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The Once and Future Worker A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America

By Oren Cass
Encounter Books 2018 ISBN: 1641770147

A brilliant book. And among the most important I’ve ever read.

J.D. Vance

About the Book

The American worker is in crisis. Wages have stagnated for more than a generation. Reliance on welfare programs has surged. Life expectancy is falling as substance abuse and obesity rates climb.

These woes are not the inevitable result of irresistible global and technological forces. They are the direct consequence of a decades-long economic consensus that prioritized increasing consumption—regardless of the costs to American workers, their families, and their communities. Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency focused attention on the depth of the nation’s challenges, yet while everyone agrees something must change, the Left’s insistence on still more government spending and the Right’s faith in still more economic growth are recipes for repeating the mistakes of the past.

In this groundbreaking re-evaluation of American society, economics, and public policy, Oren Cass challenges our basic assumptions about what prosperity means and where it comes from to reveal how we lost our way. The good news is that we can still turn things around—if the nation’s proverbial elites are willing to put the American worker’s interests first.

Which is more important? Pristine air quality, or well-paying jobs that support families? Unfettered access to the cheapest labor in the world, or renewed investment in the employment of Americans? Smoothing the path through college for the best students, or ensuring that every student acquires the skills to succeed in the modern economy? Cutting taxes, expanding the safety net, or adding money to low-wage paychecks?

The renewal of work in America demands new answers to these questions. If we reinforce their vital role, workers supporting strong families and communities can provide the foundation for a thriving, self-sufficient society that offers opportunity to all.  



“Working-class voters tried to send a message in 2016, and they are still trying to send it. The crucial question is whether America’s leaders will listen and respond. One way to start doing that is to read Oren Cass’s absolutely brilliant new book, The Once and Future Worker.” — David Brooks, The New York Times

“A thoughtful, provocative, carefully argued book that made me change my mind on some issues that I thought I’d thought about quite a lot...” — Jason Furman, Chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers

“Oren Cass has accomplished the rare feat of not only saying something truly new and innovative about our society, but also doing it in a readable, engrossing way. The Once and Future Worker is a wake-up call to our political class, and indeed the whole country, that rising consumption can’t replace that most basic of goods—a job. A brilliant book. And among the most important I’ve ever read.” — J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy

“[The Once and Future Worker] is one of those rare works capable of affecting a change in attitude among its less dogmatic readers: it convinces through its moderation, its open-mindedness, and its willingness to negotiate ideas.” — Emmanuel Todd, French historian and anthropologist

“No one has better articulated the conservative argument for why work matters to America's long-term prosperity than Oren Cass. Oren’s insightful prescription for what ails us should be required reading for those who endeavor to create a labor market in which workers can create and support strong families and communities.” — Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT)

“Oren Cass has written the essential policy book for our time. His diagnosis cuts to the heart of what’s troubling our political economy, and his prescriptions chart the way toward a more constructive politics. A must-read.” — Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs

“Through an unflinching indictment of the mistakes that Washington has made for a generation and continues to make today, Oren Cass forcefully draws out the contradictions of a consensus that has actively displaced Americans from their national inheritance of good jobs and thriving hometowns. The Once and Future Worker offers much-needed clarity for how to make the American Dream possible for the many.” — Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

“Oren Cass’s focus on the importance of work—and making work pay—offers welcome common ground for policy debates across partisan and ideological lines. His core principle—a culture of respect for work of all kinds—can help close the gap dividing the two Americas that the 2016 election so starkly revealed.” — William A. Galston, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution

About the Author

Oren Cass is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. He worked previously as the domestic policy director for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, a management consultant at Bain & Company, and an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife and two children.