Former treasury undersecretary Taylor (Economics/Stanford Univ.; Getting Off Track: How Government Actions and Interventions Caused, Prolonged, and Worsened the Financial Crisis, 2009, etc.) looks to get back to the good old days “of economic freedom upon which the country was founded.”
These “first principles” are merely the ones of unrestricted free trade, meaning without pesky regulation and without government intervention or interference. Wave a wand and return to that, and voilà: “we can restore America’s prosperity and our confidence in the future.” It’s up to the worker who wants to be competitive to secure the skills and education necessary to the task, all a matter of incentives and rewards. But what if such a worker finds his or her job outsourced to Asia? To do anything in the way of protecting a job would be “interventionism,” while efforts to even out some of the turbulence of the so-called free market constitute dreaded and despised “short-term Keynesian discretionary” remedies. Taylor fair-mindedly notes that Republican and Democratic presidents alike have been more interventionist than less; readers who do not remember Richard Nixon’s experiments in wage-and-price freezes, for instance, may be surprised to realize how, well, socialistic they seem in today’s context. And the author is surely right to point out that the flaws in the banking system were far deeper than a mere bailout could fix, adding, “The extraordinary bailout measures that began with Bear Stearns before the panic were the most harmful interventions.” Yet Taylor’s neolibertarian prescriptions seem more dogmatic than helpful, his attacks on health-care reform a species of I’ve-got-mine privilege. His befuddlement at the thought that the Chinese government might jail vendors for selling nonorganic pork as organic (“there was no safety issue”) hints at a failure to connect with the world outside the pages of Ayn Rand, to say nothing of grasping the concept of truth in advertising.
Save the cost of the book and listen to a speech by just about any of this year’s crop of GOP candidates.