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Fubarnomics: A Lighthearted, Serious Look at America's Economic Ills Hardcover – August 24, 2010
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"Freakonomics, meet Fubarnomics. A hilarious book that defines an era only minds like Wright's can get us out of." --Amity Shlaes, author, The Forgotten Man and senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations.
About the Author
Robert E. Wright (Sioux Falls, SD) is the Nef Family Chair of Political Economy at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. For many years he taught business, economic, and financial history at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is also a curator for the Museum of American Finance. He is the coauthor (with David Cowen) of Financial Founding Fathers: The Men who Made America Rich and One Nation under Debt: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We Owe. His articles have appeared in Barron’s, the Los Angles Times, Forbes.com, Moody’s Economy.com, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Reason, among others. He has been a guest on NPR, C-SPAN, The Lou Dobbs Show, the BBC, and Larry Kane: Voice of Reason.
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Top Customer Reviews
As I started the book the author quickly jumped on the blame bandwagon for popular targets. He claims to be on no one's side, but he's definitely not interested in hearing both sides of the story. I felt myself becoming offended because I have been an employee of a City Government, and my father owned his own construction business for many years. The author takes delight in pointing out how terrible all Government is, despite saying repeatedly that the U.S. is the greatest country on Earth (huh?). He goes on and on about how corrupt the construction industry is, as if every private construction business that does "custom" work were filled with pirates and thieves. I don't see any gratitude for the people who are working hard to keep the country from falling apart, any acknowledgement of the the scrutiny that public officials are held to that private business can neatly slip out of (when a business owner is corrupt they get fined, when an official is corrupt, they go to prison, as two people I used to work with were sentenced to YEARS in prison). Likewise, there's no mention of the the forces that work against honest construction business to undermine their profits (greedy home and business owners who commit fraud and theft, refusing to pay their bills, worker's compensation's skyrocketing cost, regulations and codes that are different in every state, city, county, etc). And yes, the author takes a similar view to education and health care as he does to everything else. Just pick on the little guy (raise the cost of health care even more, get rid of the low-cost government colleges) and see what happens.
There are repeated cases in this book of the author taking a problem in one place, and seemingly randomly assigning a cause without providing sufficient evidence or even logical argument to support his hypothesis.
If you want to hear about some real ways to help the economy in various sectors, try the book "End Unemployment Now". The title of that book is misleading, because it points out (using REAL mathematics from an extremely qualified economist) how ending Economic INEQUALITY would have more of a beneficial effect on more areas of life in the U.S. than just about anything else (and yeah, the author of THIS book makes himself look pretty stupid by blaming wealth redistribution for problems that have nothing to do with it). Lack of competition is the source of many of the problems this book points out, but as EUN points out, it's a better idea to introduce more competition any way you can than to just pick on random entities you happen to not like, or draw comparisons that fit poorly.
I give this one two stars because it's not atrocious. It's just not very good.
Wright's (well documented) belief is that far from the name calling on the left and right, the current state of F'ed up (Google: FUBAR) economics is the fault of both aisles of government, combined with an ample dollop of corporate interference that has created a climate where laws work at odds with one another to create a systemic problem deeply rooted in our economy of today.
A typical example of this Fubar-state would be in the field of agriculture, where government pays subsidies to farmers for lost crop yields while at the same time destroying crop surpluses to keep prices shored up. Wright casts a wide swath as he examines problems related to everything from Social Security, to the home mortgage business, to custom home construction to health care, all the while systematically explaining how we got into the conundrums of today and, in his final chapter, how we might best get out of the ditch.
No field is left unscathed as Wright's analysis goes back hundreds of years to shed light on both current day malaises as well as primary examples from the past (slavery, the Civil War, the Great Depression) to illustrate to the reader how competing interests can subvert systems to the point where few if any are realizing the goods intended within these programs and organizations. By examining institutionalized problems from grade inflation on campus to the failure of government bailouts, Wright comes across a tight list of symptoms (perverse incentives, asymmetric information, regulatory arbitrage) that create most of these problems today.
Wright's analysis is too broad and too exacting to go into more detail here, but suffice to say, the author tells it as it really is, with no spin left or right, in a time when this information is more desperately needed than in a long time. We hope the author has enough success to spawn a second volume, as there is certainly much more ground to cover (perhaps, the military, next time?) In the meanwhile, this book should be everywhere.
While I disagree with some of his proposals (e.g. I don't think making patients pay more out of pocket for health care is a good idea), I nonetheless learned a lot from Fubarnomics and highly recommend it to liberals and conservatives alike.