The multi-talented John Tamny—editor of RealClearMarkets, the Political Economy editor at Forbes, senior economic advisor to Toreador Research and Trading (among other hats that he wears)—has written a new, much-needed book. “Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James can Teach You About Economics”.
Here are some miscellaneous comments:
● The target audience. “Popular Economics” is aptly named. Tamny is writing for a popular audience. People who regard economics texts as about as enjoyable as root canal procedures will find this book a refreshing alternative. As one who tries to rescue economics from its ghastly mischaracterization as “the dismal science” (I prefer “the cheerful science”) I heartily approve of Tamny making economics fun, likeable, and accessible to a mass audience, an objective he accomplishes—in spades.
● The style. Tamny, as anyone who reads his Forbes blog knows, is always crackling with thought-provoking, stimulating ideas. His book is infused with an exuberant enthusiasm stemming from the author’s passion for wisdom, understanding, and life itself. The chapters are short, breezy, energetic, and, most importantly, clear explanations of economic principles. Tamny uses his tremendous breadth of knowledge in ways that are always reader-friendly, never intimidating, illuminating economic principles by using interesting analogies to elements of popular culture. “Popular Economics” is delightfully free of turgid prose, technical paraphernalia, or boringly belabored nit-picky points. It’s a quick, enjoyable read, never a waste of time.
● The focus. “Popular Economics” doesn’t attempt to teach economics from the ground up, but instead focuses on four areas of public policy emphasized by those who espouse supply-side economics: Taxes, regulation, and the benefits of trade and sound money. In an age in which mystical economists teach such nonsense as the way to get out of debt is to go into more debt, or what we need to achieve economic growth is for the Federal Reserve to create more money, citizens need people like Tamny to popularize economically sound public policies to save us from the pernicious quackery of esoteric experts.
● The message. On page 142, Tamny writes, “a little common sense is in order.” Throughout “Popular Economics,” common sense is (happily for the reader) in pervasive abundance. He repeatedly unmasks the pretense of alleged government “solutions,” explains their flaws and fallacies, and so shows why free markets—so despised by special interests and the self-aggrandizing intelligentsia and political classes—are so frequently the best option.
● Quibbles. I just have one, and it’s relatively minor: In his desire to keep the book a fast read by avoiding excessive detail, Tamny occasionally omits relevant information. For example, it wasn’t only market competition that bankrupted GM, but harmful government policies, too (particularly CAFE standards and labor laws). And did the new owners of Continental Airlines actually restore profitability while making a ton of money on their investment? And it might have been helpful to point out that if government regulations are scaled back, consumers still would have protection from corporate malfeasance through tort and criminal laws.
● Production values. I was struck by how reader-friendly the font and the spacing between lines were. In an age when many publishers try to cram as many words on a page as they can, it was refreshing to encounter such a comfortable layout. I didn’t notice any typos (a rarity) and the book has a helpful index.
● Final thoughts. John Tamny’s “Popular Economics” is wise, insightful, yet eminently readable. Equally at ease quoting John Stuart Mill and Keith Richards, Tamny succeeds masterfully in making economics palatable (“a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” writes the reviewer, tritely). There probably aren’t too many high school or college students reading blogs on Forbes.com, so I hope you adults reading this will give a copy of “Popular Economics” to a couple of young people you know. It will help them understand this world of ours better.
Get your copy of Mark Hendrickson’s excellent: Problems with Piketty: The Flaws and Fallacies in Capital in the Twenty-First Century
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Mark Hendrickson, is Adjunct Professor of Economics at Grove City College, where he has taught since 2004. He is also a Fellow for Economic and Social Policy with The Center for Vision & Values, for which he writes regular commentaries. He is a contributing editor of The St. Croix Review, sits on the Council of Scholars of the Commonwealth Foundation, and writes the “No Panaceas” column in the Op/Ed section of Forbes.com.
Mark’s published books include: America’s March Toward Communism (1987); The Morality of Capitalism (editor, 1992); Famous But Nameless: Inspiration and Lessons from the Bible’s Anonymous Characters (2011); and God and Man on Wall Street: The Conscience of Capitalism (with Craig Columbus, 2012).
Mark Hendrickson’s Archives at The Moral Liberal.