In this book, Oren Cass proposes a series of conservative proposals to restore the importance of dignified work to our understanding of economics. Cass has expanded on many of these ideas with the founding of his think tank, American Compass, in 2020.
The publication of The Once and Future Worker in November 2018 triggered a “vigorous intra-conservative debate” (Ross Douthat, New York Times), widening the schism between the right-of-center establishment and reformers eager to forge a new post-Trump consensus. Author Oren Cass, “one of the sharpest policy minds in this new vanguard” (Sam Tanenhaus, Time), presents “an unflinching indictment of the mistakes that Washington has made for a generation” (Senator Marco Rubio), laying the groundwork for a rethinking of economic policy “meant to be a dagger thrust into the heart of the traditional center-right consensus” (Senator Pat Toomey).
Cass’s argument can be stated simply: work matters. The implications of this idea yield a groundbreaking reevaluation of American society, economics, and public policy that challenges our basic assumptions about what prosperity means and whence it comes. American policy makers have focused exclusively on consumption, pursuing an agenda that guaranteed everyone more and cheaper and better stuff without concern for who would make it. But more important than the size of our televisions is the ability to support our families and contribute productively to our communities. When people lose those things, ultra-high-definition flat-screens are no substitute.
The traditional emphasis on economic growth is important, Cass agrees, but whose growth matters. America must turn its attention to its long-neglected workers and pursue public policies that recognize and reinforce their vital role as the foundation of a thriving, self-sufficient society that offers opportunity for all. This is “the essential policy book for our time” (Yuval Levin, American Enterprise Institute), retracing the steps that led us astray and showing the path forward to the new way of thinking and the new ideas that the nation needs today.