While new activities are daily grafted onto the already bloated governmental bureaucracy and the sphere of individual choice is continually pruned, there is an ongoing debate about whether all this makes sense. Thus a spate of new books on the issue of the proper respective roles and scope of political institutions and economic freedom.
Charles E. Lindblom offers a comparative analysis in Politics and Markets: The World's Political-Economic Systems (New York: Basic Books, 1977, 403 pp., $15). "Market-oriented systems" (the author spares himself the debate over whether so-called capitalist systems really are capitalist) get a hearing, but a rather ambivalent one. The same might be said for Irving Kristol's Two Cheers for Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 1978, 256 pp., $10), which is, except for the lead chapter, a collection of previously published material. While the market, maintains Kristol, is all well and good in its proper place (which is, admittedly, more than many will allow), it is not only neutral with respect to, but positively fosters a neglect of, the nonmaterial values—religion, family, culture, and decency—that bind together the members of society in a historically successful unit.
Then there are books that you won't see picked up by major publishers and (therefore?) won't see reviewed in the national media. In Does Freedom Work? (Ottawa, IL: Caroline House Books, Green Hill, 1978, 192 pp., $10), Donald J. Devine not only contends with criticisms of classical liberal systems for their alleged injustice but takes on Kristol- (and, by the way, Marxist-) style complaints about the supposed crass materialism of market systems. Set in a broader context, Madsen Pirie's Trial and Error and the Idea of Progress (LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1978, 223 pp., $10.95) is also a defense of the notion that economic and social progress (just like scientific progress, in a modified Popperian schema) are best secured by broadening the scope of individual choice.
Similar issues are addressed in a different way in two books that look at the history of mankind, setting out a number of case histories and asking what makes for successful and unsuccessful economies and societies. Jude Wanniski, associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, concludes in The Way the World Works (New York: Basic Books, 1978, 319 pp., $12.95) that, whatever the political arrangement, it all hinges on the way citizens are taxed and the proceeds distributed. Antony Fisher notes that historically wars have led to ballooning bureaucracies and taxes, creating inflationary conditions that governments attempt to solve by increasingly inflationary measures, whereas more-than-less free regimes have seen the flowering of prosperity and creativity. Fisher's book was brought out in England in 1974 as Must History Repeat Itself? and has now been revised and published as Fisher's Concise History of Economic Bungling (Ottawa, IL: Caroline House Books, Green Hill, 1978, 113 pp., $8.95).
Recent books of related interest include William E. Simon's A Time for Truth (New York: Reader's Digest Press, McGraw-Hill, 1978, 248 pp., $12.50), in which the former secretary of the Treasury lambastes welfare-statism; Martin Anderson's Welfare (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978, $10), a discussion of why promised radical welfare reforms have failed to materialize and of what the general population, as opposed to the intellectual elite, want in the way of welfare reform; and, with a simple and arresting title, Charge (London: Temple Smith, 1977, 224 pp., £ 3.50 paper), in which Arthur Seldon dissects in layman's terms the widespread distinction between public and private goods and argues for a very restricted set of the former—based on the theory and experience that things work out best if people are charged for what they get and thus allowed a choice of what to buy.