The Public Interest

Comparing wealthy democracies

Lawrence M. Mead

Summer 2003

HAROLD Wilensky is a longtime and distinguished sociologist  at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book, Rich Democracies: Political Economy, Public Policy, and Performance,† summarizes his 30 years of research on the world’s richest countries. In this group he includes the wealthiest nations of Western Europe and Scandinavia, the English-speaking or Anglo nations (Britain and its former colonies, including the United States), Israel, and Japan. He compares these countries, 19 in all, using largely quantitative indicators. Fortunately, unlike many in today’s academy, Wilcnsky goes beyond mere statistics.  He includes the political and historical context of these countries and has interviewed many of their leaders. His accounts thus have a real-world quality. The book, despite its length and complexity, is accessible and finely written.

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