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2Oct/12Off

Review: Free Market Revolution by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

by: Ross

Grade: A+

Synopsis

In Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand's Ideas Can End Big Government, Yaron Brook and Don Watkins make the case that there needs to be a dramatic change in the way people morally think about selfishness and the free market if there is to be any stop to the continual growth of government.

In Part I, "The Problem," Brook and Watkins dedicate four chapters to describing the current growth of government, its history, its causes, and finish with a brilliant look at how government intervention was the cause of, not the remedy for, the 2008 housing/financial crisis.

In Part II, "The Solution," they go on to detail how the growth of government arises from a distrust of free markets that is predicated on a distrust of of the self-interested action pursued on the free market.  Until the citizens of the US adopt a radically different understanding of selfishness and its moral status, Brook and Watkins argue, the growth of government is inevitable.  The solution, they assert, is to adopt Ayn Rand's distinctive view of rational selfishness a moral ideal.  They go on to describe how this view of selfishness plays out in free markets and how government intervention hampers it, with special emphasis paid to the regulatory state (Chapter 11), the entitlement state (Chapter 12), and health care (Chapter 13).

Impressions

I was extremely impressed with this book.  It is short (only 221 pages) and extremely readable.  Brook and Watkins eschew abstruse philosophic language in favor of a common sense approach to political philosophy and economics which should be easily understandable to the layman.

Though the ethical and political views they espouse in the book were put forth by Ayn Rand over 50 years ago, widespread ignorance and avoidance of her ideas means that the solutions Brook and Watkins are promoting are still distinctively new on the mainstream political scene.  Their arguments are not, as some have argued, the "same old arguments" for the free market, which is good because nothing is more obvious than the conspicuous inability of the "familiar arguments" to end Big Government.  Brook and Watkins routinely criticize and evaluate even the most ardent free market supporters of the past, e.g., Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, arguing that these thinkers too often support the free market from an altruist perspective, arguing that the free market has "social benefits" which justify the selfishness inherent in the actions of the market participants. Instead of justifying market selfishness because it has ancillary "social benefits," Brook and Watkins argue convincingly that selfishness, when viewed properly, is a moral ideal that requires no justification on the political or economic level.

Brook and Watkins do cover some topics familiar to readers of pro-market economists (e.g., division of labor, prices, competition, innovation) but they do so in a way that uniquely explains these phenomena according to the ethics of rational selfishness, rather than viewing them as a vindicating "social benefit" of free markets.

In Free Market Revolution, Brook and Watkins promote the need for exactly that--a revolution--in the minds not just of those now disinclined to free markets but also, perhaps even more importantly, in the minds of those who already think of themselves as free-market advocates but who are hopelessly held back by a groundless affinity for the ethics of altruism.

Some have criticized the book for content left out, but I think this criticism is misguided.  The authors clearly intended to make a short and digestible work and they ought to be commended for how much content they were able to get into so few pages without sacrificing readability or rendering it dense and tiring.  Any content left out can be pursued by the interested reader in other volumes.

In my opinion, the only (very minor) flaw in the book is the occasional use of language which might not be suited the less financially literate.  For example, the authors use the financial term "leverage" without clearly explaining its meaning, which may leave some readers with only a vague sense of what they mean.  Certainly the reader can look it up elsewhere, but this does sacrifice some of the otherwise self-contained nature of the book.

Who Should Read It

Everyone should read it, especially those who already support free markets and are confused by the continual growth of government.  The book is short, easy-to-read, and requires no special prerequisite knowledge.

 

[I posted this review on Amazon, so if you found it helpful, consider going there and voting it up]

 

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