Book Review: "The War on Normal People" Andrew Yang
In this book, Andrew Yang takes on the immense feat of trying to encapsulate the current state of working people and the economic policies that might help them. The centerpiece of the book is the topic of a universal basic income, which it makes a solid case for by citing political leaders from the left and right throughout U.S. history. He also offers clear examples of past success and proposes a simple implementation that, on its face, seems very plausible.
The book paints a relatively bleak picture of what may come from the rise of automation and its impact on working Americans. He focuses on two major dimensions the first being the economic dimension of growing inequality, the second being the erosion of some social structures that keep people together as a community. In explaining all of this he goes everywhere from why the medical industry has been slow to adopt high efficiency technology to how the growing number of single parents is impacting the economy.
In particular, Yang focuses on the fact that automation is already disproportionately displacing young men in the workforce, driving them to social isolation and laying the groundwork for increased political turmoil. I think that this is more than a fair point given the clear rise in political extremism on the right, which is seemingly fueled by exactly the tension Yang highlights in his book. Economically displaced men have historically been a difficult demographic to manage and Yang uses that fact as a key point in his argument for why serious changes are needed.
While I may not agree with every point made in the book or every proposal offered by Yang, I definitely think that this is worth the read because it offers up some out of the box ideas for how we could kick-start our economy. It also brings forward some critical questions that need to be answered about the future of our economy. As the 2020 election cycle ramps up and Yang tries to make waves in a crowded field it will certainly be clear that he is not bringing the “standard wisdom” from Washington, instead, he offers the energetic hopefulness of silicon valley. Even if you don’t vote for him, the book is still certainly worth the read.