Hacker and Pierson Want You to Help Them Name Their Next Book

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Political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, were the first guests on Moyers & Company when we launched back in January. They reached out to us recently about the follow-up book that they are working on. They told us they have a “really lame working title for it” and thought that smart Moyers fans might help them find a better one.

book with question mark on its coverWorking Title: Paleocapitalism: How Unchecked Business Power is Hurting Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

Your Ideas: Post your title suggestion in the comments section below before Monday, April 23, 2012 at noon. People should “like” the titles that they think are the best. We’ll winnow down the list and then post a poll on Facebook next Tuesday morning. The person who comes up with the most popular title will receive a signed copy of Winner-Take-All Politics and a mini-profile in our “What Matters Today” blog.

Book Summary:
“Today, our economic engine is running on the last fumes of the nation’s post-WWII commitments to economic opportunity, innovation, and security. The tank is empty. Government has stopped working, business elites have stopped caring, and Americans have stopped trusting either of them. This book is about how and why this has happened and, equally important, what can be done to get American capitalism back on track.

Behind this change, we argue, is a massive shift in the power and purpose of corporate and financial leaders. At one and the same time, they have become more influential and more divorced from the interests of the rest of America. We can see this clearly in the apoplectic response of the business community to the relatively modest reform agenda of President Obama. While few corporate leaders went as far as hedge-fund manager Stephen Schwarzman and compared Obama to Hitler, they have vigorously rejected efforts to update America’s creaky economic model, despite the obvious failure of existing laws to ensure economic prosperity and security.

(l-r) Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson Photo Credit: Dale Robbins

The problem is not primarily that business leaders have become less civic. Rather, it is their incentives that have changed. The “mixed economy” of the generation after World War II — in which government and the private sector were partners as well as rivals — required a political system capable of enforcing restraint. The new American capitalism is crippling that capacity.

In making this transit, the new business elite has had two powerful sets of enablers. The first and most obvious is the Republican Party, which has shifted away from its moderate Eisenhower (and Nixon) stance toward a radical vision that rejects not just the Great Society but the entire edifice of the mixed economy.

The second set of enablers is the nation’s largest business associations. We might expect these groups to temper the self-centered tendencies of individual corporations. Instead, they increasingly embody and encourage a feudalistic approach to policy that leaves the “princes” within key sectors of the economy dictating where business stands on the most important policy issues — the health care industrial complex on health policy, the big energy producers and extractors on energy policy, the lords of finance on financial policy. The Chamber of Commerce, for example, now rents out its formidable political capacities to the highest bidders, becoming, in effect, a lobbying shop for narrow economic interests.

The distorted policies that result are imposing huge costs on our society. These costs represent classic failures of the market, and they will not be addressed by unfettered private commerce. Wise policy will be needed to encourage the private sector to take them into account and invest in new technologies and ways of doing business that reduce them. Other rich nations, we will show, are rapidly moving ahead to tackle these market failures; the United States remains trapped in the past.

This is a failure of the public and private sectors alike, and both will need reform if we are to escape our current impasse. We need a new understanding of what has gone wrong with our economic model and a new agenda for how to fix it, one that is rooted in the reality that a successful economy and society requires a mixed economy involving well-functioning government as well as dynamic markets.”

— Jacob S. Hacker, Ph.D. & Paul Pierson, Ph.D.

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  • Dnadanyi

    For some reason I was remembering the old movie INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. It seems that the media has brainwashed our citizens to believe that that only show that has the truth is FOX.  I hear people commenting on this at many ordinary venues. I receive viral e-mails from neighbors that are full of lies. How did this happen?  Did they place the pods in our cellars, because when these people are confronted with any other viewpoint they scream just like the aliens in the movie.  Now this must have been planned for many years. Who does this planning? It seems that Neoliberalism has been carefully planned and pushed by our government, the IMF, World Bank, Eurozone, NSA and one of the beginning steps in the plan must have been the concentration of the Media. Was this planned by think tanks or corporations influencing the think tanks? Why would the US push an economic theory that is so much at odds with Democracy. Why would we push privatization, deregulation and financiaism on the USA and the world?  Is it just American Greed? Anyway that is my suggestion INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

  • http://twitter.com/UKProgressive DenisCampbell

    Title Suggestion – So what? Stopping the Arrogance of Unchecked Business Power

  • GradyLeeHoward

    “Vulgar Materialism in a Maladaptive Marketplace”- gratis, GLH Productions

  • GradyLeeHoward

    “Invasion of the Commons Snatchers” sounds more original.

    Dnadanyi, I worry about you and the strain you are placing on your conscience.
    You could become ill, or even worse burn out.
    I have another activist friend in the Mid-Atlantic region.
    Her conventional minded husband tried to dominate her opinions.
    She has found success in her relationship by assuring him of her love and personal loyalty while asserting her identity and her rights. 
    Somehow I suspect you have a similar dilemma of being compelled to act on your beliefs while hesitating to hurt loved ones. Do not sneak and lie. You might have to compromise your ideals. Doing your best within a valued situation will satisfy your self trust. Those who love you unconditionally will respect you all the more. Think how hard it would be to come out as a Lesbian (were you one). Achieving political consciousness is almost as hard. Peace requires patience in this instance. Grady

  • GradyLeeHoward

    One important thing I forgot: You are in a “vocal minority” down in SC,
    not necessarily an “opinion minority”. Most people think about like you in private and are embarrassed by selfishness and hate speech. 

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Try this: “The Triumph of the Bad Faith Economy”, also gratis, GLH Productions

  • David

    Screwed Again: How Unchecked Business Power is Hurting America

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1509953779 Emma WuPeel

    Maybe “paleo” is not catchy enough.  How about “Caveman Capitalism: How Bludgeoning Business Power Hurts Our Democracy, Society, and Economy” 

    “Cro-Magnon” might work, too.  😀

  • Rosemary Button

    “Unbridled: How Greed Killed the American Dream”

  • 23Bob

    The subtitle is fine, but instead of “Paleocapitalism” the main title could be “The Robber Emperors”, since the volume of today’s thievery easily surpasses that of the notorious 19th century robber barons.

  • Junkyardjoy

    Is it time to break up with business?

  • Marilyn F

    Our Feudal Future: How Unfettered Capitalism Is Wrecking Our Democracy

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000480563454 Victoria Baljo

    The Cleaner; How U.S. Citizens Take Back The Power…..I need to read that there is an anecdote an viable solution before reading a book on the harshness, cruelty, of abusive power….I know it is not a novel…..wouldn’t want it to be…cannot wait to read it!!

  • Igowda

    Corporatocracy: Government of, by, and for American Business

  • Matt Heaney

    “Untamed Powers: International of Bane of History”

  • Ben

    Bullies On Our Playground:  How Strong Armed and Unchecked Business Power is Hurting Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

  • Samatt777

    Untamed Powers: International Bane of History

  • Rita

    Hijacking the Invisible Hand:  How Unchecked Business Power Undermines Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

  • Mary M. Kirby, Chicago, IL

    “No Worries: The Destruction of American Life by the Uber-Powers of Washington & Wall Street”

    or how about

    “Why We Worry”

    or how about

    “Bring Back Child Labor, 80 Hour Work Week, and Retirement by Death”

    okay, maybe that’s too much, so

    my final title (for now)

    “Our American Dystopia: The Real Hunger Games”

  • Ncdede

    Mega-capitalists vs We the People

  • http://www.gracevalentine.com/ gracevalentine

    Paleocapitalism: How Unchecked Business Power is CONSUMING Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy
    Really, this title wasn’t lame.  All I think it needed was some felicity, as the linguists would say.  Thanks for the fun!

  • Lee Ford

    Hacker & Pierson
    Love your work!
    Bury the term Paleocapitalism inside the text. It will be available for future generations.
    Add something in the title that offers the recommended solutions:
    “A New Economic Agenda & Model!”
    “Escape the Impasse”

  • Rita

    Just because you’re paranoid…: How Unchecked Business Power is Undermining Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

    Robber Barons without the Libraries: How Unchecked Business Power is Undermining Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

    The Rise of American Feudalism: How Unchecked Business Power is Transforming Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

  • Jeffnindo

    Crony Capitalism: How The Monied Aristocracy Is Still Hurting Our Society

  • Art As Social Inquiry

    Crony Capitalism: The Usurpation of  Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

    The Defunct American Dream:How Unchecked Business Power Swallowed Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Econo my

    The Waning of America: How Unchecked Business Power Swallowed Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Econo my

  • j-tho

    survival of the brutal: caveman capitalism clobbers american’s better instincts

  • Mick Malloy

    How Crony Capitalism is Stealing Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

  • Redarack


    Primitive Capitalism and The Sacrifice of the American Dream! 

  • Joe Psotka

    The Princes of Power: Paleocapitalism in a Plutocracy that controls congress and protects privilege, thus destroying a democracy built on rejecting noblesse oblige.

  • Art As Social Inquiry

    The Bastardization of Capitalism: 
    How Unchecked Business Power CorrodedOur Democracy, Our Society, and Our Econo my

  • Deborah

    I believe that title may have been used by Susan Faludi.

  • Art As Social Inquiry

    Our Society, Our Democracy, Our Economy in Tatters: How Business Power Made Capitalism A Dirty Word

  • Comninou

    The return of tyrannosaur economy and the extinction of the middle class.

  • Deborah

    Dancing with the Tsars:   How Unchecked Business Power is  Stamping On Our Democracy, Our Society and Our Economy 

  • Deborah

    I meant “stomping.”

  • Joseph

    Traitors among us, Our own worst nightmare and enemy.

  • Art As Social Inquiry

    Artful Corruption: Unprincipled Business Powers Impoverish Our Democracy, Our Society and Our Economy

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ralph-Bormet/1464143146 Ralph Bormet

    “The Foxes Have Taken Over the Hen House and We are Getting Plucked! or The Rise and Fall of Post WWII Capitalism and Its Vanishing Middle Class”

  • John Pound

    “Predators and Prey-The New Capitalism and the Rest of Us”

  • IowaGrma

    United States of America, the New Plutocracy
    and how do ‘we the people get it back?’

  • Holivaca

    The Middle Way: America’s Once and Future Mixed Economy 

  • E Roudabush

    How about….The Economy, It’s “Fixed”, and we need to break it !!!

  • Anonymous

    Delusions of Democracy: How Corporate Principalities Extend Rule Over Our World

  • Caroline Fallon

    Unwarranted Power Destroys Democracy, Society and the Economy

  • Anonymous

    “The Pogo Doctrine: We  Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us.”

  • Legrand seneschal

    Title & Sub-title:  “Grand Theft, Freedom”  –  “How Croney-Capitalism Stole American Freedom and Created American Serfdom”  by Le Grand Seneschal

  • Catherine

    Beware the Corporate Industrial Complex

  • Allen

    The Big Guys Got It All

  • Fludda

    How Big Bussiness has stolen the Amercan Dream!

  • Anonymous

    Jacob & Paul,

    Paleocapitalism appeals to me (a middle aged academic), but I wonder if your audience and word range should be more inclusive  of larger demographics, like millennials etc.).  Here are a few titles to consider:

    1) Recycling Capitalism: Transforming Distorted Incentives, Wasteful Power  and Discarded Americans

    2) Extraction: The  Financialized Fracking of our culture, politics and  economic resources

    3) Invisible Extinction: The US story of financial complexity, capture and indifference 

    4) Taking a Leak: From the Gulf to Wall Street, How Unchecked Business Power Has Stained our Economy, Politics and Culture. 

    I enjoy your work, keep it up! 


  • Progressive Badger83

    As others have said, keep paleocapitalism as part of the subtitle or a chapter title.

    I suggest something I’ve gotten from my former US Senator Russ Feingold:

    The Second Gilded Age: Paleocapitalism And How Unchecked Business Power is Hurting Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy


    The Gilded Age Reborn: How Unchecked Business Power is Hurting Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

  • ronnies

    The New American Capitalism and How It’s Killing The American Dream

  • Patricia Miller

    How about the way kids talk: “I Have More Money than You Do,  Ha! Ha! Ha!”

  • Gregdarr

    My idea for a title would be, “Betrayal of Public Trust: How Politicians Sold Out the American Voter, Enriched Themselves and Became Corporate Sycophants”

  • Mona

    Welfare capitists: How Welfare Billionaires are  Hurting Our Democracy, Our Society, and Our Economy

  • Davidwforrest

    Dave F.

    21st Century Feudalism 
    How the rich and powerful corporations keep the 99% in serfdom 

  • WGray

    Slave State America: How Corporate Government Ravages Our Democracy, Economy and Society

  • MK

    Predator Capitalism: The Folly of Eating Your Customer Base

  • MK

    I Choked on My Wallet and Other Stories of Capitalistic Myopia

  • MK

    Paleocapitalism and Other Side Effects of Ossified Brains

  • Jeri Linn

    Running on Fumes:  the Unhealthy State of America’s Economic Model and What Can Be Done to Reverse Its Decline

  • Fred Fleron

    Paleocapitalism: How Unchecked Business Power is Hurting America.


     Paleocapitalism: How Unchecked Business Power is Hurting America, and a New Agenda for How to Fix it.

    [The first one is neater, but the second one covers the range of what you are attempting to do and gives a positive note to it all.  I use Winner-Take-All Politics as a text in my courses on American Government and American Public Policy.  The students love it.  Can’t wait for your new book.]

  • Jlmills

    Democracy Undone:  A Description of How Government Created Business Incentives That Are Destroying America  And How We Can Reverse Them.

  • Grsgriffith

    Predator Capitalism: The Folly of Eating your Laborers and Customer Base

  • http://www.facebook.com/agavalis Albert Gavalis

    The Kids in the Sandbox & The Parents on the Bench

  • Joe Psotka

    Princes of Power:  How Autocrats Control our Democracy.

  • Struggling from same

    Archaic Capitalism: How unbridled business power threatens American society, the economy, and our democracy

  • Arnvanr

    Old growth.

  • Duki

    Corruptocracy: How the The Rise of Fraud-Market Capitalism is Undermining our Democracy and Economy

  • Barb

    The Manipuleaders – All for Themselves and Nothing for the Rest of Us

  • Hankalbarelli

     Perfecto!!!!!!!!!!!! title.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right — the title does not work.  The first problem is “paleo” — hyperbolic and not helpful.  Replace “paleocapitalism” with “Running on fumes” and I think that you will be closer to what you intend.

  • Anonymous

    Modern Capitalism: How Pluto Swallowed His Children

  • Anonymous

    Fish Out of Water: America’s Final Gasp

  • Anonymous

    The End of American Capitalism: How misincentives have led to economic chaos.

  • Deb D.

    Hijacked America: How American Democracy Has Been Hijacked by a Select  Group of Industries

  • Allynh

    I know that it is past the deadline, but this just occurred to me.

    When the Giant Falls:In the tropics the trees grow vast and when the giant falls it may take others with it thus clearing a patch of forest for new growth and rebirth.