Deep And Fascinating Exposition Of The History Of An Idea. Soll is a Professor of History and Accounting, and I’m just a college grad who had ECON 101 as an 18 yo HS Senior / college freshman who then went on to discuss the Austrian/ Chicago schools of economics (Friedman, Hayak, von Mises (who actually does *not* get mentioned in this book, unlike the first two), etc) with various libertarian (of both “l” and “L” levels) fellow activists and Party officials, back in the former life where I did those things.
So I’m not going to debate the specifics of Soll’s commentaries here, though I do think that there is room for those more dedicated to true pure free markets to do so – I’m just blatantly nowhere near qualified to do it. 🙂
What I *can* say about this book is that it truly is a deep and fascinating exposition of the history of economic thought regarding what a market is and how it does/ should operate. With von Mises being the only notable exception (discounting also economists who are still alive), Soll takes us on a journey from pre-history through Cicero and the beginning of the Roman Empire (and fall of the Roman Republic) to St Augustine to Machiavelli and the Italians into the rise of the Dutch and then England and France (where we eventually get… who else… Adam Smith… 😉 ) and the other Enlightenment philosophers and from there to America and eventually through the post WWII era and into Keynes, Friedman, and Hayak. Entire libraries have been filled over the centuries talking about the lives and theories of many of these men, and Soll does a good job of showing their thoughts and how at times they were shaped by the world around these men while never delving so deep as to become a treatise specifically on any one person or their contributions to the field. He also manages to avoid most academic and professional economist terms and instead writes in a manner that is more easily accessible to most any reader with so much as a middle school/ high school level of historical knowledge.
Ultimately this is a book that seems destined to become required reading for many ECON 102/ 103 ish classes, and really should be read by anyone seeking to have a general understanding of one of the most discussed foundational issues in modern economics. Very much recommended.
This review of Free Market by Jacob Soll was originally written on July 9, 2022.
Eye Opening, Yet Critically Flawed. Bedat does *phenomenal* work in this text when reporting what she has found in her investigations of trying to track even a “typical” cotton *garment* from the cotton seed to its eventual use and destruction. Using each chapter as a way to trace one particular step in the chain was truly a stroke of editing genius, as it concentrates just what is happening at that particular stage. And some of it – including the direct link, in Bangladesh at minimum, between garment factories and sex work (where in one particular harrowing tale, a source tells Bedat that when she gets in the van to be taken to a factory as a day worker, she sometimes finds herself at a massage parlor instead) – is utterly horrific. It is these sections of the book that are *so* strong that the book *had* to be rated fairly highly.
HOWEVER, when Bedat speaks almost at *all* of policy or her own opinions… well, this is when the critical flaws become apparent. To be fair, she *is* at least somewhat more balanced than many leftists, and outright points out things that ardent Bernie Sanders / AOC types won’t want to hear. But in her attacks of “neoliberalist capitalism” – a running strawman throughout the narrative – … eh, I’ll be a touch gentle and go with “YMMV”. If you happen to be on that side, you’re going to love her commentary here. If, like me, you find yourself more an adherent of Milton, Mises, Hayek, Bastiat, etc (the so-called “Austrian School of Economics)… you’re not going to like her commentary so much. The star reduction, to be clear, isn’t from the fact that I don’t like much of the commentary – but that I can so easily refute it, despite not being a trained economist (just a – clearly 😉 – well read human :D).
And yet, the actual reporting here is simply too strong, too eye opening. This is a book that *needs* to be read for its current issues reporting, if for no other reason – and even if her commentary leads one to contemplate defenestration of the book. If you’ve read Hafsa Lodi’s Modesty or Virginia Postrel’s Fabric of Civilization (among presumably numerous other recent texts on fashion / clothing/ fabric), do yourself a favor and read this one too. Even if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and read all three books. 😉
Very much recommended.
This review of Unraveled by Maxine Bedat was originally written on February 20, 2021.
A Solid Plan. In this book, Fausz and Howell dare to imagine what *can* be re: healthcare in the US. They open it up with a chapter called “Imagine” where they detail their ideal vision for what healthcare can be, and the following chapters are tightly structured around different groupings of the ideals they lay out in the opening chapter. One of the best jobs I’ve ever seen of the old school X-N-X structure of essays that was once taught in American schools (back in ye olden times 30 yrs ago when I was in school anyway), the authors explain the general problem of a chapter, refer back to the subset of the “Imagine” objectives, discuss where we currently are and how the objectives can be obtained, and conclude each chapter with a “key takeaways” that refers back to the “Imagine” objective. In one chapter, they discuss the pharmaceuticals issue and largely discuss (much more generally) the same things Robin Feldmann goes into much more detail on in her recent book Drugs, Money, and Secret Handshakes.
How you think of their ideals and proposed solutions is probably going to be tainted by your own personal politics, but they seem to have an even head on their shoulders. They are upfront and repeated in their claim to be driven by free market capitalism, and they show how this very system – so often derided as impossible in healthcare – can in fact be used to achieve the best results for the most people, both in ideals and in actual implementations that are already existing in the real world.
Overall a very well done book that allows and encourages the reader to follow up with their own thinking on the issue and looking into the various technologies and companies discussed throughout. Very much recommended.
This review of Healthcare Is Killing Us by Aaron Fausz and W. Terry Howell was originally published on June 8, 2019.