Does America have a future?

Mandelbaum, Friedman take a hard look at the state of the United States in 'That Used to Be Us'

In "That Used to Be Us," Michael Mandelbaum, director of the SAIS American Foreign Policy Program at Johns Hopkins, and Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, take a hard look at the current state of the United States—socially, economically, politically.

More specifically, as reviewer David Frum writes in his assessment of the book in The New York Times Sunday Book Review on Sept. 9, the authors "describe a country whose people are falling behind, a political system increasingly paralyzed and institutions that seem ever more inadequate to meet ever more intractable challenges."

The full title of the book is a mouthful, but it reveals plenty: "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back." Frum's review—with the ominous headline, "Does America Have a Future?"—praises the authors for painting a realistic (often unflattering) portrait of a nation in decline and for pointing to specific examples that demonstrate how it might improve. He writes:

Despite its slightly misleading subtitle, "That Used to Be Us" is not really a "how to" book, not really a policy book. Friedman and Mandelbaum go very light on the programmatic details. Instead, they emphasize the power of good examples: instance after instance of forward-looking C.E.O.'s, effective military commanders, tough educational administrators, responsible politicians who have made things work. The book is more a demonstration than an argument: The situation isn't hopeless! Success is possible! See here and here and here and here.

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