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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2008
I really liked this book. It was a succinct and lucid exposition of much with which I agree: the primacy of the market (and the inadequacy of equilibrium as an explanation for anything).

But it was also a bit "so what?" It is unlikely to persuade those that disagree, nor upset those that agree. However someone of his apparent calibre could have explored whether there are limits to markets, whether there is any market based justification for redistribution.

It's well written, it won't disappoint, but it's also fairly unchallenging. Freakonomics was interesting, the Undercover Economist was insightful, this is a rah-rah manifesto.
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on 2 June 2008
Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute, has a wonderful ability to express the fundamentals of economics and exchange in ways that lay readers can understand and enjoy - and empathise. This ability combines with an essential technique - to start at the beginning! The path from a single deal between two consenting people (possibly in different countries) to large-scale free enterprise, is a simple continuum. Requiring only the freedom to associate, at every point participants are free to exchange - or not - and the choice may or may not be made with regard to ancillary matters such as specialist advice and contracts. Thus Dr Butler starts with a visit to a street market in Lanzhou, China, and ends (or nearly ends) in discussing multi-national companies. On the way, he covers most of the important consequences of this freedom; for example specialisation and exchange, (to the point where exchange is the fundamental social relation) money, the informative role of prices, and capital accumulation.

Dr Butler is (among other things) a proper economist. By this I mean he has no time for the Keynesian macro-economics churned out by most universities; markets, and life itself, are never in equilibrium, so why build up a "science" on the assumption that they are? There is no Utopia; it's just that markets and freedom from governments are much nearer to it, adjusting constantly in their quests to do better. As he says, "the free-exchange system [markets] has an uncanny power to steer the right resources to the right place at the right time". "Unorganised order", he calls it. In contrast government is working in a vacuum; its operations are based on whims not price signals, and it torpedoes markets whenever it can (starting with money, where "governments manage to make paper completely worthless by printing pictures of dead presidents on it").

Dr Butler rightly castigates big government as the arch-enemy of markets, censoring them and their miraculous signals at every turn. Yet the failure of government projects is an endemic feature, while their perpetrators sing the "market failure" mantra at every opportunity - nowhere more loudly than on the environment, where as Dr Butler points out, markets don't exist.

He might have added "because they were nationalised". But elaborating on that takes time and space, whilst a major feature of this wonderful little book is that it is, well, little; you can read it in one sitting - although many readers will use it as a handy reference as well.

The book is similarly succinct in addressing government regulation of business. Often deliberately sought as a means of protection from competition, this practice is rife and provides government with a scapegoat when things go wrong. (A thorough nailing of this issue and its true causes is long overdue.)

Dr Butler has touched on scores of other matters which are best dealt with by markets not governments - the benefits of competition, prices as messengers, transaction costs, externalities, (where tax itself remains the supreme externality) patents, licences, entrepreneurs (as opposed to "experts") the crucial role of property, and the essential morality of free markets. (Enforced behaviour has no moral component, of course, and in any case charities are within the free market rather than outside it.)

Definitely the best book on the market that's on the market!
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on 6 August 2009
"The best book on the market" is a very concise overview of how and why markets work, and how they allocate resources and effort in a very complex world. The book uses only clear everyday language, rather than the technical terms and charts that can cause confusion to those who don't speak the language of economics.
There are some good insights into the true function of some reviled areas of capitalism, eg speculators, and the downsides of government regulation and control are discussed in clear terms.
Eamonn Butler also lays into the traditional view of supply and demand, stating that markets are chaotic, and that the 'equilibrium' often talked about is a fallacy.
There are some details with which I disagree (particularly the advocation of 'Road Pricing') but nonetheless the book is a good grounding in free market theory.
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in how the economy works, whichever part of the political spectrum they inhabit.
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on 28 February 2009
Even if, like me, you dont agree with the core perspective of this author's book I think that having read it you would have to agree that there is no better example of pop economic writing on sale today.

Butler presents a to the point and condensced nuts and bolts analysis of market forces, price mechanisms, specialisation, competition and even market failures or limitations. In doing so he has done a great service to all those who hold free marketeer perspectives. This is as good as a library comprising every book from early economists like Adam Smith to neo-classical economists like Hayek, Mise and Friedmann.

The style and pace of writing are good, the contents and layout of the book are equally accessible and make for an easy entertaining read. Consequently it is pretty persuasive, as a result I would sound a note of caution to the impressionable student or general reader alike as this is without a doubt a partisan read.
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on 26 June 2008
Very readable without being simplistic. An excellent explanation of complex concepts. I recommend it highly.
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on 7 October 2011
Bloody good book and how free market capitalism works and why state intervention does nothing but destroy it. Eamonn Butler demostrates this in style.
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on 23 May 2008
Eamonn Butler has the special but scarce ability of explaining complex ideas in elegant and clear language. I am buying copies to give as presents. The title is brilliant, and justified!
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on 5 June 2008
Eamonn Butler provides a simple, lucid and entertaining introduction to the complexities of markets. Fun and Informative.
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on 21 May 2008
I loved this book. For someone who wants to understand the fundamentals of market thinking, this cannot be beaten
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on 30 April 2008
This is a fantastic explanation of how markets really work and why they're so important to our everyday lives. The book's economics are spot on, but this doesn't feel like an economics book. It's a very easy read, for one thing. The author uses fascinating, real-life examples to explain his points without lapsing into technical jargon. People tend think of markets as cold and impersonal - something that 'compassionate' governments need to take control of - but this book shows how markets are actually a fundamental part of human life and work to benefit us all. The author makes some pretty important points, then, but somehow he manages to keep the book fun and amusing at the same time. Highly recommended.
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