The New Normal: Finding a Balance Between Individual Rights and the Common Good
—Isabel Sawhill, Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution and author of Generation Unbound (2014).
Encyclopedic learning. Wide range. And uncommon wisdom. These are the qualities that pervade Amitai Etzioni's new book. He sheds penetrating light on issues including the need to tame consumerism in times of economic scarcity and climate change; the case for judicious curbs on the media's ever more reckless exposure of national security secrets; how to prevent abuse of the strong surveillance powers that the government needs to protect us while protecting essential privacy against private as well as governmental actors; the real meaning of our much-lamented government gridlock; and much more.
—Stuart Taylor, Jr., is a leading journalistic commentator on legal and policy issues, is currently a freelance author and journalist. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Amitai Etzioni’s remarkable intellectual energy is on display in this panoramic analysis of American society. The New Normal is part shrewd, informed socio-political analysis, and part moral manifesto, making a convincing case for an austere, disciplined personal life and commitment to the flourishing of the larger community that helps constitute us. Both a tour d’horizon and a tour de force.
—Peter H. Schuck, Yale Law School and author of Why Government Fails So Often and How It Can Do Better.
“Amitai Etzioni asks two questions that appear evermore to complement one another: “What can we live without?” and “What should we not have to live with?” Economic change, he argues, has offered opportunities to reconsider the American habits and limits of consumption, and technological change poses profound challenges to establishing the limits to our protection from endless surveillance.”
—Jonathan B. Imber, Wellesley College and Editor-in-Chief, Society
“Nearly a half-century ago John Kenneth Galbraith famously argued that when changing economic conditions render the existing “conventional wisdom” no longer applicable, either new thinking comes to the fore or unfortunate consequences ensue. Amitai Etzioni, surely one of America's broadest social thinkers today, now makes a parallel case that we need to adapt to new technological developments and new social forces. The range of concrete implications Etzioni draws out is astonishing: foreign policy, cyber-security, medical entitlements, and more. Even readers who reject his recommendations—and I suspect few will agree with all of them, in every area—will come away informed and stimulated, with their conventional wisdom usefully challenged.”
—Benjamin M. Friedman,Harvard University
He answers this by studying the surveillance programs of the NSA (revealing the importance of proper oversight, including by civilians!); the freedom of the press (a chapter that includes some stunning cases in which newspapers published state secrets—which causes great damage to national security, including the loss of ten submarines by the US); and by arguing that American terrorists do not deserve more rights than others.
I was most surprised by his chapter on privacy merchants, those corporations that keep detailed dossiers on most Americans not only about what consumer goods they buy but also about their personal habits, mental health and much else. This is fairly widely known. What Etzioni though reveals is that these corporations sell this information to the FBI and IRS and other government agencies. This means that the government can in this way do all the spying the constitution prohibits!
The rest of the book deals with the fact that the US is sliding toward a war with China, and what can be done to stop this looming catastrophe, and-- the secret behind the gridlock in Washington. These chapters alone, you will find, are well wroth the high price the publisher set on the book.
—Robert J. Lieber, Georgetown University, author, Power and Willpower in the American Future: Why the U.S. is not Destined to Decline