Book Review: Lincoln Unmasked by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Imagine that one day everything that you were taught as a child comes out to be a mirage of the truth. What would you do? American children in public schools, including myself, are taught that honest Abe was a great man. He freed the slaves and united a nation, right? But what if it wasn’t so black and white? What if history overlooks a lot of the ills of Abraham Lincoln?

That is what Thomas J. DiLorenzo, professor of economics at Loyola College, tries (and does) answer in his book “Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know About Dishonest Abe.” DiLorenzo does an excellent job of taking Lincoln piece by piece and dismantling the myths of Lincoln with chapters titled “The Great Railroad Lobbyist, The Great Protectionist, & The Great Inflationist.” When most people think of Lincoln they don’t think of his monetary and trade policies. But they should.

For example, most people do not know that pre-Civil War, there was no clear central monetary system in the United States. Andrew Jackson had just finished dismantling it and Lincoln was an strong supporter of a central bank and a national currency. This, of course, would hardly interest a 3rd grader learning about honest Abe, but is it very important in thinking about the way the country as a whole raises funds. With an unlimited central bank with a national currency that was backed in nothing, government spending could go hog-wild and it did.

Another interesting tidbit about the book was the state of slavery at the start of the war and how much wheeling and dealing the so-called “Great Emancipator” did to not free slaves. DiLorenzo points out that early in the Civil War Lincoln made it clear that he did not want to ban slavery he just wanted to centralize the government and keep the states together. This is shown with evidence through his agreement to allow border states to keep slavery as long as they stayed in the Union. Along with the fact that Lincoln actually was more supportive of a deportation of former slaves then to keep them here.

The last major point to take away from this book is the destruction of states rights and federalism. When looking back one might think that it was a slow demise but DiLorenzo suggests that Lincoln murders it outright. This is an important point to debate because federalism and decentralized government is good for the nation and at some point demised. And the reader must ask themselves, is it okay for a state to leave the union peacefully? And what role does that play in keeping the federal government in check? Though this might be one of the hardest concepts for an average American reader to grasp because with the sense of patriotism that has been indoctrinated it would be hard for them to imagine the United States without 50 states.

The only negative that this book has is that it is so short and a quick read. I am sure that this was Dr. DiLorenzo’s intention to have an easy read to spread the ideas to the masses but it left the reader wanting more. It also does such an efficient job at telling the story and illustrating the point that an average American reader may reject it thinking that they found the answer too easily and will not take the time to do the research themselves.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to all who want the other side of the story and love history.

5/5

 

Book Review: An Inconvenient Book by Glenn Beck

“An Inconvenient Book” by Glenn Beck in a lot of ways sums up what is wrong with the Conservative moment. It is filled with claims that use zero economics, when in fact economics should be their friend. Glenn Beck, who has become very popular among both Conservatives and Libertarians, has done a good job on his show in supporting the free-market and bashing Obama. But after reading this book I wonder what the Glenn Beck show would look like with a Republican held White House and/or Congress.

The book is written very well in that it reaches out to all types of readers and in a lot of ways makes you laugh. It has some of the best info graphics I have ever seen in a mass market book. So as far as the words and pictures, it is a great book. But the content fall short.

A few parts of Mr. Beck book has caused me to write two separate posts on tipping and on running out of oil. I will not dwell on these subjects but I urge you to read them if you think that this review fall short on criticizing content.

The very first chapter on Global Warming was very good and uses good non crazy arguments against the Global Warming advocates. But soon after that he goes into topics in which most people who buy his book. Chapters on Marriage, Porn, Body Image, Renting Movies (not kidding) and Blind Dating are pointless and useless. I know that often time we pretend that pundits are experts on politics, but that does not stretch into other areas that are more personal.

His chapters on the Minimum Wage, Opinion Polls, and Poverty are much more productive and provocative. But many of the time his solutions fell short. Take illegal immigration, which is the chapter he decides to end his book on. This probably means that he thinks very highly on the subject and that he wanted to leaving a lasting impression so it should be the best written.

First, he plays in this paranoia of a super corporate group has control over the United States government and keeps the border from being secure. And his solutions are to build two fences and hit the employers hard. Besides the fact that a Conservative is making an argument FOR government, the two ideas are just moronic.

The fence is very expensive as he wants “double layers of fencing with road in between for patrols, concrete vehicle barriers, surveillance cameras, and tunneling sensors.” He says it would be $20 billion. First, if this is a government estimate you can trust it is wrong. Also what about the maintainance of this. And really if people really want to get into America, is this going to be effective?

Sidenote: Glenn, when you want to compare figures for people do not use “how much 9/11 cost the City of New York.” First, it wasn’t on purpose. Second, it was a terrorist attack.

Next, he wants to hit the employers. I guess he is already assuming that his fences will not work and he is a Conservative against small businesses. All small business are trying to do one thing: survive. Glenn Beck must not think that there is going to be any red-tape involved on already small struggling business.

And let’s think about the reason why businesses hire illegals, part could be minimum wage but mainly it is because they are hard works and can outwork some of us “non-mexicans.” And consider the costs. The business owner is choosing someone who they have a hard time communicating with over “non-mexicans.” That means we Americans are very inefficient workers. So wake up, you cannot be pro-free trade and anti-illegal labor force.

So overall this book is not worth reading or buying. It was a huge let down and it made me think a lot less of Mr. Beck.

Rating: 1/5

Published in: on September 18, 2009 at 10:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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Glenn Beck on Tipping

Disclaimer: Glenn Beck  has done a lot for the right wing and has done even more at making sure Mr. Barack Obama is in check everyday. But when someone makes a stupid claim you must keep them in check even if they are your friends. I am currently reading his “Inconvenient Book” and a few things have upset me.

Chapter 13 Gratuities: I’ve Reached My Tipping Point is the title of the chapter and rightfully so. This chapter is full of what is a short rant on tipping in America. Mr. Beck is stressed that tipping has now become apart of a social stigma and that it is a must do. This must do then, supposedly, requires those who receive the tips to slack off. Mr. Beck wants to pay for what he gets: the food.

This is why he is wrong…

Tipping is Capitalism and making a statement like “Business owners, let’s make a deal: You pay your staff, and I’ll pay for the food,” shows a complete misunderstanding of Mr. Beck’s views of a) business and b) economics.

Now tell me, why is it that one works for a service in where they make less than minimum wage? It is simple, because of tips.

What happens if you remove tipping from the equation? Well, believe it or not Glenn, the business owners will have to raise their prices in order to get employees.  In other words, customers will now be paying an automatic 18% more whether they want to or not. Just like businessmen cannot just throw some imaginary windfall profits to the exploited worker as Marx would say, businessmen cannot remove tipping and charge the same prices.

So what does tipping do? Tipping not only allows the customer to have a say on whether service is good or bad but it also signals to the business owner who should be fired and who should be kept with accurate counting. Without tipping, how could you tell? By the number of complaints maybe but the right to tip does not remove the right to complain also.

So where has Mr. Beck’s idea(s) on this been employed? Europe.

When visiting Italy, most will find that a 18% service charge will be included along with sometimes another fee all the way at the bottom of the menu. And believe it or not but the service was both slow and horrible.

Now tell me, if you are out with friends and everyone leaves a nice tip for a nice waiter then what is the problem? If you are out with friends and everyone leaves a nice tip for a bad waiter then the problem is not the “tipping mechanism,” the problem is your friends.

It sounds like Glenn Beck has been having dinner with socialists too long and needs to find a way to stand up and say he is not tipping because the service was bad. It seems odd that he can stand up to Obama and many other politicians on every issue under the sun, but  he can not stand up to his friends when it was clear the service was bad?

~PCCapitalist

Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 11:32 pm  Comments (5)  
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Book Review: Morals and Markets by Daniel Friedman

Morals and Markets by Daniel Friedman is a very different book then I expected it to be. I expected morals to be more in the forefront but they were more in the background. Regardless, this book is very well written. The subtitle “An Evolutionary Account of the Modern World” is a much better description of exactly how the book is. The book is filled with many facts about the world and markets that are really interesting.

For most of the book Friedman looks at both sides of each issue. For example, he discusses short-selling and how people have viewed it to be morally bad, but it serves a good purpose of keeping businesses in check. The author tells stories like that and you see the moral struggle in the background.

Near the end of the book, he begins to show more of his pro-government side. When he discusses both sides of the debate for globalization, I think he gives too much creditbility to those who oppose it. Take this one example; the author states that “joining the global economy brings new vunerability” and his example is that if his county specializes in brussel sprouts and all of a sudden a fungus kills their crop. I do not understand why if this was a chance then people would use insurance or future markets to protect against risk. We know that these types of markets exist so why would be it ignored. Sure, it could happen once if we assume that the crops have a 99.9% chance of not having any problems where they need these sorts of things. This, of course, is still economic calculation and a risk that the farmer is taking. He knows that if the 0.1% comes true then he will go out of business.

What is wrong with him going out of business? Sure, we wouldn’t have brussel sprouts for a while but I am sure people will find something to substitute for it. At the same time, we would then bring new farmers who could manage the risk much better.

So overall the book is a very good read. It is well written and it presents a lot of issues and ideas that most people do not think about while adding a mountain of facts. The author seems to err more on the side of market failure than government failure, even though he gives a flavor of both.

6.5/10

~PCCapitalist

Book Review: The Baseball Economist by J.C. Bradbury

The book The Baseball Economist by J.C. Bradbury takes America’s pastime and mixes together with both economics and statistical analysis. Baseball, in general, is more of a statistical game than most other sports. This is not to say that the whole book is full of numbers. Bradbury asks many different questions through each chapter, as each could be completely separate from the others. He asks questions like why are there no left handed catchers to is pitching coach Leo Mazzone that good?

Each chapter makes the reader think of baseball very differently. Bradbury even tackles the tough spot of steriods and baseball and makes a very good argument on why we shouldn’t care. His strongest argument is that many times players use other techniques that are artificial to increase their strength. One example is the Tommy John Surgery that pitchers go under when they get injuried. These pitchers usually come back throwing even harder than they did before.

Another strong point in the book is Bradbury’s analysis of what is the best statistisic is telling how well a player will do. Baseball is both an individual sport and a team sport and it is very hard to isolate the two as each can influence each others stats. For example, pitchers could have low earned run averages because of good defensive players on his team. I have always wondered why people were more concerned with certain states over others.

The negatives of this book is that some of the stuff is dated. Bradbury is writting this book after it seemed 99 times out of 100 the rich team wins, while more recently it seems that this has changed some. The other negative is the book doesn’t do much for people who are not deep into baseball. Personally, I love baseball and I would study it if I could. Many people who were looking for more broad strokes may not quite enjoy the book as others. Possible topics they could have been looking for would be like why are concessions so expensive or how much does homefield advantage help?

Overall this is a great read for anyone who loves statistics or who loves baseball and economic.

7.5/10

~PCCapitalist

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 12:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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Book Review: Meltdown by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

Meltdown: A Free Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and the Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. may have one of the longest subtitles of any book around but it is a very important book. I encourage all of my readers to stop what they are doing and order this book. It is a relatively quick read that will bring you up-to-date not only on the current financial crisis but also the Austrian Economic theories behind it.

This book is the sole voice that is not following the masses in blaming the recession upon Capitalism. Instead, Thomas Woods uses many economic theories and evidence to show that the government has had more to do with this problem then we think. He starts the book with a view of how the government created the current bubble. It becomes clear that this is very much in line with the Austrian Business Cycle. He then shows the more broad picture of how this also has happened in both the Great Depression and the dotcom bubble.

The major part of the book is its eloquent attack upon the Federal Reserve system. Woods shows that the Federal Reserve has done more to hurt the economy than any other intervention. He also warns us of the impending problems that we have no had yet but could have with possible runaway inflation also know as hyperinflation. At the end of the book, Woods challenges those who believe that they are a free market conservative or libertarian that they should realize that the Federal Reserve cannot have your support. The Federal Reserve, he says, is one of the biggest interventions in the economy we have seen. They have a monopoly on money.

Everybody should pick up this book, if they want to learn about the real reason why the economy is in a downspin. People often try to blame crisises upon things they do not understand, like Capitalism. Instead, what they do not realize is that people try to control the economy and that person would have to be god in order to get it all right.

Rating overall 5/5

~PCCapitalist

Book Review: The Revolution by Ron Paul

Since Congressman Ron Paul’s Presidential Campaign, he has recieved a large amount of support from the public. Not enough support to boost him as a party nominee but enough to get on to major news channels. Ron Paul is a good political entrepreneur. He has seized upon this and written a book that every American should read, whether you agree with him or not.

Much like Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater it is a small book that spans many issues. This gives a person enough information to allow them to run with it and do their own research. Unlike Goldwater’s book Paul cites many great figures throughout the book and at the end he includes a recommended reading list with these people in it. Some of them include Ludwig von Mises, Thomas Jefferson, Fredreic Bastiat, F.A. Hayek, and Murray Rothbard.

In the media Ron Paul often comes off as rash or harsh. Arguing for Capitalism can be harsh. Some people are turned off from him because he does not have the speaking skills or the good looks that most Americans care about in politicians. Politicians should be picked upon policy and not personality, but that is neither here nor there. This book is a very rational well thought out logical book. This digs deeper into some of the rhetoric that he speaks and would help with those who find him to be harsh.

One particular argument I found interesting was his one of healthcare and linking it to inflation. Paul argues that “The health costs tend to rise faster than other costs because of the distribution effects of inflation: wherever government spends its new money, that is where higher prices will be most immediate and evident.” The second part of this argument is correct, but if we use debt and such that would not be inflation. It would still bid up the cost all the same but it may be interesting to look into whether or not programs are funded by debt or inflation. Of course, if the result is the same this may not matter.

Overall rating 4/5

~PCCapitalist

Book Review: The Invisible Hook by Peter Leeson

What begins as a simple story of Pirates soon turns into an unique journey through Economics and History. Peter Leeson, who is an Economist, uses methodological individualism to analyze the behavior of Pirates as simple profit seekers. This allows Leeson to give a different view of the Pirates then most of us are used to. He also introduces us to many unknown facts about Pirates, who are a common cultural obsession.  The secret to his book is the fact that he teaches us both Economics and History without you even realizing it. Books like More Sex is Safer Sex by Steve Landsburg and Freakonomics by Steven Levitt teach you an unconventional way to look at problems, but often not through a classic historical case. This book will do both without you hardly noticing.

The Invisible Hook is not written in a way that is hard for non-Economists to understand. It is written just for that type of audience. This book now ranks top on my list of books to recommend those as an introductory lesson into the economic way of thinking. At the same time, if you do study Economics you will not be bored as the historical mechanism takes over. For example, you may know what signaling is but the economics student likely does not know exactly how the Pirates used the flag, the Jolly Roger, to signal to other ships.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is the very last chapter. Leeson sets up a class in Pirate Management with the professor Blackbeard. Without giving to much away, he goes through and restates points in the book with modern literature. He also provides a very good reading list for those who want to read further into Economics in that chapter. This is the most unique way I have ever seen anyone end a book. It allows Leeson to review the points and restate them in a new light without putting the reader to sleep, as I am famous for skimming through conclusions.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn anything about Pirates or Economics. It is probably likely that most of Leeson’s readers will buy the book for the former, but the reader will soon find himself interested in the latter. Dr. Leeson is a rising star in the field of Economics and this is a good way for him to start.

Rating: 10/10

~PCCapitalist

Book Review: War, Wine, and Taxes by John V.C. Nye

In doing some of my research on imperialism, I ordered this book authored by a Mason Economist John Nye. This book is about the political economy of Anglo-French trade from 1689 to 1900. This may seem boring to you but as you can see in the title, it definitely is not. The purpose for my research in the book is how the British empire raised their revenues . As Nye shows, they partly did this through excise taxes that are also known as indirect taxes. He mainly focuses on the taxes of wine and alcohol.

I could not better sum it up than he has here at the beginning of his book:

“Why do the British drink beer and not wine? How did commercial tariff policy designed to protect domestic interests help the British state raise revenues to the point where Britain emerged as the leading European power of the eighteenth century? These two seemly unrelated issues are at the heart of one of the most important and underexplored cases in modern economic. history.”

Obviously, this is what he explores throughout his book. Nye explains that the reason why the citizens of Britain drink beer and not wine is because of tariffs on French wine. This shows the competitive nature between both Britain and France during this time. Nye also busts the myth that Britain was all about free trade at this time. They in fact had many tariffs to protect domestic industries and were plagued by rent seeking activity. This means that the parliament would create these tariffs in exchange for stuff from the domestic industries.

There really isn’t any bad stuff to say about this book.  I just wish he went into more about imperialism, but that is my research program so I am being a purely self interested.  This book is well researched and not to hard for the layman to understand. There are some graphs and at the end of his book, Nye runs his model and his regression. Anyone who loves history and economics will love this book.

Rating 9.5/10

~PCCapitalist

Published in: on April 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Book Review: Liberalism by Ludwig von Mises

Even though my semester hasn’t officially started and has been delayed by President-elect Obama’s events, I have completed the first book for a class called Constitutional Economics. This book is by the dean of the Austrian School of economic thought. It is a very short read of about 200 pages including the introduction, talking about the new dirty word in politics, “Liberalism.” It is not the type of liberalism that you think of when thinking of John Kerry. In fact, most of it is the complete opposite. Like most sensible people, unlike politics, Mises used the word in relation to its definition from the latin word “liber” meaning free.

Since there are many big ideas in this book that I will probably write future posts about, I will only give this a brief book review. The overarching main theme is that the Liberalist’s policies are those of a society build upon freedom and Capitalism. Capitalism has been the key to success bringing wealth to everyone, along with freedom. I think this is an important point that people overlook. Capitalism back in his time and still today is portrayed as only helping the rich. This makes no sense at all because none of the polices pursued by supporters of Capitalism support a certain class.

This leads to another great point Mises makes which is that when people talk and think of a monarchy, they always think of themselves as the king. In a oligarchy, they are always apart of the ruling class. In a socialist system, they are always the central planner. In Capitalism, they are always what? When someone talks about Capitalism, they never put themselves in any ruling class over someone else. This alone should make people skeptical of what these other people are coming up with as organization.

Capitalism is not complicated even though today people try to complicate it. It is simply, as Mises puts it,  private property as the means of production. This is completely opposite of communal property as the means of production or Socialism. This argument could go on and I am sure in his other literature, he continues these arguments. But it is without a doubt that this should be a required reading for all politicians and policymakers. Since very few of us are those, then this should be a good starting book into the literature of Capitalism. And I will end this with a great ending quote from the book:

” It [Liberalism] has no party flower and no party color, no party song and no party idols, no symbols and no slogans. It has the substance and the arguments. These must lead it to victory.”

Rating 10/10

~PCCapitalist