False Economy, by Alan Beattie (Hardcover, 2009)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This book gets off to a rough start. The first
sentence of the preface is a statist salvo, and the first chapter begins
with two very confusing paragraphs. The bumpy ride in the first few
pages of the first chapter just about made me decide to stop reading the
book. But that would have been a mistake. The book really does have much
to offer, and it is well worth the time spent reading it.
While the author comes from the command and
control economy of the U.K. (which also has strong criminal protection
laws), he doesn't view the world through that lens. He's an accomplished
world traveler, and his travels have taken him deep into troubled areas.
He's also reached into a wide range of published works, as the
Another attribution, which is arguably of dubious
quality, is his association with Bono. In my own biased view, Bono is
generally on target. I don't know all of his views and haven't read all
of his statements, but what I have heard resonates. He strikes me as a
well-informed individual. I like U2's music, and that surely colors my
perceptions. You don't hear Bono advocating the expansion of the
parasite class the way, for example, you hear Alec Baldwin blathering on
about it. Bono's comments are more reality-based, as is his perspective
of himself (Bono is a humble guy).
In keeping with the traditional nonfiction format,
this book consists of ten chapters.
Chapter One contrasts the choices made by leaders
of Argentina and leaders of the USA. The two countries share many
similarities and many natural advantages. Yet, the USA went on to become
an economic powerhouse while Argentina became an economic basket case.
While the author doesn't explicitly say so, you can look at the choices
again and see how the USA later became an economic basket case (now with
the highest tax burden in history and more debt piling on daily).
Chapter Two looks at the subject of limiting the
power of capital cities. This is interesting, but I'm not sure the
conclusions necessarily follow from the facts. That can be due to my
disdain for Washington DC, its criminal protection laws despite
ultra-high murder rates, and the fact that the US CONgress engages in so
much destructive behavior while meeting there. Holding DC up as an
example of anything positive whatsoever generally doesn't inspire my
confidence in whatever follows. It's hard to make the case that any
other capitol city in history has been so destructive to its nation.
Chapter Three presents an area of economic study
that was new to me. It's the topic of embedded water. The case in point
is Egypt, and the embedded water concept explains so much that I hadn't
Chapter Four is supported quite well by other
literature on the same topic. Here, Beattie looks at why countries rich
in oil or diamonds tend to be poor. And then he explains why it doesn't
have to be that way and how some countries are examples that prove it.
There are lessons in here for countries that aren't predominantly
single-resource countries, too.
In Chapter Five, Beattie takes on the myth that
specific religions determine the wealth of nations. He goes through
various examples through history to show that religion isn't a common
thread. It's not causal at all. The current fad is to declare that
Muslim nations are all poor because of their religion. One example he
didn't mention is the poorest nation on earth isn't Muslim. The USA,
with its massive debt, has a net worth of about $50 million million (I
don't like to say "trillion", because people read it as "million" even
though it is one million times one million) less than that of, say,
I read recently that no Muslim nation has a
national debt, due to the requirements of the Muslim faith. I haven't
verified it's so, but it sounds right. So this completely destroys the
idea that Muslim means economic poverty. But any student of Middle Ages
history already knows this.
Chapter Six answers the question, "Why does our
asparagus from from Peru," while also answering a slew of questions
behind that one. If you understand Chapter Three, you understand that
much of international trade is inefficient and doesn't make sense. But
then when you look at why you see "government" and the lack of logic has
Chapter Seven asks the question, "Why doesn't
Africa grow cocaine?" The answer is informative and entertaining.
In Chapter Eight, Beattie looks at how corruption
figures into the prosperity of nations. In doing so, he reveals that
corruption does not in itself make a nation rich or poor. Neither does
Beattie sees the panda as doomed to extinction. In
Chapter Nine, he explains why. The same factors doom national economies
to demise. The general concept is "path dependence," and it's one
routinely ignored by policy makers today.
Unlike Spendbama's recycling of failed policies
(and failed policy makers), there are workable solutions to economic
problems. In Chapter Ten, Beattie examines where these solutions come
from and what they might be. This chapter is worth reflecting upon.
The statist salvo mentioned earlier was a
complimentary nod to FDR. Yes, FDR got his image on Mount Rushmore
thanks to a very good PR machine and widespread lack of understanding of
basic economics. FDR was the most colossal failure of all US presidents
in terms of policy (prolonging the Great Depression, ramping up the
federal debt, trampling the Constitution, creating enormous bureaucracy
/ parasite class, etc.) up to that time.
It's arguable whether the Clinton/Bush reign of
error resulted in more devastation than FDR's transgressions, but
Spendbama is off to a good start in destruction as I write this review
in March of 2009. The author clearly understands that removing capital
from a capitalist economy has the same deleterious effect as opening a
vein on a stabbing victim, so the nod to FDR is incongruent with the
facts presented later in the book.
The confusion in Chapter 1 is an attempt by the
author to juxtaposition the September 11 tragedies in the USA with the
financial events in Argentina just days later. The confusion could have
been avoided by prefacing this with a "what if" bit of text. As written,
it doesn't make sense. So, it starts the first chapter off on a note of
confusion. Once you get past that, things quickly become engaging. A few
more bumps and the book becomes a page turner.
With so much disinformation and logic-free
analysis coming from incompetent governments and their sycophant media
today, it's good to find a book that looks at economics from an
historical and factual perspective. If citizens understand the concepts,
they won't be subject to the brainwashing and other manipulations that
have put nearly every nation's government above accountability and
resulted in today's economic disasters.