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Uncle Sam Can't Count: A History of Failed Government Investments, from Beaver Pelts to Green Energy Hardcover – April 15, 2014
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From the Back Cover
In their fascinating history of government misadventure, Burton and Anita Folsom show why the Obama administration's urge to pick winners and losers in the private sector is doomed to fail.
From the days of George Washington through World War II to today, government investments have failed dismally. They not only drain the Treasury of cash but also impede economic growth, and they hurt the very companies they try to support.
Why does federal aid seem to have a reverse Midas touch? Simply put, federal officials don't have the same abilities or incentives as entrepreneurs. In addition, federal control always produces political control of some kind. What is best for politicians is not often what works in the marketplace. Politicians want to win votes, and they can do so by giving targeted CEOs benefits while dispersing costs to others.
Uncle Sam Can't Count is filled with examples of government failures and free market triumphs, including
- John Jacob Astor, who owned a fur company that defeated a government-funded rival—supported by George Washington himself—by actively cooperating in trade with the Native Americans instead of trying to tell them what they wanted.
- The Wright brothers, who, with two thousand dollars of their own money, successfully flew the first manned flight, while the government threw money at Samuel Langley, whose two failed attempts at flight both landed in the Potomac River.
- George Mitchell, who spent seventeen years developing fracking, after the high taxes on oil drilling were repealed, while the government subsidized ethanol.
Uncle Sam Can't Count is a hard-hitting critique of a government completely incapable of either picking winners or learning from its many mistakes, which demonstrates why business should be left to private entrepreneurs.
About the Author
Burton W. Folsom Jr. is the Charles Kline Professor of History and Management at Hillsdale College, and the author of New Deal or Raw Deal?, The Myth of the Robber Barons, and FDR Goes to War, written with his wife, Anita. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, Policy Review, and Human Events.
Anita Folsom has pursued a career in both politics and the teaching of history, including teaching American history at Hillsdale College. She served in the Electoral College in 1988. Since 2006 she has directed Hillsdale College's Free Market Forum, a national colloquium for college teachers. She is coauthor of FDR Goes to War and has written for the Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, Human Events, and the Detroit News.
Top Customer Reviews
Whereas the traditional textbooks have the general theme of "a problem occurred, often due to the failure of free markets to self-regulate, and the government came in and fixed it." The theme of this book is instead, "government regulations impeded markets, creating and deepening misery." It is important to not only speak about the intentions of government action, but the results. Most textbooks content themselves to superficially describe a historical problem and then the government policy created with the intent of addressing it. The full causes of the problems in the first place and the effects of the well-intentioned policies are seldom questioned. This book addresses these conventional failings.
Burt and Anita Folsom's insights are sound, as in their other books, but they are sometimes repetitive and patronizing in their tone. This is especially true of the introduction. The tone of his early books, "Myth of the Robber Barons" and "Michigan Entrepreneurs" was more focused and scholarly. This book includes many of the same stories, but with less detail and more judgmental language.
This book is well-referenced, but seems to be designed for an audience that is both less intellectual and more partisan than the audience of Folsom's earlier works on entrepreneurs.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When will we ever learn? Government subsidies do not work, but free markets do. It's about political entrepreneurs versus free market entrepreneurs. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Seaotter
Explains why people never get their money's worth when other people's money is used, no matter how good the project sounds, must always use the private sector.Published 12 months ago by Carolyn S. Cox
This is a fine history of federal subsidies in the U.S. If I may have one criticism, it would be that the author left out Lysander Spooner's battle with the U.S. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Joseph
Every caring citizen should be educated on these failures of government
trying to pick winners in these ventures of commerce.
You don't have to be a government cynic to enjoy this book! If it weren't our money the politicians throw away it would be funny. Great read. And honest.Published 14 months ago by Mack Shockley
So many people fight over what will happen if the government does this or that. This book gives a long history of individual entrepreneurs succeeding where government subsidized... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is an ideology book that has no linkage to facts. The authors want to cater to a particular subset of people and don't have a lot of respect for facts. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Chatrathi V. Kalyan
Burt Folsom is professor of The History of Economics at Hillsdale College in Michigan. He has won many teaching awards and as an adult participant in Hillsdale's Hostel Program -... Read morePublished 18 months ago by john heilman