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Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas [Kindle Edition]

Erica Grieder
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Texas may well be America’s most controversial state. Evangelicals dominate the halls of power, millions of its people live in poverty, and its death row is the busiest in the country. Skeptical outsiders have found much to be offended by in the state’s politics and attitude. And yet, according to journalist (and Texan) Erica Grieder, the United States has a great deal to learn from Texas.

In Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right, Grieder traces the political history of a state that was always larger than life. From its rowdy beginnings, Texas has combined a long-standing suspicion of government intrusion with a passion for business. Looking to the present, Greider assesses the unique mix of policies on issues like immigration, debt, taxes, regulation, and energy, which together have sparked a bonafide Texas Miracle of job growth. While acknowledging that it still has plenty of twenty-first-century problems to face, she finds in Texas a model of governance whose power has been drastically underestimated. Her book is a fascinating exploration of America’s underrated powerhouse.


Editorial Reviews

Review

Chris Hayes, MSNBC Host and author of Twilight of the Elites
“Thirty years from now there's a good chance that most of America will look like Texas and somehow, improbably, using some strange dark prose magic, Erica Grieder has managed to convince me that might actually not be so bad. Written with verve and nuance, this is a fascinating, provocative read. If there were a book like this for each state I'd read every one.”

Bill Bishop, co-author of The Big Sort: Why The Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart
“Texas isn’t the uninhabitable right wing bully East Coast howlers imagine and it’s not the open range paradise described by free market myth-makers. Erica Grieder describes the state as it is — a place shaped (and misshapen) by its past and by the entirely human characters who live there. She is a sure-footed guide, pointing out what is to be admired and warning when we had best watch our step.”

Publishers Weekly
“Journalist Grieder pens a primer on Texas that is serious and lighthearted in turn. She might as well have referred to the ‘strange genesis’ of Texas in her subtitle, as she runs through historical highlights and lowlights from the state’s beginnings to explain its present. Grieder’s account includes notably bizarre episodes, including the 1951 election in which both the governor and the state attorney general ran on both Democratic and Republican tickets, with the Democratic incarnations of each pulling easy victories…. Anyone curious about or proud of Texas will find something of interest, as will readers of current politics.”

Kirkus Reviews
“In this brisk and sassy counterweight to recent book-length complaints about Texas, Grieder challenges common prejudices about the state and insists that Texas is a better place than people expect… [Grieder] delivers an extensive, perceptive analysis of the state’s politics—how it turned Republican in the 1990s and the prospects for a growing Hispanic population to bring it back into the Democratic column…. Due to the fact that Texas is thriving while much of America struggles, it might be wise to consider what Texas is doing right.”

Publishers Weekly
“Journalist Grieder pens a primer on Texas that is serious and lighthearted in turn. She might as well have referred to the ‘strange genesis’ of Texas in her subtitle, as she runs through historical highlights and lowlights from the state’s beginnings to explain its present. Grieder’s account includes notably bizarre episodes, including the 1951 election in which both the governor and the state attorney general ran on both Democratic and Republican tickets, with the Democratic incarnations of each pulling easy victories…. Anyone curious about or proud of Texas will find something of interest, as will readers of current politics.”

Bryan Burrough, New York Times
“Ms. Grieder’s is the rare book that takes stock of the Texas model without ridiculing many of its traditions and politicians…This is a good book, and Ms. Grieder’s clear, vivid writing makes it downable in a single afternoon…. This is a promising debut from a promising young author.”

Texas Observer
“An astute observer of this state’s contradictions, and she avoids the caricature and cliché that plague so many books about Texas by non-Texans. Her forays into Texas history to explain the state’s myriad oddities are useful.”

Austin Chronicle
“Grieder takes on so much in this book that maybe its subtitle – ‘What America Can Learn From the Strange Genius of Texas’ – should be expanded to include Texans as well. There's somethin

About the Author

Erica Grieder is a senior editor at Texas Monthly. From 2007-2012, she covered Texas as the southwest correspondent for The Economist, to which she still contributes. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Spectator, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and the New Republic. She lives in Austin.

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is Texas The Future? April 23, 2013
Format:Hardcover
"Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right" is a blend of Texas history and modern politics that details how Texas continues to be so unique among the other 49 states, even after 150 years in the union. The book provides a very balanced look at a complex and undeniably important state. Texas's small government but pro-business ethos is well documented and put into historical perspective. The book is not the scholarly work of a political scientist, but Grieder's journalistic experience makes this a highly readable and informative introduction to the state and its people.

Grieder's book is very similar to Gail Collins' "As Texas Goes." Although Grieder mentions Collins only once, "Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right" often reads like a direct response to Collins' less-informed and much more critical account. Whereas Collins travelled to Texas for interviews and bemusedly wrote about the state as though it were a carnival freak show, Grieder is a longtime Texas journalist who takes her subject seriously. She does not paper over Texas's faults or eccentricities, but she does succeed in showing that despite its obvious problems, "Texas isn't really as horrible as everyone thinks."

Grieder too often accentuates her casual writing style with unnecessary jokes, but her depth of research and honesty more than make up for any style flaws. Due to Texas's size, demographics, and economic growth, learning about Texas is in many ways learning about America's future, and this book is a great place to start.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The myths and realities of "America's America" April 27, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this to be a worthwhile book about Texas because:

A) It's a serious, in-depth study of Texas that also happens to be witty, funny in places, and easy to read.

B) It strikes the right balance in discerning Texas' realities from its mythologies. Like most other things that seem to be larger than life, the State of Texas consists of a core reality that has been embellished by a layered-on mythology. Author Erica Grieder separates the core reality from the embellishments of exaggeration and selective recall.

C) Grieder also takes a fair and balanced view of explaining how much of Texas' storied growth is genuine. Liberals, who tend to be critical of Texas' low tax and small government orientation, often seek to debunk the "Texas Miracle." They often seek to portray the state's job and population growth as resulting from the immigration of impoverished Mexicans and poor Americans from other states who are desperate to work at minimum wage jobs in "low tech" or "dirty" industries like ranching and oil drilling. They often portray the state as a sort of a gigantic trailer park filled with poverty-stricken, welfare-receiving, crime-ridden populations of mal-educated Whites and poor Hispanics. There are of course plenty of people like that in Texas, just as there are in every other state, but how true to real-life proportions IS the Liberal critique?

Grieder begins by making a point that I've picked up on during my 45 years of working off-and-on and visiting Texas --- that Texas is "America's America."

America sees itself as the "New World" where liberty-seeking and opportunity-seeking immigrants from other countries can prosper to their utmost potential.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An indispensable handbook for non-Texans April 29, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Big, Hot Cheap and Right is a timely and balanced account of what makes Texas Texas. The book combines just the right mix of history, anecdotes and contemporary knowledge about Texas. While she does include some pointed defenses of the state, Grieder spends the majority of the book simply explaining Texas to non-Texans. Grieder expertly weaves the state's history and people together into an honest, lucid narrative about Texas.

This is not a simple brag-book about Texas though. Grieder does not gloss over the state's past and present tribulations. Rather, the book explains how and why Texas is the way it is and why the state's "model" has been so successful relative to other states (and many countries).

America, and the world, should indeed pay attention to and draw lessons from Texas. Ms. Grieder's book is a wonderful place to start.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Texas, Like it or Not May 7, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I would recommend this quote for two types of people: those who like Texas, and those who don't (people falling into neither category should instead consult a book on introductory logic).

If you like Texas, then you will enjoy this book for the rich descriptions of Texas' history, and the insights into its culture, politics, and ethos.

If you don't like Texas, then reading this book may help to disabuse you of some of the more common negative perceptions about Texas that are out there in America's collective consciousness. Grieder's book manages to achieve this task without the chauvinism that can sometimes accompany Texas boosterism.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Yes, Texans can be a little tiresome on the topic of their home state and some of their political leaders occasionally do and say silly things. But the state's economy has shown remarkable growth and diversification over the past two decades. And, already a "minority majority" state, its demographic changes foreshadow what's in store the country as a whole.
The "Texas Miracle" might not be the divine gift to the nation that Gov. Rick Perry claims. But neither is it the sham that some liberal pundits would have you believe. That's the thesis of "Big, Hot, Cheap and Right: What America Can Learn From the Strange Genius of Texas."
Erica Grieder, its author, is a senior editor at Texas Monthly Magazine and a former writer for The Economist. She's also a Texan, but this is no defensive screed. She is unsparing in her descriptions of the foibles of her statesmen and women. "Maybe the reason Texas's eccentricities excite so much suspicion is that Texans are still so belligerently proud of their state," Grieder writes. "That's a quirk that has annoyed outsiders since the frontier days."
The book traces Texas history and uses economic and population data - as well as years of reporting - to show that most Texans are not as doctrinaire as their elected officials claim to be. Instead, they come from a tradition in which the government was incapable to doing much for people and now practice a pro-business pragmatism. It's led to growth well beyond the energy sector. "Texans are, ultimately, a pragmatic people," Grieder writes. "Politicians and their excesses can be justified by the economy alone. So maybe it doesn't matter if the state's leaders breathe fire, pray for rain, turn up at Tea Party rallies and spend all day suing the federal government.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good history, not much advice
A good overview of Texas history, focusing largely on the nineteenth century. But fairly lacking in the promise of the title: not much substance on "what America can learn from ... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Daniel Lipsher
2.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed
Felt like I was reading a long, disjointed Texas Monthly article. Kept waiting for the punch line or for her to prove her point.
Published 1 month ago by Karen
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin on current-day analysis
I bought the book on the strength of the author's appearance at last year's Texas Book Festival. I was impressed there by Ms. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tony Hurson
4.0 out of 5 stars Texas
I've always been a little curious about Texas fanaticism, and a little envious. I get it now. This book makes me want to read more about the Lone Star State. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Staci M. Waddle
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight
Well researched. Wonderful writing style. Ms. Grieder unwraps many elements of Texas culture rooted in history and her insight into Texas politics and politicians is top rate. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Wayne Bost
2.0 out of 5 stars Grieder May Not Have it Right
I have lived in several states and spent most of two decades in three different regions of Texas, so I believe that I have a pretty good feel for what makes Texas unique. Read more
Published 2 months ago by 78degreegirl
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny but Redundant
Parts of Grieder's writing were entertaining and made me laugh, but I kept thinking it could have been half as long.
Published 3 months ago by Jane L. Wells
5.0 out of 5 stars Texas! How things can work
Great book. In this age of big government federal over reach it is refreshing to see an alternative (and successful!) approach highlighted. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kimberly
3.0 out of 5 stars She drank the Kool Aid, But didn't Inhale
After all the terrible stuff written about Texas (see Gail Collins), it's a relief to read something that takes a shot at objectivity. Read more
Published 6 months ago by RJS
3.0 out of 5 stars Celebrate Trickle down politics
Big Hot Cheap and "what?". Sorry, there isn't any strange genius detailed in this book. Texas produces a lot of oil (high prices recently. Read more
Published 7 months ago by James H. Booth
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