The Quiet Coup: Neoliberalism and the Looting of America (Hardcover)

The Quiet Coup: Neoliberalism and the Looting of America By Mehrsa Baradaran Cover Image

The Quiet Coup: Neoliberalism and the Looting of America (Hardcover)


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"[A]ccessible and intellectually rich…Essential reading to understand the economic state of the nation." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The celebrated legal scholar and author of The Color of Money reveals how neoliberals rigged American law, creating widespread distrust, inequality, and injustice.

With the nation lurching from one crisis to the next, many Americans believe that something fundamental has gone wrong. Why aren’t college graduates able to achieve financial security? Why is government completely inept in the face of natural disasters? And why do pundits tell us that the economy is strong even though the majority of Americans can barely make ends meet? In The Quiet Coup, Mehrsa Baradaran, one of our leading public intellectuals, argues that the system is in fact rigged toward the powerful, though it wasn’t the work of evil puppet masters behind the curtain. Rather, the rigging was carried out by hundreds of (mostly) law-abiding lawyers, judges, regulators, policy makers, and lobbyists. Adherents of a market-centered doctrine called neoliberalism, these individuals, over the course of decades, worked to transform the nation—and succeeded.

They did so by changing the law in unseen ways. Tracing this largely unknown history from the late 1960s to the present, Baradaran demonstrates that far from yielding fewer laws and regulations, neoliberalism has in fact always meant more—and more complex—laws. Those laws have uniformly benefited the wealthy. From the work of a young Alan Greenspan in creating "Black Capitalism," to Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s efforts to unshackle big money donors, to the establishment of the "Law and Economics" approach to legal interpretation—in which judges render opinions based on the principles of right-wing economics—Baradaran narrates the key moments in the slow-moving coup that was, and is, neoliberalism. Shifting our focus away from presidents and national policy, she tells the story of how this nation’s laws came to favor the few against the many, threatening the integrity of the market and the state.

Some have claimed that the neoliberal era is behind us. Baradaran shows that such thinking is misguided. Neoliberalism is a failed economic idea—it doesn’t, in fact, create more wealth or more freedom. But it has been successful nevertheless, by seizing the courts and enabling our age of crypto fraud, financial instability, and accelerating inequality. An original account of the forces that have brought us to this dangerous moment in American history, The Quiet Coup reshapes our understanding of the recent past and lights a path toward a better future.

Mehrsa Baradaran is a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine and a noted authority on banking law. The author of The Quiet Coup, The Color of Money, and How the Other Half Banks, she has advised U.S. senators and congresspeople on policy and spoken at national and international forums including the World Bank. She lives in San Clemente, California.
Product Details ISBN: 9781324091165
ISBN-10: 1324091169
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: May 7th, 2024
Pages: 464
Language: English
Dangerous times call for bold interventions. Baradaran’s latest book pulls no punches. Reframing neoliberalism as a legal and political heist engineered by the forces of reaction, she shows us how it has brought us to the brink of fascism. And how we might pull back from the edge. Baradaran is analytically devastating and politically galvanizing.
— Melinda Cooper, author of Family Values

The Quiet Coup demonstrates how powerful interests under the guise of a ‘free market’ were able to rig the laws and regulations in order to capture and loot from the U.S. economy. The irony is that neoliberalism did the very opposite of making markets more ‘free’ and government less ‘active.’ What’s more, the neoliberal coup itself stemmed from deep within the same bureaucracy it purported to dismantle. Mehrsa Baradaran has done it again—her rigor, receipts, and insights distinguish her as an unsurpassed public intellectual.

— Darrick Hamilton, founding director, Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy, The New School

Employing prose that is both accessible and intellectually rich, Baradaran deftly weaves key events in the history of neoliberalism into a complete picture. Using a keen, critical eye, she walks readers through pivotal Supreme Court cases, the dominance of the religious right within modern conservatism, and the removal of usury caps that used to prevent the institution of loans with extreme interest. Rather than a clear, quick power shift, the ‘quiet coup’ has been just that: a series of small, often imperceptible shifts with radical repercussions for legal and economic policy. . . Essential reading to understand the economic state of the nation.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred)