Fist Of History

April, 2010Archive for

Book Review: The Man Who Sold The World

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Title: The Man Who Sold The World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America

Author: William Kleinknecht

Publisher: Nation Books

I read this book about a month ago and I’ve been meaning to post a brief review of it, I purchased it a year ago because it promised to examine the legacy of Ronald Reagan and the actions of his administration and how Reagan’s actions as President of the United States undermined the culture, economy, and political system of the United States.  The author attempts to prove nothing less then Ronald Reagan, or at least those he put in power, deliberately engaged in a series of policies that were intentionally designed to transfer wealth into a smaller pool of hands within the United States, destroy the environment of the United States, and undermine economic organizations and regulations that protected small businesses, small towns, and individual consumers within the United States.  One of the major central arguments the author puts forward is that culturally Reagan undermined the idea of government competence with any sphere of society in the United States and also undermined the idea of community as a guiding force within the United States culturally.  Specifically Kleinknecht argues that Ronald Reagan, in his campaign for the Presidency as well as his administration, emphasized the ideal of the individual over the community, personal gain over societal gain, “me ahead of you” to put it crudely.

The problem however is that Kleinknecht in his book dabbles more in politics and in crafting an opinion then in actually reporting the history of the domestic policies of the Ronald Reagan administration, more critically he misses the target of his subject and instead drifts over a wide range of accusations against various conservative forces that took a leading role in the federal government while Reagan was in office.  Kleinknecht though does not limit his proof to that period, instead he draws upon events that happened while Reagan was in office, George W. Bush Sr. was in office, and William Clinton was in office, attempting to use all of these to prove a more broad hypothesis that conservative elements in the United States, since 1981, have engaged in a constant series of policies that have undermined what Kleinknecht argues are core values of the United States.  Specifically Kleinknecht argues in favor of federal regulation of markets and business, federal control and limitations on the economy, and returning the United States politically towards a system of federal control closer to that of the 1960s and 1970s then the system the United States currently operates under.

All valid outlooks to hold and argue but not matters of history – they are matters of policy and politics.  The line may seem a fine one to draw but Kleinknecht avoids dealing with the history of the Reagan administration directly and instead grapples with the ideology of the Reagan years, but even that task is not attempted in a neutral tone.  Kleinknecht has a point to argue, that Reagan and those Reagan brought into power undermined Kleinknecht’s ideal vision of the society of the United States.  If you are looking for a book documenting the history of the United States in the 1980s and the massive cultural revolution it underwent, a topic of considerable complexity and breadth, this is not a book I can recommend as a starting point.