Beat the Press

Dean Baker's commentary on economic reporting


The Conservative Nanny State is Here!

The moment you have all been waiting for has finally arrived. You can download your copy of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer today. The book is available as a free e-book (read chapter 4 for the reasoning). You will soon be able to order paperback copies at

The book takes issue with the prevailing political metaphor in U.S. politics: that liberals want the government to intervene to promote fairness and equity, while conservatives want to leave outcomes to the market. The book argues that conservatives (or at least those in power) support a wide range of government interventions that have the effect of distributing income upward. This list includes a trade and immigration policy that places less-skilled workers in direct competition with workers in developing countries, while protecting highly paid professionals from the same sort of competition. Another item on the list is Federal Reserve Board policies that deliberately weaken the bargaining power of less-skilled workers in order to keep inflation under control.

A third set of policies involves the use of patents and copyrights – government enforced monopolies – that lead to large economic distortions, and incidentally also allow some people to get very rich. Even corporations themselves owe their existence to the government – there are only individuals out there in strict free market land.

The book is intended to force a rethinking of the relationship between the government and the economy. The current framing -- that liberals like government and conservatives like the market -- works well for those who support the economic policies of the last quarter century. Those who think that we can do better need a new framework.


  • At 12:31 PM, Anonymous adam said…

    woo. I can't wait until I can purchase it in paperback - I hate reading things on the computer.

  • At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Erik L said…

    So your book will argue against the hypocrisy of (some) conservatives but will does it argue that we should return to free market principles or just that we should have a free-for-all in which each voter votes for the most immediate apparent short term benefit for himself and people like him?

  • At 5:06 PM, Anonymous peter said…


    i was fortunate to get an advanced copy from dean a few weeks ago. it is an excellent read, highly informative, and entertaining as well. i think it is the first really effective salvo against the tyranny of "Free Market"™ fundamentalism (as applied in the real world) that i have read. sure, there are well meaning people out there spanning the ideological spectrum from libertarian to neo-liberal to neo-conservative, who argue for a "pure free market" (whatever that actually means). this book looks at what many of those people wind-up supporting politically and the results are not pretty. there is a nanny state that makes sure the economic and political elite are well fed; their rhetoric does not match their policies!

    i'd recommend this book to everyone, but most importantly to progressives and liberals who rail against the supposed "free market" system we live under, and conservatives who adamantly support that system. for every policy supported by progressives that is derided as "socialist" or "anti-free market", a conservative policy can be pointed to that is equally, if not more, anti-free market. this book will cause both groups a certain amount of cognitive dissonance, and they will be better off for it.

    oh, and erik... read the book, it's free and only ~100 pages. and anyone who argued that we should "return to free market principles" would be off his rocker, because we never had "free market principles" in the first place.

  • At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Carolyn Kay said…

    Great. I plan to read the book, and I will also post it on my website and send the information to my mailing list of progressive writers, talk show hosts, and strategists.

    What I've been thinking of as an answer to the "nanny state" poison pill is that right wingers would prefer a "nation of orphans."

    Carolyn Kay

  • At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Erik L said…


    Okay, I won't argue we should return to "free market principles". Instead I will argue that in general the governemtn should be smaller, taxes should be lower and simpler and government should not, on the average, be in the income redistribution business.

  • At 10:54 AM, Blogger Hans Gruber said…

    Hey, I love the blog and plan on reading all of this soon. But I just read the chapter on Patents and Copyright and I was wondering why you didn't mention the option (especially with copyrights) of shortening the term?

    The current term for copyrights of life+70 years is, in my opinion, economically indefensible. It's a real shame.

  • At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Erik L wrote, and government should not, on the average, be in the income redistribution business.

    Huh. Does that mean you want to stop the government from redistributing economic land rent to landowners, probably about 10--20% of GDP?

  • At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Erik L said…

    Anonymous wrote-

    "...Does that mean you want to stop the government from redistributing economic land rent to landowners,..."

    You're going to have to help me out here. Possibly this is a common talking point in your circle but I have no idea what you mean.

  • At 7:53 PM, Anonymous peter said…


    that's a lot of shoulds. how do you suggest we go about getting there?

    again, you sound like someone who would get a lot out of reading the book.

  • At 8:43 PM, Blogger Timothy said…

    Skimmed it. Fascinating. Will read more. Glad to see a progressive who gets the market rule set can be used for good as well as for ill. Thanks for making this available as an e book.

  • At 12:00 AM, Blogger AaronSw said…

    It's a great book, but why isn't it also available as HTML instead of one big PDF. It'd be great to have a version to link to and that can be picked up by the search engines and so on.

  • At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've read four chapters so far, and am very impressed with the book. It's a real wake-up call about how policy debate in our has been misframed.


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