More than 50 years after Lyndon Johnson launched the “Great Society” and its “war on poverty” that its architects said would eliminate all poverty in America in ten years, we still have poverty and a legacy of failed experiments in social engineering (Model Cities, anyone?) Author Amity Shlaes is out this week with her latest book, Great Society: A New History, that gives us a fine-grained look into numerous aspects of the Great Society era that most other historians have overlooked.

Amity is the author of several previous books that broke new ground in our understanding of key events in American history, especially her book on the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, and also a fine recent biography of Calvin Coolidge. In her new book, you’ll learn about a lot more than just what Johnson and his madcap social planners did, including the role of private industry for both good and ill during these days. And the real villain of the story is not who you might expect! You’ll just have to listen to find out. Also, if you listen to Steve’s conclusion at the end, you’ll also be treated to an excerpt of maybe Johnson’s greatest phone call ever, where we overhear him . . . ordering pants!

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Published in: History, Podcasts, Politics

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  1. Taras Coolidge

    Wow! Is this a terrific interview!

    It’s particularly important today, because the Democratic candidates for President want to reintroduce some of the failed policies of the 1960s.

    The bigger question is, do the Great Society programs lock us on a path of decline? These programs can’t be cut; they can’t even be slowed down.

    • #1
    • November 24, 2019, at 11:08 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. colleenb Member
    colleenbJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Agree with @Taras that this is a great interview. Read the Forgotten Man and thought it was excellent, plus highlighting an area of history that tends to be told the same way over and over again. Why oh why did Ken Burns not interview her for the FDR portion of his Roosevelts documentary?? Oh right, because she didn’t have the same old thing to say about FDR and might have pointed out that he wasn’t always right. Putting the new book on my (never-to-be-finished) reading list.

    • #2
    • November 25, 2019, at 12:28 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. Richard Easton Member

    Another great interview and a book added to my reading list. My friend Milt Rosenberg always especially enjoyed interviewing Ms. Schlaes and it’s easy to see why. A favorite story about George Romney is in response to his brainwashing comment. Eugene McCarthy is reported to have said that a light rinse would have been sufficient. I know it’s been disputed whether he said this, but it ought to be true.

    • #3
    • November 25, 2019, at 8:07 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  4. Steven Hayward Podcaster

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    Another great interview and a book added to my reading list. My friend Milt Rosenberg always especially enjoyed interviewing Ms. Schlaes and it’s easy to see why. A favorite story about George Romney is in response to his brainwashing comment. Eugene McCarthy is reported to have said that a light rinse would have been sufficient. I know it’s been disputed whether he said this, but it ought to be true.

    Pretty sure that McCarthy line is true.

    • #4
    • December 3, 2019, at 5:12 PM PST
    • 1 like