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Hypocrites & Half-Wits: A Daily Dose of Sanity from Cafe Hayek Hardcover – July 1, 2012
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About the Author
Donald J. Boudreaux served as chairman of the department of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, from 2001 to 2009. He runs a blog, CafeHayek.com, with Russ Roberts and has lectured in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe. He is the author of Globalization (2008), and his writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, Regulation, Reason, Ideas on Liberty, the Washington Times, the Journal of Commerce, the Cato Journal, and several scholarly journals.
Before chairing the economics department at George Mason, Boudreaux was president of the Foundation for Economic Education; associate professor of legal studies and Economics at Clemson University, and assistant professor of economics at George Mason University.
Top customer reviews
Why is it necessary to read about these wrong opinions? Because the misconseptions that are repeated over and over on the radio & television and in the newspapers are not that many (the state can do better job allocating resources and managing than people themselves; that minimum wages help the poor; etc. etc.) and chances are you hear the same thoughts from people around yourself. Donald Boudreaux's book gives you a set of tools which you can use to explain to your friends and family why these popular ideas are wrong or misguided, and never work as intended.
I've been visiting Don Boudreaux's Cafe Hayek website for a couple of years and I purchased this book as a way to say thank you for his time spent maintaining the website. I give it 4 out of 5 stars only because it is just a bit more monotonous to read that I may have liked. But if you listen to politicians and talking heads and wonder why is it that they talk bulshit and nobody around you gives a damn, then you will enjoy reading 'Hypocricies & Half-Wits' and know you're not alone out there :)
So when Randi Weingarten says markets won't solve the schooling crisis, Boudreaux asks her to imagine groceries being supplied the way education is. Folks would pay property taxes, and the Government would spend the taxes on building and supplying grocery stores. Of course you would be "assigned" to your neighborhood "public" grocery store where you would receive your weekly allotment of groceries for "free". Grocery administrators would decide the quality and quantity of groceries you would receive. Wealthier counties would have better stores, and Boudreaux suspects that the quality of the local public supermarket would play a major role in your choice of where to live if you could afford to move.
When a Mr. Warner writing to the "Los Angeles Times", hoping to defeat members of Congress who voted against Obamacare, asked readers to remember these opponents "Every time you have to pay an extravagant co-pay ... or deductible", Boudreaux chides Mr. Warner for wanting Boudreaux to be angry "whenever I have to pay for resources I use - to be peeved that someone else isn't footing my bill - to be upset that Uncle Sam hasn't arranged for me to free-ride on other peoples' nickels - to strike back at politicians who refuse to force Mr. Warner to pay my health-care expenses and me to pay his." Boudreaux rejects, as he puts it, "Mr. Warner's childish advice and his predatory principles."
Even if you are not a libertarian or a supporter of the free market, this is a book to give to your high school or college-age child to ask: "Ok, you know we don't agree with this, but what's the most logical way to refute it?" It's perfect to spark a dinner table conversation (assuming they still exist). And I suspect that everyone will agree with Boudreaux on something because libertarians tend to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. For example, you can tell Boudreaux applauds Obama's recent order reducing the deportation of illegal immigrants because our economy shouldn't deprive itself of valuable resources. As Boudreaux says: "All great societies are open societies. They fear neither competition nor different cultures."
And as Hurricane Debby is approaching Galveston, Texas, this week, it's amusing to read the letter from September 2008 to a radio station about its reporter's interview with the angry resident who went to the gas station "to top off" before Hurricane Ike hit. She was furious that prices had gone up $0.50 a gallon from the day before. "It's ridiculous, Ike hasn't hit yet!" Boudreaux said the reporter should have asked: "Why are you topping off? Ike hasn't hit yet." The operator of the gasoline station acted in anticipation of the imminent landfall of Ike the same way the motorist did, by recognizing that a resource, normally readily available, might be more scarce for a time.
"Hypocrites & Half-Wits" is engaging and provoking, always a good combination. It's a useful antidote to the popular sources of news which often provide information that isn't quite accurate, in fact the opposite. Boudreaux's gentle skepticism is a tonic most will enjoy and can think about after they closed the cover.
Donald J. Boudreaux is a professor at George Mason University: an economist and a lawyer, he was Chairman of the Economics Department at GMU for 8 years, and currently teaches in GMU's economics department and law school. He is a staunch advocate of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and non-interventionist foreign policy. He frequently writes letters-to-the-editor in support of these principles, in opposition to newspaper articles/editorials that counter these principles, or display what he believes to be economic illiteracy. But newspaper editors are not the only targets of Boudreaux's pearls of wisdom: he will write a letter to anyone whom he encounters displaying economic illiteracy or advocating Big Government, whether it is a radio talk show host regurgitating talking points that have no basis in sound economics; a politician arguing for ever-more governmental power; or a blogger arguing that America is somehow economically harmed by importing cheap goods made in foreign countries.
He almost certainly has the world record for letters written to the editor -- he has written nearly 5,000 letters over the past decade! Of course, some of the letters he writes ultimately get printed in the newspapers.
This book is a selection of 100 of the letters he has written. (NOTE: Boudreaux sends all his daily letters to his large listserve; information on how to join the listserve is available in the book. He posts about half of his letters at the popular blog called Cafe Hayek, which he runs with his GMU colleague Russ Roberts).
In addition to being a brilliant economist, Boudreaux has two particularly great skills: Firstly that of Brevity, and secondly, what I like to call Easy Elucidation for Everyone. He has an incredible ability to impart a lesson on economics so that it is easily understandable to anyone, in a very concise manner: most of his letters are 200 words or less. That ability to explain a point so that even a person who has never studied economics can understand it easily, all in a letter than can be read in under 2 minutes, is a priceless gift.
I can personally attest to this: I have never studied economics formally, yet I have read and understood every letter Boudreaux has written over the past 6 years with the same ease that I understand the box score of a baseball game. I have more than held my own throughout numerous debates/discussions on important economic concepts with college-educated friends, ALMOST ENTIRELY DUE TO THE EDUCATION I RECEIVED FROM READING BOUDREAUX'S DAILY LETTERS!
This book is a great read whether or not you agree with Boudreaux's political views: if you do, then this book will give you great ammunition in support of your beliefs when you are arguing against those with different political beliefs. And if you do not share Don's opinion on some or all issues, this book will do a great job in challenging your views and seeing another side you may not have considered previously. Either way, this book will make you think about important issues in ways you never thought of before.
In addition to economic/fiscal issues, Boudreaux's letters address many other subjects, including: individual liberty, governmental regulation of private behavior, nanny statism, the war on drugs, the immoral hunger for power that drives so many politicians, and foreign policy.
The letters may make you laugh at idiotic comments uttered by radio hosts and callers; angry at the economic ignorance spewing from certain print outlets; or puzzled at how certain politicians ever got elected (and re-elected and re-elected and re-elected!)
Whether you follow politics closely or casually; whether you agree with all, some, or none of Boudreaux's views; and whether you've ever previously read any of Don's letters or will be reading them for the first time, this book will be a very enjoyable read.
The book was compiled in a very attractive format: Each letter is printed on one page; and on the facing page, there is an item that somehow relates to the letter: it may be a cartoon, a quote, or a few lines of bio regarding a famous person mentioned in the letter, or an easy-to-understand graph demonstrating eg. the fallacy of population control as a positive economic policy.
Everything is written clearly, concisely, and fact-driven, and where necessary, supported with appropriate statistics: there is absolutely none of the nonsensical straw-man arguments or cliche's that are sadly what passes for much of political discussion today -- whether in newspapers, on blogs, talk radio, or cable television -- on both sides of the political aisle.
For years, I've been recommending Boudreaux's letters to my personal friends, and they've all told me how much they love reading them; well, now that this wonderful book has been released, I enthusiastically recommend it to all of you, my Amazon friends ;-)
I am sure you will all find "HYPOCRITES AND HALF-WITS" interesting, informative, and fun, all at the same time!