The Mises Review: Book Reviews from 2020

The Mises Review was a quarterly review of the literature in economics, politics, philosophy, and law which was edited by David Gordon. 

As we prepare for 2021, here is a collection of Dr. Gordon’s book reviews from the past year. Each article features his piercing Rothbardian insight into some of the most important new books of 2020.

War: How Conflict Shaped Us 
By Margaret MacMillan
Random House. 312 pages.
MacMillan’s book provides many insights into the true vileness of war, although she strays into some dangerous areas when she accepts the faulty economic notion that wars bring economic benefits through government spending. 

Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency: War Communism in the Twenty-First Century
By Andreas Malm. Verso. 215 pages.
“The race to zero [carbon emissions] would have to be coordinated through control measures—rationing, reallocating, requisitioning, sanctioning, ordering” and much more.

Re-reading Economics in Literature: A Capitalist Critical Perspective 
By Matt Spivey. Lexington Books. 133 pages.
Matt Spivey continues the pioneering work of Paul Cantor and Stephen Cox in bringing sound economics to the analysis of literature. 

Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union
By Richard Kreitner. Little, Brown. 486 pages.
Secession and division are hot topics today. With red and blue states deeply at odds, subsidiarity may replace ideology as the great political issue of the twenty-first century in America.

The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return
By Michael Anton. Regnery Publishing. 441 pages.
Anton’s rhetorical talents are remarkable, and I urge everyone to read his book.

Tomorrow the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy
By Stephen Wertheim. Harvard University Press. 255 pages.
In this outstanding study, Stephen Wertheim shows that both views that dominate American foreign policy are wrong. In doing so, he vindicates for our time the merits of a noninterventionist foreign policy.

The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?
By Michael J. Sandel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 272 pages.
If you think that it up to people themselves to decide whom they wish to associate with, I am afraid that in Sandel’s mind, you are an elitist guilty of hubris.

Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making beyond the Numbers
By John Kay and Mervyn King. Norton, 2020. 528 pages
There is almost never clear evidence that a theory’s predictions are false. You can always adjust something in the theory to make it come out true, and that is what all too many economists do.

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy
By Stephanie Kelton. PublicAffairs. 325 pages.
Professor Stephanie Kelton is the leading light of a bizarre proposal known as modern monetary theory. Government deficits are a “myth,” because they don’t matter, because they never need to be repaid. Gordon disabuses this magical thinking.

The Problem with Lincoln
By Thomas DiLorenzo. Regnery History. 240 pages.
DiLorenzo demolishes the mythological view that Lincoln’s primary motive for opposing secession in 1861 was his distaste for slavery. 

Conceived in Liberty: The New Republic, 1784–1791
By Murray N. Rothbard. Edited by Patrick Newman. Mises Institute, 2019. 332 pages.
Rothbard took the American Revolution to be mainly libertarian in its inspiration, but he contends that the libertarian impulses of the Revolution were betrayed by a centralizing coup d’état. If Rothbard is right, the Constitution as written provides ample scope for tyranny.

Capitalism Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World
By Branko Milanovic. Harvard University Press. 287 pages.
The book’s main thesis can be summarized as: The choice the world faces is between two varieties of capitalism, liberal meritocratic and political. America is the foremost example of the first of these, and China of the second.

Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World
By Robert Lawson and Benjamin Powell. Regnery Publishing. 192 pages.
Lawson and Powell have had the happy idea of presenting elementary economics in a humorous way that will appeal to those “turned off” by serious and sober scholarship.

The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society
By Binyamin Appelbaum. Brown and Company. 439 pages.
Binyamin Appelbaum, the main writer on economics for the New York Times, thinks that economics was appropriately progressive—favoring severe market restrictions—in the first half of the twentieth century. All this changed in the fifties.

The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties
By Christopher Caldwell. Simon & Schuster, 2020. 342 pages.
The task that civil rights laws were meant to carry out—the top-down management of various ethnic, regional, and social groups—had always been the main task of empires. The US now imposes this both domestically and globally.

Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly
By John Quiggin. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 390 page.
David Gordon reviews John Quiggin’s “Economics in Two Lessons,” an effort to correct Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” by adding “important truths about the limitations of the market.”

Here are some additional reviews from Mises Institute scholars from the past year:

By Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

The Last Gold Rush…Ever!: 7 Reasons for the Runaway Gold Market and How You Can Profit from It 
By Charles Goyette and Bill Haynes. Post Hill Press, 2020. 240 pages.
We face a blowback “fueled by years of US imperialistic and lawless behavior around the world, and finally triggered by a critical mass of resentment of the US.”

By Jason Morgan

And Rightly So: Selected Letters and Articles of Neil McCaffrey 
Edited by Peter S. Kwasniewski. Roman Catholic Books, 2019. 386 pages.
Lew Rockwell reviews a newly released collection of Neil McCaffrey’s letters and other writings which reveal his relationships with members of the early libertarian movement such as Murray Rothbard.

Great Society: A New History
By Amity Shlaes. HarperCollins. 528 pages.
In the 1960s, politicians and bureaucrats had nearly unbounded faith in the ability to plan a nearly perfect society. Things didn’t turn out as they had planned.

Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control
By Stephen Kinzer. Henry Holt and Company. 368 pages.
Is the CIA a dastardly menace or a hotbed of horrible mistakes? If Stephen Kinzer’s new book is any indication, the answer is both.

By Robert Murphy

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy
By Stephanie Kelton. PublicAffairs. 336 pages.
The good news is that Stephanie Kelton has written a book on MMT that is very readable and will strike many readers as persuasive and clever. The bad news is that Stephanie Kelton has written a book on MMT that is very readable and will strike many readers as persuasive and clever.

By Zachary Yost

Why Associations Matter: The Case for First Amendment Pluralism
By Luke C. Sheahan. University Press of Kansas. 240 pages.
Tyrants inevitably work to destroy private associations. Such associations are outside of their control and are an alternative pole of allegiance, and therefore must be eliminated.

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