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Hard America/Soft America

Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for Our Nation's Future


Michael Barone (View Bio)
Hardcover: Crown, 2004.

Hard America/Soft America

""Barone's book is provocative, insightful, and important. He realizes that the dialogue between 'Hard' and 'Soft' America is never–ending, and that it is important to maintain a balance."" — Diane Ravitch

""Ask seasoned baseball people to name the best player they ever saw, and you are apt to elicit quizzical looks, then this: 'You must mean other than Willie Mays.' Ask seasoned students of American society to name the best writer on that subject, and the response is apt to be a quizzical look, then this: 'You must mean other than Michael Barone.' This book shows why. Barone's sharp mind is the best lens through which to view not only the events of this election year, but also how Americans live and learn and work."" — George Will

""Barone...claims there are two Americas: one hard–edged and extremely competitive, the other soft and overprotective.... Barone traces the trend in American culture that has produced the dichotomy—the increased leisure and ease of a wealthier economy, government regulation, and social trends toward providing greater safety nets. Barone is never overly critical of soft America, recognizing the need for protecting some people in society, but he clearly argues for a deeper awareness of the dichotomy, its implications for the future, and the need to maintain a balance between hard and soft America."" — Booklist

""HARD AMERICA/SOFT AMERICA has given us a fascinating way to look at the past and present."" — The Weekly Standard

""Barone offers a compelling analysis, concentrating on what might be called the ethical atmosphere. By 'soft' he means the segments of our society that are egalitarian, where people are coddled and lack accountability. By this definition it's fair to say that our schools are soft as a down comforter. By 'hard' he means those aspects of life that are meritocratic and competitive, where people are held accountable for what they produce. Thus the capitalist economy is as hard as diamonds.... To get his point across, Mr. Barone's [book] ranges widely, citing news events, politics and policy, and even novels and pop nonfiction."" — The Wall Street Journal

""Michael Barone's latest book [is] unlike the shrill and partisan bestsellers that dominate the nonfiction lists.... [Barone] is an invaluable source respected by Republicans and Democrats alike, [who] simply doesn't possess the bile of James Carville or Sean Hannity. And in today's publishing climate, that an attribute a reader can be thankful for. Nevertheless, HARD AMERICA/SOFT AMERICA is an ideological book...[written with] precise, dispassionate logic.... A more valuable book than one by, say, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter."" — New York Sun

""Pick your adjective. He is the brilliant Michael Barone. The encyclopedic Michael Barone. The unparalleled Michael Barone.... Being around him is to be in a constant state of saying 'Gee, Michael, I didn't know that.'... The backdrop to the most contemporary political and policy struggles is whether the essential American character, forged in self–reliance, will be preserved or further eroded as we affect a kind of convergence with European social democracy. Barone provides a nifty sketch of the forces behind the struggle and of the stakes."" — National Review

""Barone, a writer for U.S. News & World Report and a well–known political commentator, describes America as compromising two diametrically opposed characteristics: hard and soft. 'Hard America' is characterized by competition and accountability, while 'Soft America' attempts to protect its citizens through government regulation and other social safety nets.... [H]is book should not be seen as the latest installment in the conservative–liberal culture wars. Rather, Barone provides a deeper look at the way in which ordinary people live and work and the meaning behind the decisions they make. His concrete historical examples highlight the advantages and disadvantages of Hard and Soft America, creating a compelling picture of two very different ways of looking at the world.... Barone writes with moderation and insight.... [A] thought–provoking and perceptive analysis."" — Publishers Weekly

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