No Little Plans : How Government Built America’s Wealth and Infrastructure, by Ian Wray, New York, Routledge, 2019
Reviewed by: John Walls, Urban Planner (Retired)
Ian Wray’s book is important because it provides a lucid explanation for the global decline of the United States. It also helps explain why current politics are increasingly toxic. The objective of Wray’s book is to search for another America, the country which turned into a global power shaped by government, plans and bureaucrats since Independence.
Wray piggy backs Chalmers Johnson’s Developmental State (1982) and Mariana Mazzucato’s Entrepreneurial State (2014) theories respectively. His own research provides proof that the US government has been both developmental and entrepreneurial which turned it into a global power. One shaped by government and bureaucrats since Independence.
He highlights Professor Jeffrey Sach’s view that the West is at a turning point in history (Sachs 2018). In the 21st Century Asia’s growing output has already overtaken the West’s. An inconvenient confirmation of the failure of neoliberal policies over the last four decades.
Wray’s book is in three parts. Firstly, the ‘American Retreat’ explains why the US government withdraws from intervention. Secondly, the ‘American Advance’ tells stories of government leadership leading to America becoming a global power. And lastly, the ‘American Dilemma’ leads to Wray’s key argument for a paradigm shift away from laissez faire economics and hands off government.
Wray reveals there was a culture amongst Western national elites of a commitment to globalism which displaced nationalism. This led to offshoring over 2 million manufacturing jobs and sped up the American Retreat. Thus Wray suggests it’s time for America to rekindle its belief in plans.
No Little Plans is a very readable book. Wray makes a good case for a new American Government mission to inspire bolder action. This is a good message.
Johnson, C. (1982). MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy 1925 -1975, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press.
Mazzucato, M. (2014). The Entrepreneurial State, London, New York, Anthem Press
Sachs, J (2018). A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism, New York, Columbia University Press.
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