THE INVISIBLE HEART by Russell Roberts
Kirkus Star


An Economic Romance
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A romance from MIT Press? Yes, because it's devoted to radical economic ideas delivered as marvelously inventive fiction.

Business scholar and NPR commentator Roberts (The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism, 1993, not reviewed) hangs his debut novel on a trick, which of course we can't give away, but think clever twists à la The Sixth Sense. The story: Sam Gordon teaches high-school economics at the high-toned Edwards School in Washington, D.C. Sam's pro-capitalist ideas about economics sound an outlandish drumbeat for $ucce$$ that would have Ayn Rand hauling him straight into the bedroom. Though at first blush his ideas sound immoral and unprincipled, they're grounded in profound good sense. As Sam explains to unmarried English teacher Laura Silver: "There is an invisible heart at the core of the marketplace, serving the customer and doing it joyously." A hundred years ago, he tells her, forty percent of the American population lived on farms; today only three percent do. What if, out of "compassion," we'd passed laws against the improved technology that drove the kids off the farms, just as we might fetter today's industries and keep them stateside? Our new technologies would not have arisen. Never regulate business! Sam insists. Among his stunned students is Amy Hunt, daughter of powerful Senator Hunt (member of the school's supervisory board), and her parroting of Sam's radical capitalism around her house may get him in deep trouble. Meanwhile, a subplot goes forward as giant pharmaceuticals firm HealthNet moves to Mexico, causing a huge loss of jobs in an American factory town. Can watchdog Erica Baldwin's Office of Corporate Responsibility bring HealthNet's fanged CEO, Charles Krauss, to heel?

There is actually a love story (largely unrequited) amid all this finagling, but it's capitalism that charms you breathless.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-262-18210-6
Page count: 266pp
Publisher: MIT
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2001