Sachs traces the beginning of the major transition in American society -- from the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal -- to the presidency of Jimmy Carter, between 1977 and 1981.
Carter began deregulation, labor unions started losing their political influence and the country saw a shift of political power from the Snowbelt to the Sunbelt in the Deep South in those years.
Manufacturing industries, such as textiles, began fleeing the North to the non-union South.
Beginning in 1981, the four main components of the "Reagan Revolution," Sachs writes, were: tax cuts on higher incomes, cutting federal money for civilian programs while boosting military spending, deregulating industries and outsourcing government services to private companies.
Today, contrary to widely expressed criticisms of "liberal" federal power by groups like the tea party, poor Southern states tend to get the most federal funds for every dollar their residents pay in taxes.
"The Price of Civilization" offers a wide array of revealing and provocative statistics about changes in American and world societies.
* Between 1998 and 2009, the United States lost two million jobs in industries including computers and televisions, textile and shoes, furniture and toys.
* Shenzhen, a Chinese coastal city, grew from a fishing village of 20,000 people in 1975 to a manufacturing city of 9 million by 2010 -- reflecting the spectacular growth of low-wage industrial jobs in that country.
* In the United States, federal corporate taxes dropped from 3.8 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product in the 1960s to 1.8 percent of the GDP in the 2000s.
Sachs also criticizes individuals for the declining levels of their interaction with other people, which hurts both mental and physical health.
Television, and today's increasing use of computers and hand-held devices, "shifted the center of society from the public park and the bowling alley to the privacy of our own homes, as couch potatoes in front of the giant screens. ...
"We are a technology-rich, advertising-fed, knowledge-poor society."
Our society would function better, Sachs concludes, if many government services -- such as education, health, water treatment and road building -- were decentralized.
Sachs criticizes the "political Left" for routinely urging Washington "to impose its will on the entire country" on social issues such as: education policy, sexual mores, health care and income redistribution.
"These efforts have mostly backfired," he writes, and "often led to an anti-Washington backlash with no results at all."
Sachs ends with a positive look at the "millennial generation," Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 in 2010.
Today's Millennials, along with their younger brothers and sisters, are more willing to accept the growing diversity in our population and a more activist government.
Younger people, Sachs believes, are also far more attuned to the need to fix severe environmental problems which will threaten the very future of human existence.
Their growing influence just might save us.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.