldwater's 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative. In the book, Krugman studies the past 80 years of American history in the context of economic inequality. A central theme is the reemergence of both economic and political inequality since the 1970s. Krugman analyzes the causes behind these events and proposes a "new New Deal" for America.[1]


The book is a history of wealth and income gaps in the US in the 20th century. The book documents that the gap between rich and poor declined greatly in mid-century—he refers to this as the "Great Compression"—then widened again, starting in the 1980s, to levels higher than those in the 1920s. Most economists—including Krugman himself—have regarded the late 20th century divergence as resulting largely from changes in technology and trade, but now Krugman writes—particularly in Chapters 1, 3, and 4—that government policies—particularly the establishment of, and subsequent attacks on, the social safety net or "welfare state"—has played a much greater role both in reducing the gap in the 1930s through 1970s, and in widening it in the 1980s through the present.

He talks about the history of American George W. Bush administration for policies that were currently widening the gap between the rich and poor.

Nevertheless, Krugman expresses optimism in Chapter 10 that demographic trends—particularly on race and culture—and what he sees as conservative overreach during the Bush years—are creating a new center-left political environment and are slowly undermining the conservative movement. (He references John Judis and Ruy Texeira's book, The Emerging Democratic Majority.) Krugman proposes, in Chapters 11 and 12, that Democrats propose a "new New Deal", which includes placing more emphasis on social and medical programs—particularly universal health care—and less on national defense.[3]

Finally, in Chapter 13, he talks about what it means to be a "policies than are prepared to use that word to describe themselves.

Reviews and critiques

The book received praise mixed with criticism of partisanship from outlets such as the New York Review of Books,[4] and was criticized by conservative groups and the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute, who argued it was overly political and weak on economic content.[5]

Related information

The Conscience of a Liberal is also the title of Krugman's economics and politics blog, hosted by the New York Times since 2005.[6]

A paperback edition of The Conscience of a Liberal was released in January 2009.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ Oct 17 2007- Krugman On Healthcare, Tax Cuts, Social Security, the Mortgage Crisis and Alan Greenspan, in response to Alan Greenspan's Sept 24 appearance with Naomi Klein on Democracy Now!
  4. ^ November 22, 2007- Tomansky, Michael The Partisan
  5. ^
  6. ^ Paul Krugman:Welcome,The Conscience of a Liberal,September 17, 2005

External links

  • home pageThe Conscience of a Liberal
  • The Conscience of a Liberal - Paul Krugman Blog
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