“The Conservative Nanny State” by Dean Baker

Dean Baker is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. People who closely followed Bush’s attempts to dismantle Social Security last year know Baker may have done more than any one person to stop it.

Now Baker has written a book all progressives should read: The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer.

For decades the media (and conservatives) have pushed a particular framing of political views on the economy: conservatives favor free market policies, while progressives want the government to intervene in the market. In fact, The Conservative Nanny State explains, this is completely untrue: conservatives are strongly anti-free market. They depend on the government to make the wealthiest people in America even more stupendously rich.

As Baker shows, this is the case essentially across the board. Conservatives push trade, monetary, tax and intellectual property policies that get the government deeply involved in the economy. The only difference between them and progressives is that conservatives want the government to help Paris Hilton, while progressives want the government to help regular people.

The Conservative Nanny State is short and easy to read, and requires no special background in economics. It’s also available for free as an e-book at its website, or for $6.91 as a paperback. (For Baker’s ideas on how copyright law can be overhauled to benefit writers, musicians, artists and everyone else in the internet age, see Chapter 4.)

What’s really amazing is that conservatives have gotten away with yelling about “free markets” for so long. Of course, they’re the same people who spent years screaming about Iraq’s terrifying WMD, and look how well that’s turned out.