Our MDAW Staff’s Summer Readings Recs

MDAW staff's summer reading recs

For some of us, debate doesn’t take summers off! Whether you’re ready to get a head start on next year’s high school topic or need something to do while you’re stuck inside on a rainy (or hazy) day, MDAW staff have a book for you.  We asked staff for their summer read recommendations on the coming year’s high school policy debate topic, “fiscal redistribution.” 

Centering some of the most poignant economic policy controversies, the official resolution for the 2023-24 High School Policy Debate Topic reads: “The United States federal government should substantially increase fiscal redistribution in the United States by adopting a federal jobs guarantee, expanding Social Security, and/or providing a basic income.” 

This is sure to lead to a year of contentious debates as MDAW campers are already experiencing as they have their first debates on the topic. Kiernan Baxter-Kauf, sophomore at Central High School, says the topic is interesting and engaging not only because there are robust options for what to say in a debate, but also because, “the topic requires us to think critically about one of the most important issues our generation faces. Economic inequality is something that we encounter every day and is causing harm to people right now. Debates this year will teach me a lot about what we can do about it.”

We agree, Kiernan, and we are excited to watch those debates. If you’re ready to dig in like our MDAW campers, these curated selections are for you!

A People’s History of the United States

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Goodreads describes A People’s History as portraying, “a side of American history that can largely be seen as the exploitation and manipulation of the majority by rigged systems that hugely favor a small aggregate of elite rulers from across the orthodox political parties.”

Marshall Steele, NAUDL summer fellow, recommends this because, “A People’s History gives you history behind the topic from a different angle than you might otherwise get.”

The Case for a Job Guarantee

The Case for a Job Guarantee by Pavlina R. Tcherneva

Anupama Kumar reviews The Case for a Job Guarantee and summarizes it as, “…Tcherneva argues that a job guarantee that provides an employment opportunity to anyone looking for work, regardless of their personal circumstances or the state of the economy, not only makes good economic sense, but is vital for people’s wellbeing.

Mark Kivimaki, a lab assistant for MDAW’s High School policy camp, shares The Case for a Job Guarantee, is a topic read because, “it’s by one of the leading experts on the topic and it’s also very comprehensive and easy to understand.”

Debating Universal Basic Income Pros, Cons, and Alternatives by Robert E. Wright & Aleksandra Przegalińska

The publisher’s summary for Debating Universal Basic Income is as follows:

“Describes the promises and pitfalls of universal basic income

Presents policies in clear, nonpartisan prose and with interesting illustrations

Written in an engaging, debate-like format.”

What more could you ask for to learn about what debates over UBI will be like? You can find a free PDF of this book on ResearchGate, which is an open source website that allows authors to upload their own texts for the good of all. Thanks, Wright & Przegalińska. 

Poverty, by America

Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond

Poverty, By America, was written because despite writing a Pulitzer Prize winning book concerning evictions in the United States, Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond, “realized he still didn’t understand why the U.S. has more poverty than any other advanced democracy,” an NPR review explains. After years of research, “he provides a provocative and compelling answer: It’s because the rest of us benefit from it, and act to keep it that way.” 

If you’ve ever felt like there’s more to the economic picture keeping Americans down than just the top 1%, then this book is for you. Either way, it is sure to be a good introduction to the 23-24 season topic and likely a good source for evidence as well, because another review from the Guardian praised, “his arguments have the potential to push debate about wealth in America to a new level.”

Saving Capitalism for the Many, Not the Few

Saving Capitalism For the Many, Not the Few by Robert Reich

Our last recommendation comes from high school policy co-director Rachel Baumann, who’s top pick was Saving Capitalism For the Many, Not the Few because Reich, “takes complex ideas and presents them in a very digestible, easy to understand ways.”

Reich tackles issues such as understanding the free market and ultimately criticizing modern-day capitalism, but follows his analysis with a detailed account of economic policies and government actions to result in the socio-economic betterment of America while retaining a market economy.

Since clash over whether we should achieve fiscal redistribution by doing away with capitalism all together or make some key adjustments is going to be a core issue in debates this year, this could be a valuable source to check out. And if you don’t want to read the whole book to get the main ideas, Rachel also says she’s a fan of this video where he unpacks the concepts behind his books in an engaging presentation.