The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer

ISBN: 1411693957
ISBN 13: 9781411693951
By: Dean Baker

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About this book

In his new book, economist Dean Baker debunks the myth that conservatives favor the market over government intervention. In fact, conservatives rely on a range of "nanny state" policies that ensure the rich get richer while leaving most Americans worse off. It's time for the rules to change. Sound economic policy should harness the market in ways that produce desirable social outcomes - decent wages, good jobs and affordable health care. Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Reader's Thoughts

King Rat

Baker’s argument is that the conservative vision depends as much or more on government intervention in the market than the liberal vision does. The book is pretty convincing in making that argument. Examples include deliberate trade policy geared toward the wealthy, "small business" incentives, and intellectual property laws that create property rights out of thin air. Baker does a bang-up job poking holes in the conservative myths as well as pointing out many of the problems with our governments economic policies. ( Full review at my blog)

Bruce Sanders

This is a nice little primer on how the wealthy use the government to subvert free market capitalism and cause wealth to redistributed upward on a grand scale (not down as conservative mythology would have you believe). The book is short (107 p.) and clearly written. If economics plays any role in how you vote; this book is a must read. The author, Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic Policy, also has an excellent blog, Beat the Press, which critiques news articles covering economic issues.


Most people I know realize that the so-called conservatives who run this country aren't really for small government, they just want government to be small when it comes to helping poor and middle-class people. They are all for big government when it comes to helping out large corporations and the super - rich.But sometimes it is hard to follow the arguments all the way through. This slim little volume helps you do that, so when you have to deal with right-wing Uncle Fred or Aunt Dorothy at Thanksgiving this year, if you read this book you will have your arguments all down pat. Baker explains how the Fed works to support the rich by manipulating the interest rate (haven't you often wondered what the prime interest rate really means to you?), why doctors are well paid and dishwashers are poor (nothing to do with school really), why CEOs get paid so much, the sacred cow of small business, how patents really screw us but keep big pharma happy, etc. Easy reading but intelligent, this book gives the facts behind ideas you probably have sort of figured out for yourself but not completely.Actually, you can download the whole book and read it online from if you can stand to read that way, but the book is really cheap - $7 I think, and well worth it.


a brief polemic whose goal is thwart well-worn meme that conservatives favor small government. baker outlines the numerous circumstances where conservatives are all for government - as long as it happens to disproportionately reward the well off.

Jeff Hauser

Concise and powerful, Baker does a great job of shredding the unnoticed assumptions of contemporary "capitalism" in which the most effective rent-seekers hide in plain sight. (non-fiction version of Mieville's City & the City?)Provocative and with little to no fat, a must read.

Kristi Richardson

This was a free book I was able to get from I learned a lot of information from this book but it really isn't my favorite subject, so I found it difficult to absorb all the information. The premise of the book is the Conservatives in the United States have been able to frame the discussions on budget by claiming that they want less government, and the Liberals want more. In reality both want as much government, it's just the Conservative's want their government to protect the business interests and the 1% with tax breaks, protectionism and corporate welfare. The Liberals want the government to help the middle class and poor. Things that did soak through my addled brain were:1. We need to stand up to the Conservatives and re frame the discussion on their "less government" stance. 2. One of the reasons our healthcare system is in trouble is the salaries paid to doctors are higher than any where else in the world and the fact the government frowns on too many doctors from other countries practicing here. Same for lawyers and CEO's salaries are out the roof. 3. Mr. Baker wants to do away with patents and install a system of vouchers so entrepreneurs can be paid for their work. (Didn't understand where the money would come from, but understand the idea that people like Bill Gates made an exorbitant profit from his patents.) The best part of this book is the new ideas that are coming to change the way we do business. I am not sure if they will all work but I welcome the innovation. I enjoyed the narration and liked the way the footnotes were handled.

Anascape Taylor

Fantastic. I can't say I agreed with absolutely every piece of this book, but overall it is a remarkable primer on political economics. This is a great time for thoughtful Americans to start questioning our assumptions about the market. What potential solutions are we routinely dismissing? That is one of the best things about this book: it offers SOLUTIONS, which are so often missing from books that question the status quo.


My dad reads this guy's blog so that gives it some extra street-cred as a substatial source of info. Its some bust-the-wealthy economics.This was so short and so informative! Prof Baker makes very clear the instances where our economy is set up to encourage free trade, such as for most blue collar jobs but is protectionist of the white collar (through restricitve licensing or patent laws). He really nails at the idea that the neoConservative agenda is full of the rhetoric of having a less regulated market when in reality there are strategic regulations that encourage money to flow upward. He describes how the Fed sets interest rates, alternatives and problems with copyright and patent laws, the initial intention of corporations, how wealthy tax evaders persist, and FINALLY well considered alternatives.

Melissa Knight

I greatly recommend this book to all liberals, as well as for conservatives who don't mind some constructive criticism. Lays out a number of ways in which both Democrats and Republicans create mechanisms to subsidize the wealthy, while portraying the lower and middle-classes as parasitic ne'er-do-wells. Topics include farm subsidies, the privilege of limited liability granted by corporation status, and the manipulation of the federal funds rate by the Fed, among others. Sounds dry, but it is a quick read, and the arguments are well-supported with facts and easy to understand. The downside to this is that it is a tad simplistic. This may not be a book of answers, but it is a book of excellent questions. If American conservatives are free-market, then why do we spend so much on welfare programs for the rich?

Adam Shields

Short review: This is alternative economics. A liberal economist that is more free markets on some issues that most conservatives, but not on others. The real strength of this book is way that it frames economic issues differently than how most other economists do. Most of the policy suggestions are not politically viable, but it does show there are options. If you are a liberal, read this for a different perspective on how to be liberal but still support the free market. If you are conservative, read this to show some weaknesses in how conservative policy actually gets worked out in the US. No matter who you are you will think that the author is off the wall at least part of the time. Full review on my blog at

Dan Shaw

Capitalism has been subverted into something it was never meant to be by a few hell-bent to control all the marbles

David Kaib

Every progressive should read this book. And you can get it for free on line.


The writing was reminiscent of those late nights with a lot of wine, and there is one guest that is pedantic and "soapboxy" who won't stop loudly proclaiming his opinions. Not all of the connections connect, and some of his facts stretch pretty far. In spite of that, I gave this book three stars because he did manage to make me think about some issues in a totally different way. For example, why are small businesses treated as a sacred cow by liberals and conservatives alike? Should they be? Should the government make restitution when property values go down? Why do credit companies get bailed out when a lendee defaults? This was an interesting book, in spite of the slightly drunken tone.

Andrew O

An interesting look at modern politics and some it's biggest contradictions.


This book has one purpose: to combat the idea of "Liberals like government intervention, conservatives like market solutions". In fact, most conservatives like government intervention, but not for social safety nets; instead, they want the government to help distribute income to some of society's most well-off members.The book is easy to read, and makes its case quite well. As one example of government intervention that conservatives typically like, the book mentions trade agreements that limit skilled labor immigration and enforce patent and copyright protection, but reduce barriers to the transfer of manufacturing jobs. Baker lays out a number of similar examples that serve the same purpose.I wish more people would read this book; as a society, we would be more effective in debating issues and setting policies if we collectively abandoned false political mythologies.

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