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Economic Facts and Fallacies Hardcover – January 1, 2008
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Economic Facts and Fallacies exposes some of the most popular fallacies about economic issues, and does so in a lively manner and without requiring any prior knowledge of economics by the reader. These include many beliefs widely disseminated in the media and by politicians, such as mistaken ideas about urban problems, income differences, male-female economic differences, as well as economics fallacies about academia, about race, and about Third World countries. One of the themes of Economic Facts and Fallacies is that fallacies are not simply crazy ideas but in fact have a certain plausibility that gives them their staying power and makes careful examination of their flaws both necessary and important, as well as sometimes humorous. Written in the easy-to-follow style of the author
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All of that said, my Sowell reading selection for 2017 ended up being "Economic Facts and Fallacies".
Sowell starts the book off strongly, and anyone who had only a tepid interest in economics could gain valuable insight by committing to read only the first chapter. In chapter one, "The Power of Fallacies", Sowell starts by unpacking what he considers to be the broadest economic falsehoods which he will then spend the rest of the book dissecting. These are: the "zero sum" fallacy, the "fallacy of composition", the "post hoc fallacy", the "chess-pieces fallacy" and the "open-ended fallacy".
The book limits its scope, with only six real chapters of content following. These will overlap somewhat with the subject matter of Sowell's grand work: "Basic Economics".
I found the most insightful chapters of "Economic Facts and Fallacies" to be "Male-Female Facts and Fallacies", "Academic Facts and Fallacies", and "Third World Facts and Fallacies". One specific takeaway that will stay with me was the brief discussion on the college accreditation process (in the "Academic" chapter); something that I had never contemplated or understood as a distortion of the price mechanism in college costs. I feel that a lot of eyes are probably glazing over as they read that, but for those of us that crave an understanding of economics it was really quite insightful.
I gave this book four stars not because there was anything wrong with it, but because I would probably recommend several of Sowell's other works ahead of it. I view it in no different a light than I do Quentin Tarantino films in my personal taste. I recommend them all, but it loses meaning if I were to give all of them five starts without working to parse further. Well, in the end, every Thomas Sowell book is either four or five stars, and that is the best that I can divide them.
I'll finish my review with my favorite passage from the book, found in its closing pages and deeply insightful:
"Perhaps most dangerous of all is the practice of not subjecting fashionable beliefs to the test of facts, but instead accepting or rejecting beliefs according to how well they fit some pre-existing vision of the world."
OK, so it is a bit dated in that was written in 2007. We’d like to think that everyone has developed a better understanding of economics since then, but that is simply not the case. In fact, some of the examples in the book sound remarkably like headlines or speeches we’re seen and heard in the last 6 months.
Impress your friends; tell them you’re reading a book on economics and then impress them even more by sharing a couple of things you’ve learned from this book about income disparity measures, wage discrimination, housing prices, and world economies.
My only disappointment is that the economics of health care are not addressed.
I got this out of the way early for those wary of spin in this book. Mostly the book is just filled with fact after fact that contradicts the common ways of thinking about our culture and why we've evolved the way we have int he u.s.
If you are someone who already has your beliefs in concrete and don't want to think differently, don't bother. If you're open-minded, read through this. I guarantee you'll learn at least 5 things that change your views.