from Renewing America

How to Fix America

May 31, 2013

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

In the Foreign Affairs article, “Can America Be Fixed?” (January/February 2013), CNN’s Fareed Zakaria makes the case that the American democratic system has been growing increasingly dysfunctional since the 1970s but has masked underlying problems through a series of temporary solutions and lucky breaks. After the financial crisis, the system is now more dysfunctional than ever, he writes, and policymakers should summon past successful policy initiatives to get back on track.

In a response, Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute Edward Conrad refutes Zakaria’s argument that federal investments in job training and infrastructure are needed to bring the economy up to speed. Conrad writes that these public sector investments would not generate the same returns as they did in the 1950s and 1960s, and that President Obama should focus on fostering private sector investment and spurring innovation.

Zakaria replies that his article focuses on what he says is a needed federal government shift from tax hikes and spending cuts to reform and investment. Today's entrepreneurs and business leaders work in a more hospitable environment than past decades, and what sets today’s America apart is its lack of investment.

Read Conrad and Zakaria’s exchange on