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LAST SUMMER I BINGED on popular books about the ’80s: Sidney Blumenthal’s Our Long National Daydream, Robert Reich’s The Resurgent Liberal, Barbara Ehrenreich’s The Worst Years of Our Lives, Connie Bruck’s The Predators’ Ball, Kevin Phillip’s The Politics of Rich and Poor, etc. Much of this material first appeared in magazines as the decade unfolded; now gathered between hard covers, it’s an occasion for retrospection on the Decade of Greed. Yet it may be too soon for postmortems. Mike Milken is behind bars, but junk bonds are still legal. Our “victory” in the cold war has breathed new life into economic laissez-faire. An increasingly conservative Supreme Court will likely contribute to the continuing erosion of American public life. And though the 1990 census didn’t count them, the homeless haven’t heard that the ’80s are over.

Still, even conservatives have accepted the idea that paper

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