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M. Groves (Nottingham, UK)
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End This Depression Now!
End This Depression Now!
by Paul Krugman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.89

16 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wishful thinking, 7 Jun 2012
It's inevitable that reviews of a book on economics usually revolve around the reviewer's personal socio-political views, more than around an assessment of the author's writing skills. However, since the topic of the book *is* economics, that is perhaps also not a bad thing. If the content is based on naive or otherwise incorrect assumptions, then no matter how persuasively or even entertainingly written, the book should merit a negative review. And this one does.

A belief in the effectiveness of Keynesian economics is not an auspicious start. Believing that the government can pay one guy to dig a hole and another guy to fill it in, and thus kickstart the economy, is at best naive, at worst it's dishonest. Will it cause GDP to grow? Yes. So will a war, and so will a natural disaster. But that's because GDP was chosen as the primary economic benchmark by men like Keynes and Krugman, *because* it measures government activity, not just private activity.

Krugman is not so stupid as to try to sell the idea of digging holes and filling them in again, but his book argues that government intervention of all kinds is the solution to our woes:- government spending, government protection, government regulation, government subsidisation, government borrowing, government lending, and government taxation, along with printing money, setting interest rates, and making sure currency is free of any objective measure of value. He shows how this might lead to more GDP growth, as if somehow government can wave a magic wand and create wealth. And at the end of that day, that's the basic flaw in Krugman's thinking: he ignores the fact that wealth - useful value - is only created by private citizens competing to produce goods and services that other private citizens want. Everything else is wasted effort, no matter what it might do to the statistics.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 5, 2014 11:52 AM BST


The Political Economy of Health Care: Where the NHS Came from and Where it Could Lead (Health & Society Series)
The Political Economy of Health Care: Where the NHS Came from and Where it Could Lead (Health & Society Series)
by Julian Tudor Hart
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much irrelevant personal politics creeps in, 28 May 2012
While it would be unrealistic to expect that any work dealing with socialised healthcare would be free of personal political bias, the author siezes too many opportunities to indulge himself in off-the-cuff remarks that have little to do with the subject matter. Without these distractions, which serve no purpose other than to raise the hackles of those who disagree, the book would have been that much more concise and persuasive.


Guns Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Guns Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
by Jared Diamond
Edition: Paperback

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, well written, popularised "science", 7 Feb 2008
Diamond is very good at making complex theories accessible and interesting to lay people. Sadly, in the process, he destroys his own credibility as a scientist, by never *quite* joining up his chains of reasoning, and by making a few sweeping (and absurd) statements that lack any kind of rigorous scientific approach.

Most glaringly, for example, he starts off his Prologue discussing alternative theories about why some societies developed faster and further than others. On Page 19, he declares how "loathsome" a "racist" explanation based on average intelligence would be. While such an explanation is almost certainly *incorrect*, there is no place in science for assessing *facts* on the basis of whether they are liked or not. One can't help wondering if Diamond would have shrunk from the facts, had the evidence in fact pointed to an explanation based on relative intelligence.

But then on the following few pages (and almost amusingly), Diamond then goes to great pains to show that in his opinion, New Guineans are on average more intelligent than Westerners! So it seems that in his mind, the loathsomeness of such racial generalisations cuts only one way. And of course, one wonders how he reached such a conclusion - since the measurement of intellience is very tricky even for experts in that field! Certainly he quotes no research on the subject, neither his own, nor that of others.

The rest of the book also lacks a rigorous scientific approach - Diamond makes dozens of small errors, ranging from the way he expresses statistics, to non-sequiturs in a chain of reasoning. In my opinion, they do not fatally flaw the gist of his thesis, but they do convert it from a coherent scientific theory into what is merely a good story.

It's not impossible to write a book that is entertaining and readable *and* logically complete, and scientifically sound - as evidenced by authors such as Steven Pinker, Isaac Asimov, and Richard Dawkins, to name but a few.

I gave it a rating of only 2 because despite being an intriguing and important topic it leaves a scientifically critical reader wondering how valid the conclusions are, even though one *senses* that Diamond is spot-on in his explanations. And that's a disappointing waste.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2012 5:30 PM GMT


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