Three Quick Reviews

 Posted by on 22 October 2005 at 6:05 am  Uncategorized
Oct 222005

My friend Greg Perkins just posted this review of Andy Bernstein’s The Capitalist Manifesto to Amazon:

Bernstein does an excellent job, and The Capitalist Manifesto is now my favorite book to hand to friends who, most likely due to cultural osmosis, happen to think that the mixed economy is a nice idea. (It is probably too much to handle for those with the authoritarian impulse who gravitate to socialism, communism, and fascism.) His case is fresh, thorough, and delightfully crushing, drawing on diverse sources all through history and all over the planet for the historical and factual evidence, from which he then extracts the important principles to lay out the philosophical case for laissez-faire.

Reading The Capitalist Manifesto and coming face-to-face with the facts and their implications, I expect most honest people will be left wondering how the vast majority of intellectuals got it (and continue to get it) so tragically wrong: supporting and defending ideas that have caused the brutal deaths of hundreds of millions of people and held down billions in conflict and grinding poverty — while evading and maligning what has lifted billions of people out of a truly Hobbesian existence (“poor, nasty, brutish, and short”).

That stands as the most outrageous disconnect in human history, and Bernstein makes it viscerally real.

I’m glad that Greg posted the review, particularly since he’s been gushing about the book in our phone chats for weeks now!

Don Watkins also recently posted these comments on Ayn Rand Answers, edited by Robert Mayhew, to the Front Range Objectivism discussion list:

I probably don’t need to convince anyone on this list, but I just picked up a copy of Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q&A and having read a significant portion and skimmed the rest, allow me to say: highly recommended!

This book has a number of virtues. Much of this material will be new to many readers. (Only those who have listened to all of Ayn Rand’s Ford Hall Forum lecture Q&A’s will be familiar with the bulk of what’s included in the book.) And even those who have heard Rand’s answers, it is helpful to see them in print, alongside her answers to similar questions. Best of all, we can now locate and reference Rand’s Q&A with ease. (I hope Phil Oliver will include this book in a future edition of his CD-ROM.)

Interestingly, the section that I found most fascinating was Rand’s discussion of her reasons for disliking chess. Her explanation has explosive implications for much of modern economics and game theory — implications that confirm and explain my long-held suspicion of those fields. (I will be expanding on this issue hopefully in the near future, probably on Diana’s blog.)

Augh! Amazon tells me that I can only pre-order it for a November 1st release. So how did Don get his hands on a copy so early?!? In any case, Don’s comments on game theory are waiting patiently in the NoodleFood queue for publication early next week.

Just yesterday, I finished The Abolition of Antitrust, the anthology edited by Gary Hull. I was impressed by many of the essays in this anthology; some offered intriguing new insights on topics related to antitrust. Richard Salsman on the economics of profit and Tom Bowden on the philosophic foundations of contract particularly stood out for me. I also appreciated the examinations of particular antitrust cases, if only because the horrible injustice against the businessmen was glaringly obvious. The book is well worth reading for those gems.

However, I do worry that the anthology isn’t really appropriate for the intelligent layperson, unless already familiar with both Ayn Rand’s philosophy and the basics of antitrust. Introductory chapters on the basic nature of capitalism and antitrust would have helped set the context too often presumed in the essays. Personally, even I felt a bit bewildered jumping into the first essay, a detailed analysis of economic arguments about antitrust. (To be clear, the essay itself was very good. I just felt like I was jumping into a debate midstream.) Even without such introductory chapters, my sense is that the final essay of the book, Gary Hull’s “Antitrust is Immoral,” would have served readers better as the first essay. Also, I wonder why Ayn Rand’s mind-blowing essay on antitrust “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business” was not included in the volume, even as an appendix, although perhaps that was not possible or appropriate for reasons unknown to me.

I do not wish to gripe too much, as I’m very glad that the book was published. And perhaps I’ve misconstrued the intended audience. In any case, I’m very happy to recommend it to the readers of NoodleFood.

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