Magazine January 27, 2020, Issue

The Forgotten Failures of the Great Society

Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at the White House, February 9, 1968 (Wikimedia )
Great Society: A New History, by Amity Shlaes (Harper, 528 pp., $32.50)

Amity Shlaes has written a powerful book. It is the most interesting and substantive account of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon’s “war on poverty” to date — and just in time. In Great Society: A New History, she notes that “just as the 1960s forgot the failures of the 1930s, we today forget the failures of the 1960s.” Shlaes has written 510 pages of argumentation, with detailed description and telling digression that traces the arc from the unbridled hopes of the early Sixties to the enormous administrative expansion of the “second New Deal” to the missteps in implementing it that became all too apparent in

This article appears as “The Sixties’ Forgotten Failures” in the January 27, 2020, print edition of National Review.

Fred SiegelMr. Siegel is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal and a scholar in residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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