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The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism Paperback – April 9, 2007
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From the Inside Flap
Most commonly accepted economic "facts" are wrong Here's the unvarnished, politically incorrect truth. The liberal media and propagandists masquerading as educators have filled the world--and deformed public policy--with politically correct errors about capitalism and economics in general. In The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to Capitalism, myth-busting professor Robert P. Murphy, a scholar and frequent speaker at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, cuts through all their nonsense, shattering liberal myths and fashionable socialist cliches to set the record straight. Murphy starts with a basic explanation of what capitalism really is, and then dives fearlessly into hot topics like:
* Outsourcing (why it's good for Americans) and zoning restrictions (why they're not)
* Why central planning has never worked and never will
* How prices operate in a free market (and why socialist schemes like rent control always backfire)
* How labor unions actually hurt workers more than they help them
* Why increasing the minimum wage is always a bad idea
* Why the free market is the best guard against racism
* How capitalism will save the environment--and why Communist countries were the most polluted on earth
* Raising taxes: why it is never "responsible"
* Why no genuine advocate for the downtrodden could endorse the dehumanizing Welfare State
* The single biggest myth underlying the public's support for government regulation of business
* Antitrust suits: usually filed by firms that lose in free competition
* How tariffs and other restrictions "protect" privileged workers but make other Americans poorer
* The IMF and World Bank: why they don't help poor countries
* Plus: Are you a capitalist pig? Take the quiz and find out! Breezy, witty, but always clear, precise, and elegantly reasoned, The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to Capitalism is a solid and entertaining guide to free market economics. With his twelve-step plan for understanding the free market, Murphy shows why conservatives should resist attempts to socialize America and fight spiritedly for the free market.
About the Author
Robert P. Murphy earned his Ph.D. in economics from New York University . A former professor at Hillsdale College , he is now an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute and an analyst at Laffer Associates. He has worked as both an economics scholar and lecturer, as an investment/business analyst, and as a writer of popular journalism on economic topics. He lives with his wife and son in Nashville , Tennessee .
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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The book does contain a number of very interesting points. Some include about how the New Deal failed to cure the Depression, or about how the free market would end slavery and child labour naturally.
However, these good points are offset by too many dubious claims, for instance about how a privatised road market would end congestion. Whilst there would be more efficient use of labour in road building, there is likely to be a major problem here. If (as I imagine) vehicle companies took over ownership of roads (which Murphy never says impossible or even improbable), one would obtain a system where profit gives unparalleled incentive to create more traffic. This would no doubt mean completely uncalled-for roads get built and other more efficient transport is outcompeted. The extremely low cost (in terms of damage to roads) of road use by private cars makes me exceedingly suspicious that privatisation of roads can end congestion. The market price for privatised road use by cars would be sufficiently low to favour operators who charged prices too low to reduce congestion. (With commercial vehicles, the story would be different since they cause much more damage to roads).
Similarly, when discussing endangered species he does not realise that many dealers in (say) rhino horn have a stake in ensuring rhinos become extinct. Also, many endangered species are of no potential commercial value either for their parts or as a tourist attraction. This is especially true of many of the globe's most biologically diverse environments such as the kwongan heathlands of southwestern Western Australia, which completely lack the iconic animal species that would make their conservation economic in a free market. His discussion of professional sports salaries is also rather flawed. Whilst the seemingly astronomical professional sports salaries today might be reflective of market conditions, Murphy fails to note that higher salaries in sport do not necessarily reflect higher standards. It is more likely that they reflect better sponsorship. I indeed think one reason people complain that professional athletes' salaries are too high is that very little of them is actually paid by spectators or members. The effects of wage ceilings and other market controls that have been characteristic of sport in the past could also be discussed but are omitted.
Although Murphy likewise says capitalism is essential to a free society, he fails to clearly define this - even implicitly saying the right to strike is not a basic freedom.
The extremely poor sourcing - worse even than in the appalling Guide to Global Warming - makes this book very dubious. There are certainly better economics books out there for those who need them.
Lovers of Milton Friedman may be curious to see one of his last appearances on film. He, along with many other scholars, is interviewed in the excellent documentary The Corporation It's a truly politically incorrect guide to how so-called "capitalism" works these days.
Part of the problem, of course, is that the free market is so complex. As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn noted in "Leftism Revisited," a clear, simple -- and deadly -- idea like Marxism "can be explained to the merest child in a matter of minutes. (Conversely, to explain the workings of the free market economy to an adult would take weeks of hard work.)"
I'm sure Bob Murphy put in more than "weeks of hard work" to prepare this guide. As an "Austrian" economist, he is perfectly suited to write a book like this for a general audience. Apart from being right on the theory, Austrians are far less likely than members of other schools to get the reader lost in a maze of graphs, charts, and the minutia of comparative statistics. Instead, this is a powerful, lucid, and very readable book that, while concentrating on the fundamentals, will give any reader -- up to and including "dyed in the wool conservative" Republicans -- much to think about. But beware of exploding myths!
So much of the "Politically Incorrect Guide" series is devoted to an energetic goring of sacred cows, and "The P.I.G. to Capitalism" is no exception. A huge amount of what we take as revealed truth about how an economy functions, and the role of the government in "keeping the economy going," is revealed as so much propaganda. Certainly, it will take more than 200 pages to really convince people that "trade deficits" are meaningless, that outsourcing is good for workers, that the Depression wasn't a "market failure," among the many counterintuitive arguments the author presents here. But few books, in my experience, have done as good a job at laying out the essential arguments and pointing the way to further study.
It's a shame this book (and indeed this entire series) should be needed as badly as it is. But for the open-minded and thoughtful reader, or the defender of capitalism looking to shore up her argumentation, Bob Murphy's "Guide" is an entertaining read, a useful evangelical tool, and a reference worth keeping around.