Book Review: The Why Axis

Several months ago, I decided I needed to know more about economics.  I started with a book that quickly proved itself horrid.  It was called Economic Facts and Fallacies but it would have been more rightly called “why deregulation and free market capitalism is the best model based on a narrow definition of what constitutes good.”  Basically, have at it, to hell with the second and third order effects.  While the author had some good points – too often ecological considerations are more about rich people attempting to protect property values – for example.  But just because the motives behind preserving ecosystems have been impure doesn’t mean we shouldn’t preserve ecosystems.  Anyway, the book annoyed me because dude had a framework that he’d already decided on and used economic theory to “prove” that which he’d already decided was true.

So I gave the book back to the library, made a little gesture of gratitude at the ether, and started on The Why Axis, which I found much more enjoyable.  The authors apply economic testing to social questions, such as how you’d get more kids in the inner cities through high school, what kind of pre-school programs work, and discrimination.  What I appreciated most, in direct contrast to the book mentioned above, was that the Authors came to the questions with curiosity.  They didn’t know the answers before hand, they just wanted to see what the data revealed.

Their results created something of a brouhaha several years ago, because these are the guys who put forward the notion that the gender-based wage-gap is based on social conditioning that discourages women from being competitive.  This topic deserves its own post, so I won’t go into my thoughts on what is wrong-headed about this here.

The Why Axis isn’t going to help you understand the economy any better, but it might encourage you to see the world a little differently.  Which can’t be a bad thing, overall. Also, I’m happy to report that, unlike some of the other books I’ve picked up, this one isn’t 90% filler as the authors attempt to make a one-page concept into a 200 page book to justify the price tag.

Anyway, it is probably in your library for $1.45 in late fees.

Book Review: The Why Axis

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