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Unwarranted Intrusions: The Case Against Government Intervention in the Marketplace Hardcover – May 19, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (May 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471687138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471687139
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,799,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"UNWARRANTED INTRUSIONS MERITS INCLUSION IN THE SHORT LIST OF THE BEST BUSINESS BOOKS OF THE YEAR. MAKE THAT THE DECADE."-from the Boston Globe article, Politicians often play Robin Hood in reverse --By Cecil Johnson (07/14/2006)

From the Inside Flap

Politicians invariably cite lofty purposes to justify government intervention in the marketplace. On closer examination, the intercessions usually turn out to be clever schemes for buying support from special interests with taxpayers' money. The already advantaged turn out to be the biggest beneficiaries, while the resulting misallocation of resources afflicts society at large.

In Unwarranted Intrusions, well-known financial commentator Martin Fridson turns his sharp eye for investment deceptions and accounting ruses to subterfuges practiced by the U.S. government. His exhaustive research reveals politicians from both sides of the aisle basing legislation on elementary economic fallacies. George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton play their parts in the story, along with less likely figures such as Al Jolson and Bozo the Clown.

The opening part, A Nation of Subsidies, focuses on government meddling that ranges from trade protection and publicly financed athletic stadiums to subsidies for the arts. You'll chuckle as Fridson gleefully debunks the supposed market failures that officeholders use to justify their machinations.

Part two, Restraint of Trade, assails government intrusions into ordinary commercial activities, such as apartment rentals, the operation of automatic teller machines, and even television audience ratings. You'll be forced to reexamine your assumptions about protecting the public against volatile stock markets and music industry payola.

In the final part, Telling It Like It Isn't, Fridson details how politicians rely on misrepresentations to foist badly conceived policies on the electorate. From exaggerating their impact on the nation's economic performance to periodically pretending to clean up campaign finance, Fridson shows that politicians repeatedly prove themselves to be masters of false advertising. Costly government intervention operates on such a vast scale that there is no chance of immediately dismantling it all. The good news is that one small victory can represent a huge gain in public well-being. Filled with in-depth insight and practical advice, Unwarranted Intrusions will open your mind to the possibility of putting our dysfunctional system back on track.

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Format: Hardcover
I agree with nearly everything that the author says. His arguments against the economic effectiveness of government subsidies and intervention in the markets appeal to my libertarian streak and it is well known that many (most?) of the government programs are economically counterproductive. Some are downright silly. One of the most ridiculous, primarily because it went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, is the case of Karen Finley. She was an "artist" whose primary area of expertise was smearing her naked body with food. In special instances, she raised money by having people pay to lick the food, primarily chocolate, off her body. When her NEA grant application was rejected, Finley sued. So silly, yet so significant. For the real issue was twofold.

*) Should the federal government use tax money to fund art?

*) If the answer to the first question is yes, what are the bounds on the art?

And this also raises a more general question concerning the use of public money to benefit small groups, the often-reviled "special interests." For if the federal government could not stop funding the fringe artists, there is no hope of stopping the real expensive cases of corporate welfare.

One of the greatest is the enormous subsidy paid to American farmers to raise surplus food. Not only is it an expensive and deceptive program, it helps to keep subsistence farmers in other countries in poverty. As Fridson points out, while politicians demand that the program be kept alive to preserve the family farm, the reality is that there really is no such thing anymore. Billions of dollars in payments go to large corporate farms, which are the only ones that can grow the cheap food demanded by society at a price that it will accept.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Katharine M. Hikel on June 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Citizens, rejoice! Marty Fridson, the D'Artagnan of finance, is back with his sharp and delicate sword, this time taking on the world of subsidy. Fridson is the eminently readable writer, historian, and Wall Street financial whiz whose books "It Was A Very Good Year" and "How To Be A Billionaire" offer wicked glimpses into the world of wealth accumulation, happily skewering the institutions from which all our rich fantasies spring. He now takes aim at the perennial use of government (read taxpayers') money to support troubled and misguided programs - Social Security! The FDIC! Fannie Mae! - which, he says, are better off left to the self-correcting forces of the marketplace.

Fridson gives lucid histories of government intervention - starting in 1867 with campaign-finance reform - showing that regulations and subsidized programs, dear to our hearts and psyches, that were created to reduce disparities in wealth and income, have generally achieved the opposite effect.

Politically-motivated bailouts -- aid to farmers, rent control, and property tax breaks for businesses -- create artificial shortages and gluts, making some people (usually the upper tax brackets: agribusiness, landlords, and CEOs) better off, at the cost of making everyone else worse - locally and globally. And the only people these subsidies invariably benefit are the politicians, who promote them to grease whichever wheel of the voters' cart is squeaking the loudest.

Market failure in any sector means disparity: goods and services are not allocated efficiently. Fridson says that government intervention in the economy is only appropriate when the market fails to produce an optimal outcome - in education, for example, where the need for skilled workers outweighs individuals' demands.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John E. Tamny on May 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Fridson is amazing. The research here is exhaustive, but at the same time highly accessible and enlightening.

Fridson quotes everyone from classical economists such as Ricardo to contemporary politicians in showing how unwarranted intrusions by the government into our lives invariably makes us much worse off. For those who love to debate, this book is a must. Fridson uncovers the various myths about Ethanol, payola, and our "low" savings rate. An essential book.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By bootstar on June 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Great text from Fridson - a must-read for anyone with any interest in the inner workings of the U.S. government's involvement in economy. Fridson exposes inefficiencies all over the place without sparing either side of the aisle. The writing is well-versed, but at the same time extremely easy to follow.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bruns grayson on August 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Check out Dr Trixie above. Then read the book--after you buy it. Then check out the rest of the works of Fridson, as clear a writer on finance and political economy as there is. Blessed with ironic detachment from and a forgiving heart for the stupid and greedy who make our policies and populate our markets.
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