ON THE OTHER HAND... by Herbert Stein


Reflections on Economics, Economists, and Politics
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 A collection of recent articles concerning topical economic issues and a life as a public economist that is sometimes informative, occasionally humorous, and never profound. Stein, a senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and usually identified as a conservative, feels an ``inability to swallow whole the doctrine of any party or sect,'' and demonstrates in lucid and engaging prose ``the rationality of the commitment to being uncommitted.'' Surveying the changes in US capitalism since the Great Depression, he concludes that the free market's survival and triumph over communism is rooted in its ability to adapt continually to changing circumstances. Stein admires Roosevelt for his direct approach to problems and disregard of political orthodoxies. President Nixon (Stein was on the Council of Economic Advisors from 1969 to 1974) is depicted as having been politically flexible, with a greater commitment to socially progressive policies than is widely recognized. Stein criticizes much current economic debate as politically charged and short on facts. Despite varied chapters ranging from light journalism and satire to more serious essays for professional publications, many for The American Enterprise, a uniform series of concerns emerges: inflation, the structural deficit, the urban underclass, and the distribution of income. The politically agnostic Stein, it turns out, does have some prescriptions, though some remain vague: Strive toward a balanced federal budget by cutting entitlements and raising taxes, invest in the urban underclass, and if economists are to participate in formulating effective options, they should study the effect public policy has on character and values. But Stein's analyses lack depth and context; he fails, for instance, to consider the impact of the world economy on America's economic growth and decline. Stein's avoidance of political orthodoxy is refreshing and his writing illuminating on economic policies. However, a generally superficial treatment of economics often undercuts his analyses and conclusions.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8447-3876-X
Page count: 275pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994