Megan Harlan
February 09, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement 1945-1995

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Robert J. Samuelson
publisher
Times Books
genre
Nonfiction, Politics and Current Events

We gave it a B-

Guess what: ”Americans are now richer and freer than at any time in history”! So why do we tend to feel that the country’s on a handbasket express to hell? Samuelson, a columnist for both Newsweek and The Washington Post, posits that in the years since World War II — what he terms ”The Age of Enlightenment” — Americans have expected too much from our poor, overworked government. We demand a good standard of living and social equality, but when reality falls short, we are racked with ”unwarranted pessimism” and get really (as Samuelson sees it) whiny. But all the snappy lines like ”We blurred the distinction between progress and perfection” and ”The paradox of our time is that Americans are feeling bad about doing well” offer few concrete solutions. After a couple hundred pages of The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement 1945-1995, it seems that Samuelson is just sort of whining.

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