In a dramatic and well-argued challenge to the prevailing wisdom, Prosperity and Public Spending, first published in 1988, contends that the failure of Keynesian economics has been due to its timidity. Far from contracting, the government must expand its powers and activities, in order to achieve and maintain economic prosperity. The need for such expansion arises from the fact that the system has developed from a craft-based economy to a mass-production network with sophisticated international finance. This "transformational growth" brings about irreversible and sometimes devastating changes, requiring government action. Professor Nell argues that a lack of government action in the decade prior to the book's initial publication was responsible for the stagnation of the economy and he asserts that this could only be overcome by a determined policy intervention and the political will to achieve dominance over private capital.

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