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.




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.



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.



Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 12:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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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


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


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


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


Book Review: Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market

The book “Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market” by Walter Johnson takes you through a tour of how slavery worked in the United States before the Civil War. Everyday we are faced with different types of goods and products when deciding on making a purchase. Most of these purchases do not talk and walk or except for pets they do not breath either. It can be almost impossible for us to imagine purchasing a person and going through this type of process.

This book takes us into the life of slave traders and slave buyers. This is a market in which we hopefully will never see in America. It tells the stories about how slave traders would buy slaves in which it thought its buyers would like. The would be like any other speculator buying low and selling high. It takes us in the world of the slave buyer. They want to make sure that the slave is healthy, strong, and skilled. They want to make sure they are not paying more than they should.

It even takes you into the world of the slave. The idea that you are worth a certain amount. This is the part of the book I found to be the most profound. Slaves could determine their own value. When slavebuyers would come around to look at slaves, they didn’t just look at scars and physical traits, they ask questions. They would try to evaluate what their skills were by what the slave thought his skills were. They found out about family. It was well known that the more you ripped a slave from it’s family the more of a chance you had that they would leave and run away.

Overall, I would say this book is interesting because it sheds light on a market that no longer exists in most peoples modern lives. The only downside is that his points to me could have been summarized better and put into much better order. I never really understood where the book was going. To me the book should have focused more on each person in a different chapter, like I highlighted before. If you are interested in slavery and the market process this would be a good book for you. If you are like me and need a well organized layout. This layout may distract you from the story telling.


Published in: on October 30, 2008 at 11:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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Book Review: Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History

Since the passing of Milton Friedman, I have worried that his pro-Capitalistic rhetoric and all he was able to achieve would melt away. Of course, it is too soon to be able to understand whether this will happen or not. To continue my education from the great Milton Friedman, I read “Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History” by him.

For those of you who wish that they took a class in macroeconomics in college or maybe are just interested in money this is a must read. For all others, they may find it hard to get through.

Friedman does a great job of covering topics like the Gold Standard, the Silver Standard/movement, bimetallism, the change to a fiat currency, pegging currencies, and inflation. When I studied macroeconomics, I felt like much of my education in money was incomplete. This book completed it. This book can get overly technical for the non-economist at times but learning about monetary systems is technical within itself.

I highly recommend this book and the continuing education of what Dr. Friedman has done for the current state of economic policy in the world. The one topic that Friedman covers that I think is important is the Silver movement. Most people learn about this movement in high school and the Wizard of Oz is based off of it.

My absolute favorite quote from the book was,

“As a result, the U.S. silver purchase program must be regarded as having contributed, if perhaps only modestly, to the success of the communist revolution in China.”



Published in: on July 26, 2008 at 4:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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Book Review: The Secret History of the CIA

51SSMR38JEL._SL500_AA240_ After changing the tones of the books I have been reading I picked up “The Secret History of the CIA” by Joseph J. Trento. As the CIA is a very secret, by nature, organization it has interested Americans since it’s founding.

This book does a pretty good job of looking at how the CIA battled the USSR during the Cold War. The stories were not as tense but more informative. Sometimes if you missed a sentence or two or couldn’t remember it all, it became hard to keep up with. It especially was interesting when it went into the JFK investigation. It begged the question what was more important to the FBI and CIA, to find out who killed Kennedy or to make sure it wasn’t their fault?

From an Economic perspective the last chapter was full of Public Choice type thinking. It looked over a topic of how secret should be a organization in a free society? How much power can this organization attain due to the ever changing figure heads? In this case, both the President and the Director of the CIA. I think after reading this book and seeing what damage was done to the country and people’s lives, it is easy to say that the CIA maybe shouldn’t exist in a free country.

How far are we away to a secret police? With the power of espionage, who can truly stop the CIA? As the CIA is a tool of government and government has a monopoly on violence, who monitors the CIA and can they do that job well?

I am sure the CIA has done some wonderful things and will continue to do so. That is definitely not what I am saying here. I sometimes lean towards if government exist then we should have a organization like this, but how can we do a good job to keep it safe?

Rating: 4.5/10


Published in: on July 22, 2008 at 7:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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