Investor Politics

The New Force That Will Transform American Business, Government, and Politics in the Twenty-First Century

John Hood

The most explosive economic and political force of the last decade of the twentieth century has been the growth of personal investment. About half of all Americans now own stocks and bonds through IRAs, 401(k)s, and other financial devices.

Polls show that personal investment in corporations changes one's view of the economy, world events, and public policy toward taxes, government spending, regulation, and protectionism. Much of the growth of personal investing has been facilitated by innovations in the financial services and information technology arena—such as mutual funds and online trading—as well as accidental public policies creating tax-deferred employee benefits and personal investment vehicles.

This book represents an attempt to sketch out, across a host of public policy topics, a realistic strategy for shrinking the welfare state. To gain a clear understanding of the investor politics of the twenty-first century, the book looks backward to human history and even to prehistory to examine the origins of capital formation. As the facts demonstrate, politics has always been intimately linked with investment, understood in the broadest sense of the word.

“Over the next few decades, Americans must stop looking to Washington as a source of the money they need to take care of themselves—there is no alternative. They will need instead to look to investment and wealth creation on Wall Street and Main Street as the guarantors of their retirement security, their health security, their job security, and their children's futures.” —from the introduction

Introduction / 1

1. A Short History of Saving and Investment / 10

2. American Political Realignment and the Origins of Welfare / 35

3. Wall Street and the Second Economic Revolution / 54

4. Depression and the New Deal / 86

5. The Great Social Security Debate / 110

6. The New Health-Care Imperative / 142

7. Houses, Highways, and Physical Capital

8. Education, Training, and Human Capital / 217

9. The Savings Strategy for Shrinking the Welfare State / 258

Conclusion / 277

Notes / 285

Index / 303