Democratic socialism isn't new in America: President Johnson's "Great Society" had roots in the European welfare state

A photo of Amity Shlaes
Amity Shlaes
Image Credit: Courtesy Photo

As Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders surges in popularity in early Democratic Party primaries, signaling a significant shift of the party to the left, the idea of democratic socialism is taking on new life in some of the party's policy recommendations.

Some candidates seeking the Democratic nomination demonstrate this new-found popularity in what they propose on the national stage. While some of these views are seen as generational, many young voters don't know the full extent of democratic socialism's past.

With this uptick in interest in democratic socialism in mind, the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University is hosting Amity Shlaes, a best-selling author whose latest book, Great Society, dives deep into the historical policies of the 1960s and examines their impact on both individuals and society. Shlaes' writings end with what she calls the natural enemy of President Johnson's Great Society in Ronald Reagan and his brand of "Reaganomics" throughout the 1980s.

Amity Shlaes: The Great Society and its Enemies

Tuesday, March 3 at 7 p.m.

Loosemore Auditorium, Grand Valley's Pew Grand Rapids Campus

401 Fulton Street W., Grand Rapids

Registration is requested; the event is free and open to the public.

Register online at

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has called Shlaes' book “accurate history that reads like a novel.”

The event is presented in partnership with the Meijer Foundation.

Immediately following the conclusion of Shlaes' presentation on The Great Society and Its Enemies, the audience may attend a community conversation facilitated by Beth Buelow. The goal of this community conversation is to find common ground. The conversation gives individuals the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the topic with others and to think about next steps for productive common ground action.

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