The Indispensable Milton Friedman ed. by Dr. Lanny Ebenstein (2012, Regnery)
Milton Friedman is known in economic circles as a strong proponent of free-market theory and monetarism. He was an academic, and as such he performed deep analysis of economic theory and attempted to present it in such a way that it would be best understood by his audience.
That truism is at the core of both the success and the failure of this book. The editor decided to take essays from the breadth of Friedman’s life, starting with an item published in 1950 and ending with one in 2004. He also sought out essays which were both representative of Friedman’s viewpoints and relatively unknown. Bypassing Friedman’s more easily located works, the book becomes interesting even to those who are moderately familiar with the economist.
The essays, however, are primarily taken from professional journals and newsletters. This allows the reader to get the full breadth of Friedman’s arguments, but they are presented for someone who is assumed to be moderately familiar with macroeconomic terminology and theory.
The result is a book which is very interesting to a person who is familiar with basic economics, but which will be a slog for someone hoping to learn the fundamentals. It’s a good intermediary read between Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell and issues of the American Economic Review.
The Whenabouts of Burr by Michael Kurland (1975, Daw)
Kurland is perhaps best known for his series of novels starring Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame, but he has demonstrated a love of science fiction and fantasy as well.
The Whenabouts of Burr allowed him to combine his love of mysteries with his love of science fiction and his appreciation of American history. The plot is simple: someone has stolen the original document for the Constitution, and left another in its place. The replacement document is a Constitution which appears to be completely authentic, but is signed by Aaron Burr instead of Alexander Hamilton.
What appears to be an impossible crime leads the protagonists to alternate dimensions and time travel, as they attempt to track down the culprit in what was obviously a book intended to appeal to the surge in interest in US history just prior to the bicentennial.
The book fails a bit, in trying to be all things to all people. There’s the science fiction element, there’s a strong mystery angle, and the author also attempts to blend in copious humor elements and some action as well. The result feels more like a screenplay treatment than a standard novel.
That said, it is generally successful, and it’s impressive in the scope of what was attempted. It’s fluff, but it’s fluff with some unexpected depth, using the finer details of American history as key plot points without boring the reader.