MIDNIGHT ECONOMIST: Choices, Prices, and Public Policy by William R. Allen

MIDNIGHT ECONOMIST: Choices, Prices, and Public Policy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Three-minute pronouncements on economic matters, delivered (1979-81) over West Coast radio and TV by UCLA economist Allen ""on behalf of the Institute for Economic Research,"" which he heads, and introduced by Milton Friedman, whom he lauds. It would be misleading, however, to identify Allen's utterances with either monetarism or supply-side economics as such: the great bulk of the book is simply ""individualistic, private-property, free-market capitalism"" vs. Big Brother, and myriad permutations thereof--from the evils of the minimum wage to the ills of consumer protection to the wrongs of aid to minorities. But the thinking can be seen in Allen's blast at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for selling tickets to the King Tut exhibit ""at a price of just $1""--with the result that all the tickets (660,000) were sold in just four days. A ""shortage"" developed and, to the outrage of some legislators, brokers were soon getting $20 per ticket. Allen isn't outraged (""The higher price allocates tickets to those who want them most""); and one needn't be--because most of those 660,000 tickets had already gone to people who wanted them badly enough to stand ""in long lines in the rain"" and who got them (at $2) virtually irrespective of their income. The good of such a procedure--for a major cultural event, at a civic institution--just never occurs to him. There's no arguing, however, with values. In the pieces which do deal with the economic state of the nation, Allen is big for moneysupply management, cautious re tax cuts--more of a Friedmanite, in short, than a supply-sider. On other policy fronts, he simply takes the strict laissez-faire position--against business bailouts, for instance, and for free trade. The very last piece is a defense of weaning Third World mothers from breast-feeding to commercial formulas. These are snappy little capsules of total assurance--for those who've acquired the taste.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1981
Publisher: Playboy--dist. by Harper & Row