Book Hints

A selective mention of books received for review


The Third World War has come and gone; a handful of megacorporations fills the power gaps left after the demise of the superpowers; a computer with volition, self-awareness, and intelligence triggers a struggle for supremacy among existing power brokers. From these foundations, Victor Milan constructs a science fiction work, The Cybernetic Samurai (New York: Arbor House, 300 pp., $15.95), being touted by some as comparable to Robert Heinlein's classic, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

A more immediate future is the focus of a nonfiction work, Competing Visions: The Political Conflict over America's Economic Future, by Richard B. McKenzie (Washington, D.C.: The Cato Institute, 216 pp., $20/$8.95). In many ways a response to and refutation of the view that America is deindustrializing, Competing Visions combines economic analysis and empirical data to show that greater government involvement in the economy à la "industrial policy" will not yield prosperity.

Offering a similar conclusion, but more theoretical in scope, Don Lavoie challenges the case for government administration of the economy in National Economic Planning: What Is Left? (Washington, D.C.: The Cato Institute, and Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 291 pp., $9.95 paper).

The perspective of Nobel Prize–winning economist Milton Friedman, whose book and TV series Free to Choose won widespread acclaim in the early '80s, is clearly summarized by Eamonn Butler in Milton Friedman: A Guide to His Economic Thought (New York: Universe Books, 256 pp., $16.50/$8.95). Another work, Discovery and the Capitalist Process, by America's leading exponent of the Austrian school of economics, Israel Kirzner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 192 pp., $22.50), offers a fascinating glimpse of free markets, entrepreneurship, and government regulation.

One way to buck the trend of national planning and build freer markets is to speak up before the very legislators whose "ayes" and "nays" shape economic policy. No, Minister, by Ralph Harris of London's influential Institute of Economic Affairs, is a collection of his speeches before the British House of Lords in which the author makes spirited and articulate attempts to persuade against all manner of economic intervention (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, distributed by Transatlantic Arts, Albuquerque, N.M., 64 pp., $6.95 paper).

Arguing the case for less government still leaves the agenda for change unclear. The Privatization Option: A Strategy to Shrink the Size of Government, edited by Stuart M. Butler (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 97 pp., $6.95 paper) compiles essays by a number of policy experts, including REASON's Robert W. Poole, Jr., who demonstrate how and why the shifting of government functions into the private sector can work.

Taking up one particular government policy and the outlook for the future is Social Security: Prospects for Real Reform, edited by Peter J. Ferrara (Washington, D.C.: The Cato Institute, 220 pp., $8.95 paper). Deregulation in another policy area, health care, is outlined in Competition and Home Medicine, by W. Duncan Reekie and Hans G. Otzbrugger (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, distributed by Transatlantic Arts, Albuquerque, N.M.: 56 pp., $6.95 paper).

Schools and education policy continue to receive widespread attention as the "Johnny-can't-read-problem" remains with us. Martha Brown's Schoolwise: A Parent's Guide to Getting the Best Education for Your Child (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 256 pp., $9.95 paper) does not map out a new education policy. It does, however, provide good, solid information on how parents can cope with the existing system.