WASHINGTON BEDTIME STORIES: The Politics of Money and Jobs by Herbert Stein

WASHINGTON BEDTIME STORIES: The Politics of Money and Jobs

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In Stein's deft hands, economics becomes a delightful rather than a dismal science. Here, the former CEA chairman offers 40-odd essays that afford seriocomic perspectives on many of the fancies, fads, and fallacies that have passed for socioeconomic wisdom during the 1980's. While a number of the pieces originally ran in Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications, there is a generous sampling from professional journals, including that of the American Enterprise Institute, where Stein is a senior fellow. Regardless of whom he's writing for, however, the author is an equal-opportunity critic, good-naturedly taking to task supply-siders as well as Keynesians. The nominally conservative Stein pokes fun at himself as well, most notably perhaps in an unpublished sendup of the TV docudrama based on John Dean's Blind Ambition, which amounts to a mea culpa for his compliant role in President Nixon's 1971 imposition of wage and price controls. Equally felicitous are such inclusions as ""Verbal Windfall"" (a devilishly clever lexicon of trendy terms), ""A Grumpie Talks to Yumpies"" (reminding them they have much to learn from their elders), ""Just the Fair Trade Facts, Ma'am,"" and ""Feeding Baby the Budget Deficit"" (in which the word applesauce becomes a litany). With nearly 50 years of Washington experience, Stein is inclined to discount many if not most discussions of economic policy as ""bedtime stories made up to amuse or frighten the citizenry."" Even at their most antically irreverent, however, his briefings are invariably informed by serious purposes. Those range from an oft-stated conviction that national security is well worth paying for through resigned acceptance of the difficulties involved in providing Presidents definitive counsel on economic matters. Acute, worldly-wise commentary on consequential issues from a pro with enviably elegant style.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan