The Great Persuasion

Even now, in an atmosphere where politicians routinely earn plaudits for attacking bankers, business and free markets, there seems to be no big public appetite central planning or more big government. Indeed, despite the various economic crises we have endured since 2008, the intellectual case for free markets and ideological capitalism still seems very strong. Free market think tanks abound, still making the case for smaller government and the superiority of market solutions over centrally managed state solutions. However, this was not always the case, indeed, there was a time early in the twentieth century when the voice of free marketeers was drowned out by the greater clamour of the intellectually ascendant case for central planning - whether in the form of Soviet style communism, Western European social democracy or, latter, Keynesian central management of the economy.

This change in intellectual atmosphere was due, in no small part, to the activities of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), a small group of academics and business leaders organised in support of 'classical liberalism' (not to be confused with modern liberalism, which is in many respects diametrically opposed to classical liberalism). In 'The Great Persuasion', Angus Burgin charts the rise of the MPS and the activities of its founders and leading lights, including FA Hayek and Milton Friedman, in rehabilitating belief in the efficacy of market solutions following the Great Depression and the consequent dominance of the anti-market position. While this is not the only focus in the book, Burgin affords it a central place in the historical narrative.

While for some on the Left, the MPS and the plethora of think tanks and lobby groups which have emerged since the 1950s as champions of free market ideas might seem to be dogmatic and triumphalist, the beginnings were far more tentative. While critical of statism and central planning, many of those involved in the renaissance of 'classic liberalism' were also critical to some degree with existing liberal ideas. Far from being a dogmatic or propagandist group, in the founding decade the organisation was home to a broad range of individuals with differing views on politics, the role of the state, economic organisation and so on. United as they were by a distrust of the state, this was by no means a group that we would now characterise as libertarian. [Continued]
The 2-Day Diet

It may seem odd to find a review of a diet book on a book review site like this, but there are good reasons for looking at this book. Firstly, it's an accepted fact that there is a strong link between obesity, metabolism and cancer. Secondly, there is an increasing view among some researchers that cancer is a metabolic syndrome, and that cancers are associated with a whole set of metabolic changes, both in the tumour and the surrounding tissues. Cancer and metabolism, and therefore diet, are inextricably linked. And there is increasing evidence that altering diet can impact cancer treatments, for example in the work that looked at chemotherapy response and fasting. There is another reason for looking at this book - the authors (Professor Tony Howell and Dr Michelle Harvie) are both working in breast cancer research, and are involved specifically in helping patients reduce their chances of getting the disease or reducing the risk of recurrence.

That said, this is primarily a book about diets and losing weight rather than a book specifically about cancer. Although the links to cancer are there in the text, and many of the patient stories include mention of cancer, the main aim is to help readers lose weight and keep it off. And, in doing so, to reap the overall health benefits across the board.

So, what is the 2-day Diet, and how does it differ from the thousands of other diet books on the market? A key point to make up front is that this is a diet that's been backed up by clinical data. There are no celebrity endorsements, no one selling expensive supplements or foods, no hand waving or bold claims unsupported by evidence. This is a diet that has been shown to work, it's that simple. Simple too is the basic idea behind the diet - it's simpler to stick to a strict diet for two days per week than it is for seven. And, importantly, the changes induced by a strict two day a week diet are significant enough to cause changes in body weight, glucose tolerance, mood and so on. [Continued]
Living Economics

Peter Boettke is passionate about economics and he wants you, the reader, to share that passion. But his is a view of economics that is radically different to the mainstream view of the subject. His is an economics that is organic, narrative and exploratory. It is decidedly not the dry, mathematical pseudo-physics that seems to predominate in the popular media and in much of academia. Living Economics, which is aptly named, is Boettke's attempt to describe the Austrian school of economics to a new audience and to pass on both his love of the subject and the hope that the subject can be freed from the scientistic bias that substitutes mathematical models and theorems for the human touch.

Simply put, Boettke thinks economics is too important a tool for understanding society to be left in the hands of those who currently dominate public discourse in the subject. Whether they be some form of state interventionist Keynesians or monetarist Friedmanites, Boettke's Austrian school of economics offers an alternative grounded in a philosophical view of the world that is radically different. As Hayek puts it:

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

While the differences between Austrian school economics, which is known primarily for being market oriented in a classically liberal sense, and Keynesianism are known, the differences between the Austrian school and the monetarists is less well known. Indeed, there are many who believe that they are one and the same thing, principally because they share many political positions in common - particularly in their attitude to state intervention.

Part of the book includes a survey of some key thinkers and teachers across the field of economics, including Hayek, von Mises, Rothbard, Buchanan and others. [Continued]
First Principles: Five Keys To Restoring America's Prosperity

John B Taylor is an economist who has successfully straddled the world of academia and policy engagement. Tipped as a potential Nobel prize-winner, Taylor also served directly in the father and son Bush administrations, as well as being a member of the Council of Economic Advisors during the Ford and Carter Administrations. This insider experience, coupled with his solid research work makes him an interesting and savvy commentator on current US economic policy. In an age of quantitative easing, multi-billion dollar bail-outs and economies that refuse to bounce back from depression, what does he have to say? The good news is that Taylor lays out an economic strategy based on simple and transparent principles that are in accordance with historical record and based on accepted theories. The bad news is that his policies are nothing like those being pursued by the Obama administration.

In this slim little book Taylor sets out to do two things. First, and most obviously, he sets out a series of five direct policy objectives to restore vigour to the languishing US economy (and by extension suggest that these policies would work in the even more sickly Euro zone). However, he also sets out to show that government policies do not emerge out of thin air, and that economic theory, and the economists who propagate them, have a key role to play in setting the agenda.

For those who think that economics needs to be obscure and mathematically complex, Taylor's little book is remarkably easy to read and understand. He supports this arguments with the judicious use of facts and figures, but by focusing on very simple economic principles he ensures that he effectively target the lay reader rather than the specialist. Like Thomas Sowell, he concentrates on basic economics without being simplistic or condescending. And like Sowell, his argument is essentially a libertarian one - there is more faith in the market mechanism than there is in the omniscience of the big state.

Taylor makes the point that his policy prescriptions are independent of nominal party politics. Big state Republicans are as much to blame for the state of things as Democrats - belief in economic freedom does not always follow party lines. The second chapter of the book, entitled 'Who Gets Us In and Out of These Messes' makes for particularly interesting reading. He describes the rising tide of free market economics, particularly influenced by Hayek and Friedman, being displaced in recent decades by more statist ideas, influenced by Samuelson, Krugman and others. [Continued]
Interview With Donna Laframboise
Donna Laframboise, author of The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert, responds to questions on the controversies surrounding her book, the responses to it and the politics of climate change. [Continued]
Interview With Denis Gingras
Denis Gingras, co-author of Foods to Fight Cancer, responds to questions on the food, life-style and the role of diet in preventing and treating cancer [Continued]
Interview With Christopher Booker
Christopher Booker, co-author of Scared To Death, responds to questions on global warming, health scares, the mass media and responses to his book in this interview with [Continued]
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Living Economics by Peter Boetkke
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