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An Outsider's Look At Texas
on April 6, 2013
"As Texas Goes" is a full-throated critique of Texas state policy and the ills it exports to the rest of America. Collins devotes the book to arguing that no matter how good Texas may look to outsiders (e.g. low unemployment, low cost of living, no income tax), it is a actually a blot on the union that parasitically steals other states' companies and college graduates, while foisting upon the country pollution, censored textbooks, and loony Republican politicians.
Collins' argument is easy to follow, if not always convincing. Collins blames Texas for, among other things, the Savings & Loan Crisis, No Child Left Behind, and presidents who "have led the country into every land war . . . since Vietnam." Often, she seems to work backwards; first announcing a conclusion, then presenting one-sided evidence with sarcasm and stale rhetoric. Other times, she abandons even the pretense of serious analysis. For example on page 151, when discussing Texas's pro-business policy, she states, "Perhaps Texas has the recipe for growing the national economy. Great! On the other hand, maybe job growth is mainly due to accidents of the state's location, and the competition is just a way to blackmail other states into bankrupting themselves for no good reason whatsoever expect corporate greed. Of course, the truth could lie somewhere in the middle . . . but for the moment, I'm going with the blackmail-and-bankrupt scenario." This is not how a serious author would write on a complex subject.
This is a short book, but Collins packs in a lot of material and a lot of unoriginal, generalized observations. On page 165 she runs through a familiar "you didn't build that" argument by noting how the federal government funds the interstate highway system, crop subsidies, military bases, and "massive tax credits" for oil production. These policies of course are not unique to Texas, but no matter. Collins wryly concludes this riff by highlighting Texas's lack of gratitude for federal largesse. "Not looking for thanks, really. Or maybe just a little."
In short, if you read Collins in the New York Times and enjoy her writing, you will probably like this book very much. Readers wanting a more thoughtful treatment should look elsewhere. I would have learned much more about Texas from a more open-minded author who is more familiar with the state. Collins admits to being fascinated by Texas's peculiarities, and this shallow curiosity mixed with her obvious scorn makes her a less than trustworthy guide to a state and its people.