That Used To Be Us

How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back

America has a huge problem. It faces four major challenges, on which its future depends, and it is failing to meet them. In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, analyze those challenges—globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits, and its pattern of energy consumption—and spell out what we need to do now to rediscover America and rise to this moment.

They explain how the end of the cold war blinded the nation to the need to address these issues. They show how our history, when properly understood, provides the key to addressing them, and explain how the paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies the country needs. They offer a way out of the trap into which the country has fallen, which includes the rediscovery of some of our most valuable traditions and the creation of a new, third-party movement. That Used to Be Us is both a searching exploration of the American condition today and a rousing manifesto for American renewal.

“As we were writing this book,” Friedman and Mandelbaum explain, “we found that when we shared the title with people, they would often nod ruefully and ask: ‘But does it have a happy ending?’ Our answer is that we can write a happy ending, but it is up to the country—to all of us—to determine whether it is fiction or nonfiction. We need to study harder, save more, spend less, invest wisely, and get back to the formula that made us successful as a country in every previous historical turn. What we need is not novel or foreign, but values, priorities, and practices embedded in our history and culture, applied time and again to propel us forward as a country. That is all part of our past. That used to be us and can be again—if we will it.”

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2011


Reviews:

The New York Times
Oct. 2, 2011
"'That Used to Be Us' is an important contribution to an intensifying debate, and it deserves the widest possible attention. ... As American politics looks increasingly dysfunctional, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Mandelbaum show great courage in casting aside conventional assumptions. Few readers will agree with every observation and argument in this thoroughly researched and passionately argued book, but all of them should find 'That Used to Be Us' compelling, engaging and enlightening."
The New York Times Book Review
Sept. 8, 2011
"Friedman and Mandelbaum are men of the American elite, and they write to salute those members of the American elite who behave public-spiritedly and to scourge those who do not. They are winners, writing to urge other winners to have more of a care for their fellow citizens who are not winners. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that! ... American society has had a big serving of that ugly anti-elitist spirit in the recent past. It could use more of the generous responsible spirit Friedman and Mandelbaum recommend."
Library Journal
Aug. 18, 2011
"This is a book of exceptional importance, written on a sweeping scale with remarkable clarity by two of our most gifted thinkers. A soon-to-be best seller, it should be read by policymakers and every American concerned about our country's future."