The End of Prosperity by Arthur B. Laffer, Ph.D., Stephen Moore & Peter J. Tanous (2008, Threshold Editions)
This book articulately presents the case for a free market, lower taxes and avoidance of government regulation. The back cover copy frets that “America is turning its back on trade and globalization”, “The federal budget is spiraling out of control” and “The health care system might be nationalized.”
These concerns are laid out in chapters within the book, as well as other issues, such as “The Flat Tax Solution” and my personal favorite, “Protectionism Then and Now”, which spends fifteen pages explaining how tariffs either caused or worsened the Great Depression.
It’s a convincing work, with the arguments predicated on historical data which is explained for the reader. The book is aimed at people with high school or college educations, but who are not economists. Rather than get deep into the intricacies of various economic theories, the authors present a baseline of why they hold their beliefs.
The problem with the book is that the authors have since demonstrated that they do not actually hold the beliefs they claimed. Their protestations of dire consequences have instead transformed into unapologetic praise of the “dangerous” policies.
The book therefore works on two levels. It’s a sharp primer on supply-side economics, and it’s an illustration of the failures of tribalism (the magic “R”) over policy. Unfortunately, the knowledge that the authors are lying about their motivation and principles may sour any enjoyment of the book.
F in Exams by Richard Benson (2008, Summersdale Publishers)
This editor of this book has taken an experience shared by many… that of staring at an essay question while having no idea what the correct answer might be… and found the humor in the situation.
Most of us, when we draw a blank on a test question, feel a slight temptation to respond with a silly answer. Most of us also recognize that antagonizing the person providing the test by indicating that the exam isn’t being taken seriously is a bad idea.
The editor claims in the introduction that all of the answers to the test questions were provided by actual students. It’s certainly plausible, and there is entertainment value in seeing questions like “What happens to your body when taking a breath?” answered with “Your chest gets bigger.”
Unfortunately, the question/answer combinations are limited to one or two per page, the book is only 128 pages, and most of the responses are as likely to elicit a roll of the eyes as they are a smile.
At $10, the book isn’t worth the price for a fast reader. That said, the book has been through multiple print runs and has spawned many sequels filled with submissions from teachers who have had their own experiences with sarcastic or vapid responses.
If you’re a slow reader, they would make entertaining bathroom or nightstand fodder. If not, they’re a good choice of book to pick up and breeze through while you’re at the library or waiting for someone at a bookstore.
The other suggestion would be, once you’re certain you enjoy the style of the book, that you purchase the “Complete Failure Edition”, which contains all four of the “F” books and bonus material for $15, $10 for e-book. At that point, the value seems to be present.