Book 1, Book 2
By Arnold Kling
if everyone read the book and was persuaded by it, would anything change for the better? An author should aim to write a book which matters.
My latest book, Unchecked and Unbalanced is out. We might call it Book 2, since it is the second of my books to appear this month. Although there are a number of flaws in the structure and the argument of the book, I think it passes the Tyler Cowen test with flying colors. In any event, Tyler himself wrote one of the blurbs on the back.
I think that Book 1, From Poverty to Prosperity also passes the Tyler Cowen test, but it is less world-changing. On the other hand, in terms of structure and content, I think that Book 1 is likely to hold up better for longer.
Both Book 1 and Book 2 are anti-intellectual. No, I am not advocating Tea Parties. But I am attempting to enhance the off-diagonal element in the following matrix. Inside the matrix is the type of political leader that might represent that element in the matrix:
|Institutional Preference||Not Highly Educated||Highly Educated|
|Central Planning||Hugo Chavez||Barack Obama|
|Decentralized Markets||Sarah Palin||?|
What the matrix says is that if you look at today’s American politics, you have to either support central planning or support a political party that hates intellectuals. If you are an intellectual who believes in decentralized markets, it’s not an appealing choice.
My guess is that the top right is going to decline. Indeed, I am amazed at how rapidly the Obama Administration is losing legitimacy. I suspect that the next step is for the Democratic Party to move toward the top left in order to retain power. My guess is that in 2012 we will see an Obama that puts less emphasis on Harvard and more emphasis on collectivism and solidarity. Unfortunately, the bottom right is likely to remain empty.
Perhaps if the intellectuals all shifted from the top right to the bottom right, then the anti-intellectuals would all shift to the top left, and we would end up with Hugo Chavez. (Is Lou Dobbs auditioning for that role? If not, then someone else would no doubt try.) That would be an outcome to fear.
Still, if everyone were to read Book 2, they would move to the bottom right. The would be disenchanted with the intellectual ideal of a democracy ruled by technocrats. Those who are enchanted by the hope of centralized technocratic government would be talked out of their illusions. Instead, they would demand a more equal distribution of political power and support competitive government. Competitive government is my version of libertarian utopia, but it is not something that requires a sudden revolution to achieve. We could get there from here, by experimenting with reforms that give ordinary citizens greater opportunity to secede from local governing bodies and more power to allocate tax resources. One thought-experiment I propose in Book 2 is to imagine if TARP had to be funded out of voluntary donations rather than taxes.