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The Land of Too Much

The Land of Too Much

American Abundance and the Paradox of Poverty

Monica Prasad

ISBN 9780674066526

Publication date: 12/31/2012

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The Land of Too Much presents a simple but powerful hypothesis that addresses three questions: Why does the United States have more poverty than any other developed country? Why did it experience an attack on state intervention starting in the 1980s, known today as the neoliberal revolution? And why did it recently suffer the greatest economic meltdown in seventy-five years?

Although the United States is often considered a liberal, laissez-faire state, Monica Prasad marshals convincing evidence to the contrary. Indeed, she argues that a strong tradition of government intervention undermined the development of a European-style welfare state. The demand-side theory of comparative political economy she develops here explains how and why this happened. Her argument begins in the late nineteenth century, when America’s explosive economic growth overwhelmed world markets, causing price declines everywhere. While European countries adopted protectionist policies in response, in the United States lower prices spurred an agrarian movement that rearranged the political landscape. The federal government instituted progressive taxation and a series of strict financial regulations that ironically resulted in more freely available credit. As European countries developed growth models focused on investment and exports, the United States developed a growth model based on consumption.

These large-scale interventions led to economic growth that met citizen needs through private credit rather than through social welfare policies. Among the outcomes have been higher poverty, a backlash against taxation and regulation, and a housing bubble fueled by “mortgage Keynesianism.” This book will launch a thousand debates.


  • Prasad offers a dramatically new explanation for the weak U.S. welfare state and shows that the conventional wisdom in academic, popular, and journalistic circles—that the U.S. is a liberal, less interventionist state than those in Europe—is wrong.

    —Richard Lachmann, University at Albany, State University of New York


  • 2013, Winner of the Allan Sharlin Memorial Award


  • Monica Prasad is Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Economic and Political Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. Prasad is the recipient of several awards, including a Fulbright U.S. Scholars Program award, a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, and fellowships from the Russell Sage Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Book Details

  • 344 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press