The High-Flex Society

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Dismal economic news seems to come at us daily: record trade deficits and sluggish economic growth are hardly news anymore. The authors, policy analysts at TRW, Inc., attribute these problems to a lack of flexibility in the economy. They describe the stultified condition of the current economic system and contrast it with a “high-flex society” in which these problems would not exist.

Their high-flex society is one in which business firms are free to innovate, invest, and bring a constant dream of new products to the marketplace; in which workers can change jobs and even careers if necessary, securing the training that they need without loss of accrued pension rights; and in which the government successfully facilitates the needed adjustments.

The authors contend that the United Sates needs to develop a more comprehensive trade strategy in order to compete more successfully with the plan-driven economies of East Asia. American business should place less emphasis on short-term balance sheets and make maximum use of new technologies. Government must rid itself of the excruciatingly slow legislative process, with its profusion of committees and subcommittees and myriad personnel regulations. American workers should train and retrain to meet changing needs.

The authors assume that the increased competitiveness and productivity of such a high-flex economy would at least offset the enormous initial costs, but they do not demonstrate how. The content is easily accessible to the non-economist, as it is not bogged down in equations. The book’s chief value lies in the questions it raises.