Review of Industrial Organization 13: 603–607, 1998.
Everything for Sale. Robert Kuttner. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997, Xiii, 410
pages, $27.50 (hard cover).
The reader will recognize immediately that Robert Kuttner’s book, Everything for
Sale, stands in sharp contrast to much of the economic literature of the past two
decades dealing with deregulation and the marketization of traditional government
services. Deregulation and privatization have been actively promoted by a number
of factions, most particularly Chicago School economists, Public Choice theorists,
and representatives of conservative think tanks. Where evidence of market failure
exists, these groups have been quick to introduce market-oriented constructs to
remedy such imperfections. Kuttner believes that the free market does many things
well, but he is highly critical of its acceptance as an across-the-board solution for
public policy issues. He argues that the role of the free, unfettered market has
been so grossly distorted by its proponents that it has produced harmful effects
throughout the economy. As examples of such effects he cites the stagnation of
living standards for low and middle income recipients, the growing asymmetric
distribution of wealth and power, and the corrosion of social norms and values
needed for a viable society. What Robert Kuttner does is to delineate a world that
is clearly divided between free market advocates who dismiss any challenge to
market infallibility or any legislative attempt to impose constraints on unfettered
markets, and those proponents who, like himself, favor a pragmatic balancing of
markets, state intervention, and a recognition of social goals and values. Kuttner
remains strongly committed to the mixed economy and pattern of social control of
enterprise that evolved in the Roosevelt, Truman, and Johnson administrations.
For economists in the ﬁeld of industrial organization, one of the major contri-
butions of Kuttner’s book is the proposition that problems should be considered
within a conceptual framework that includes the possibility of employing regula-
tory intervention to promote efﬁciency, constrain the abuse of power, and stimulate
innovation. In this context, regulation can play a positive role and rebut those who
argue that government intervention must invariably make matters worse.
Robert Kuttner’s analysis of the misapplication of the free market model pro-
ceeds in two stages. First, he examines the model and its intellectual underpinnings.
Second, he examines six sectors which purport to show that deregulation and mar-