Book Corner 2023.6

by Charles Wheelan

While many of the examples are woefully outdated (published 2002), the concepts are purely timeless. I laughed out loud a couple of times. Well, sometimes because of the outdated examples (“I recently visited a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, that was experimenting with a self-serve checkout line.”); but sometimes because he was just really (deliberately) funny.

And sometimes because I raise Angora goats, and the great mohair subsidy of 1955 that lasted for about 35 years was one of his great examples of the power of organized interests to get legislation on the books that is a boon for the interests but way outlives its usefulness and isn’t big enough for any non-interested party to get worked up about enough to revoke. Although it seems some people got worked up about the mohair subsidy eventually, it just took 35 years. (We got into the hobby less than a decade too late to sit back and make a tidy living off of it.)

And sometimes I felt personal pride, while reading the whole chapter on the Federal Reserve. While it would be an overstatement to say we’ve forgotten 9/11, we’ve forgotten plenty of the details of those first weeks, months, and year of aftermath (again, publication date of this was 2002). “On September 11, 2001, hours after the terrorist attacks on the United States, the Federal Reserve issued the following statement: ‘The Federal Reserve System is open and operating. The discount window is available to meet liquidity needs.'” This was his example of simple statements speaking loudly. A simple, calming statement, with not so calm people behind the scenes doing not so simple things to make it so.

What was fantastic about this book was that it had no ax to grind. It’s facts and concepts. You judge. This is what government intervention can sometimes do for good. This is what it can sometimes do for ill. Know the basic economics presented in this book first; then maybe you can hold forth with an informed opinion.

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