Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
Ahistorical freemarket dogma, not history
on April 30, 2015
two free market fundamentalists got together to force their economic ideology onto the history of the US West. This isn't history, it's their family stories mixed with neoliberal dogma. The authors (ab)use history to make unfounded, normative assertions about how the world "should" work. The main point of the book is to show how absolutely central the state was to the history of US economic development, but as good free market fundamentalists, they work extra hard at trying to mystify this fact. The role of the state is veiled via special code words like "institutional entreprenuers," instead of just speaking plainly and saying that "entrepreneurs" were completely dependent on the US government to protect their private property. This is how free market ideology in the US works, and how it thrives: obfuscation, corruption of language, mythology as history, and white-washing out all that nasty genocide stuff and crony capitalism that might upset the thin-skinned reactionaries.
Instead, in a "history" book, the reader is treated to a series of fantasy examples that help the authors make their ahistorical arguments. You've perhaps heard the joke about three men stranded on a deserted island, trying to figure a way to escape. The brilliant plan of the economist (one of the 3) is that they "assume a boat." That's what these authors want you to do. In lieu of actual history, they invite you to "imagine" and "suppose" all sorts of things about their fake West. They even invented ahistorical fantasy characters with nice cowboy-sounding names to help you along: "Hoss" and "Tex." I'm not making this up. In fact, the authors did, literally. The reader is not given an actual history, but is instead treated to the usual fundamentalist dogma about the wonders of of free market capitalism: "Suppose Tex agrees with Hoss to trade some of his cows for some of Hoss's land." (p. 14, for example). If this is actually how the real history operated, why not provide the real history, instead of lame (and fake) abstractions that have nothing to do with history? This is utopian nonsense; "utopia" means "no where," which is where most of this book takes place. But the authors are trying to cash in on the mythological US west to sell a book and a load of free market crap. What they do not do is give the readers anything close to an actual history. History is based on facts; invented characters and abstract concepts are not facts. They simply are not, and this is simply not a history book, it's dogma with fake cowboys interspersed with anecdotes about their grandparents in Montana. It's an abuse of history, to make purely political arguments. That's fine in and of itself, but the authors don't own up to that, they try to pretend this is all fact-based history, and "objective." That sort of stuff is better found in the meat section of your local grocer, under the name of "bologna."
If you want to get a much more accurate view of how the US west was developed economically, you're better off going to a real historian. Nothing was more important to the development to the west than water. For those with a real curiousity about such things, and not looking simply for ideological clap-trap that reinforces a pre-existing faith, see Worster's "Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West." It's a bit more challenging than reading about non-existent cowboys and ahistorical economic doctrine, but you'll walk away with a much deeper understanding of the US west (and the role of the state in this history, which these authors seem to struggle with, due to their own ideological baggage, but that's what these ideologues are paid to do: spout dogma).
This book is garbage, really only suited for teenagers looking to brainwash themselves in the faith of free market fundamentalism, or old people who never really managed to grow up. I got this book to learn more about property rights, and found the book a complete waste of time and money. I was not amused and think the authors would do better next time to tell their readers what they're about, and not try to pass off a stinking pile as if it were filet mignon. There's something deeply dishonest in this whole thing, but everyone knows that the best liars are those who themselves believe their own lies.
Now if I could only "assume" a full refund...