Our friend, Josh, did the cover art and it perfectly captures one of the book’s main messages: the greatest prosperity for ALL in a society is achieved when people are free to benefit from their good ideas.
In Chapter 1, A Tale of Two Neanderthals, Borgg and Glogg are the tribe’s firestarters, who get the idea to invent firesticks (matches). This leads to a system of trading with a neighboring tribe which has many great hunters, and as a result the inventors’ tribe never goes hungry again.
But the favored treatment the inventors receive from the tribe’s elders later leads to resentment in the tribe, and people forget how much better off they all are than before — even the poorest among them. Technology and prosperity might change, but human nature does not.
Simply put, a successful economy is just people being allowed to provide as much stuff as possible for each other that is needed and wanted. Economics-wise, everything else is details. When we allow politicians and opportunistic economists to fool us into supporting a variety of technical and murky government “fixes” for the economy, we lose sight of the fundamental motivating force which must be preserved for prosperity to exist: Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The main role of the government in the economy is help ensure people play fair…and then get out of the way.
I devote each chapter to a common economic myth.
For example, it’s not about money, which has no inherent value and is simply a convenient means of exchange of goods and services that is more efficient than bartering.
It’s not even about “jobs”, because it makes all the difference what is done in those jobs. Many poor countries have a much lower standard of living than ours, yet fuller employment. If we want full employment, just have half the population dig holes in the ground and the other half can fill them up again. The goal is a higher standard of living…not just “jobs”.
And the desire of some for a “more level playing field” and for “spreading the wealth around” is simply pandering to selfishness and laziness. The truth is that most of the wealth has already been spread around, in the form of a higher standard of living. If we do not allow the few talented and risk-taking people among us have at least the hope of personally benefiting in proportion to their good ideas, then economic progress stops.
The good news is that those few talented people need help, which is where most of the rest of us come in. One person with a new idea for a computer cannot design, manufacture, market, distribute, and sell millions of computers to the rest of society. They need our help, and in the process everyone benefits.
I also examine the role of various government economic programs, most of which end up hurting more than helping. A major reason why the government is so prone to failure is the lack of disincentives against failure in government service. In the real marketplace failures are not rewarded, which helps keep us on the right track to prosperity.
Even the truly needy in our country would be better off if we allowed private charitable organizations, rather than inefficient government bureaucracies to compete for the public’s donations.
I’ve been interested in basic economics for the last 25 years, but frustrated by the technical details (marginal costs, money supply, etc.) that too often scare people away from understanding the most basic forces which propel societies to ever high standards of living. Now, with our country facing tough decisions about our financial future, I decided it was time to stop yelling at the idiots on TV (and giving away all my ideas to talk show hosts) and put the material in a short — less than 100 pages — book that would be approachable by anyone.
I’ll be signing the first 500 copies. The price is $12.95 (including free shipping in the U.S.) You can see all of the chapter first pages at Fundanomics.org. I think this book would be especially valuable to homeschoolers.
(NOTE REGARDING COMMENTS, BELOW: In response to a comment that it was ironic for a scientist whose research is 100% funded by the U.S. Government to be against wasteful government spending, my statement that “I view my job a little like a legislator” has caused quite a stir, especially over at ThinkProgress. This was a rather poor analogy…my point was that a federally-funded person like myself can be against excess government spending, just as some federally-funded legislators are, that’s all. I did not mean to imply I wanted to be a de facto legislator. The context of the full comment, below, should have made that clear.
And, once again, ThinkProgress reveals the hypocrisy of those who think its OK for Al Gore to play a climate scientist, or NASA’s James Hansen to actively campaign for Malthusian energy policy changes and for presidential candidates – in violation of the Hatch Act, as NASA employees are told during their annual ethics training classes.)