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Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas Hardcover – April 23, 2013
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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.”
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.”
A splendid book about the rich history and the social, political, and economic strengths and weaknesses of the Lone Star State, where the essentials of the American Dream are still taken seriously.”
Grieder knocks down many of the liberal complaints about the Texas boom.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
[Grieder] uses a journalist's objective eye to offer a primer on the Lone Star State, from its larger-than-life beginnings to what's right with it today: strong economy, job creator extraordinaire, forward-thinking energy policies (it's not all about the oil), an immigration policy that doesn't alienate Latino voters, and population growth.”
Geoff Berg, KPFT Houston's Partisan Gridlock”
A terrific read. If you want to understand anything about Texasmodern Texas or historic Texasyou can't unless you read this book. It is just absolutely terrific.”
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.”
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 politicshow 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.”
You know that college friend, the big, boisterous, obstinate one who was always up to party, quick to fight, and said the most regrettable things, and embarrassed youbut for some reason you just couldn't drop? Well, if Texas were a person, it would be that guy. In this folksy read, Texas Monthly senior editor Erica Grieder explores her home state and its idiosyncrasies, from its fiercely independent streak to its zany characters to its deep distrust of government. While the Texas Model' low taxes, low servicesisn't perfect, Grieder argues that the state remains an economic powerhouse with low unemployment. And if the rest of the country would quit rolling its eyes, it might just learn a thing or two.”
Grieder is a native of San Antonio, and comes at the question of Texas with an insider's perspective that Collins's jokey, stereotype-obsessed book sorely lacked. She knows enough about the state to argue, convincingly, that the rest of America ignores Texas at its peril Grieder is among those who see that Texas, for all its faults and contradictions, is not an outlier but a zealous inheritor of the American ideal and a grateful son of the Union, and that its dogged pursuit of prosperity might be blazing a path forward for the rest of the country.”
Readable and often amusing For those of us who didn't grow up here and study Texas history, Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right' is a brief but perceptive introduction to the state's colorful past and fascinating characters.”
San Antonio Express-News
Grieder delves into Texas' motley past, looks with humor and insight at where we are today, and makes some interesting predictions about our future . the depth of research, objectivity and philosophical underpinnings of Grieder's writing make Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right' a dang good read for native Texans, and for those of us who got here as fast as we could.”
Pacey, colorful, humorous and cutting The book is a commendable achievement. Some people are going to be very annoyed that they didn't write it .Neither apology nor sonnet, the book's treatment of Texas is robustly moderate.”
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.”
The New Yorker
[A] lively and wide-ranging book Her account is equal parts history, apologia, and reportage, and explains everything from why Rick Perry wasn't really advocating for secession to how the repressiveness of Reconstruction in Texas sowed the seeds of the state's aversion to big government.”
Wall Street Journal
Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right' mixes equal parts history, political reporting, back-of-the-envelope economics and cultural commentary. For those who have never enjoyed a plate of Kreuz's barbecue, toured the Alamo or attended the annual Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, Ms. Grieder's thumbnail sketch of Texana will make for an entertaining introduction. But most revealing may be the way she connects the state's current boom with its unique history a well-timed plea for the rest of the country to wake up and learn from its example.”
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I subtracted one star because of what I felt was an animus by the author towards social conservatives. I am not a social conservative but they (who are present in both the Democratic and Republican parties) are a powerful force in Texas (up to a point) and understanding their motivations is important. The author seems to take for granted that they are a retrograde and undesirable influence. This view does not further understanding.
I did notice one issue on page 63 where she states: "The state has expanded gun rights further since then, In 2007, it passed a new "stand your ground" law like the one that became notorious in 2012 when after a Florida man shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who apparently hadn't been doing anything more suspicious than being a black teen age in public at night." Stand your ground law had nothing to do with the Florida case. Recommend reading up about the case on a blog called Legal Insurrection where an attorney and author Mr. Andrew Branca covered the case extensively. Mr Zimmerman was found not guilty of a crime as he acted in self defense when Mr. Martin attacked him and was pounding Mr. Zimmerman's head into the ground.
The parts dealing with oil and Texas were interesting as Texas has been blessed with oil and natural gas, and has worked hard at taking advantage of the opportunity to create jobs and wealth. One of the advantages has been the ability to drill and tap off shore gas and oil. Only Louisiana can explore and recover off shore gas and oil. The federal government has banned the other states from any off shore drilling. It got me to thinking about how some other states like Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alaska, Pennsylvania and North Dakota have aggressively worked to discover and recover oil and gas. Other states like California have stopped after one bad experience of a spill in the Santa Barbara channel, which is less than natural seepage over the years of the oil. I certainly agree that other states could learn something from Texas about holding down taxes, improving student performance without just throwing more money at the teachers unions, and in general reducing regulations where possible. The local state citizens know what is best for their state.
As a young Marine aviator, I was stationed "deep in the heart": Kingsville (as in the enormous King Ranch). As a Marine, I had been stationed in California, Virginia, Florida and Tennessee before arriving in The Lone Star State, first as a pilot-in-training and later as a jet flight instructor. In all these states, only in Texas was I considered a "Texan" simply because I said that I loved being in Texas. (Inagine, if you can, being called by a native a "Californian" just because you like living in LA!)
The hospitality is real and almost universal. Also almost universal is an attitude of supreme confidence that, given a bit of time and a break or two, anything is possible. Among the biggest surprises that Texas offers (and there are many) is the very broad spectrum of successful business enterprises in Texas. Among these surprises is the enormous influx of very high tech enterprises. In fact, to call Texas "little Silicon Valley" might be both inaccurate AND insulting!
Grieder does not fail to cast a bright and dispassionate light on what is not-so-good about Texas. Thus the book is balanced as well as being eminently readable.
I has three take-aways:
1) TX can best be explained as a practical (or perhaps, imperfect) application of conservative populism (which is becoming a bigger topic in political discussions).
2) TX equates rights with economic rights, defined as the ability to earn a living, make a profit and move up the economic ladder. This is interesting because it demonstrates that different groups define rights, or what is important, differently. This leads to the final lesson.
3) Perhaps, there is a larger argument for federalism. States and geographies have different histories and cultures which lead them to give different things, different values. Then perhaps, they should encouraged to pursue these priorities and measure success on their own terms.
If you want to learn some more about Texas and fair reporting about the state, this book is worth reading.