What Everyone Should Know About Economics and Prosperity
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
Barbara Lenes is an Edmonton-based economist.
While this book claims to be a primer of basic economic principles, it
is in fact yet another Fraser Institute self-published attempt to
proselytize a specific understanding of private property and to label
this economics. In point form, Gwartney and Stroup explain (i) the logic
that supports the marketplace; (ii) how the marketplace produces
prosperity; and (iii) why governments should withdraw from trying to
mitigate the market outcome.
The book is designed for those who have not studied economics in depth,
yet want an idea of its “big picture.” It incorporates emotive
pictures of amber waves of grain and gas queues in Eastern Europe to
establish the appropriate subliminal messages, and charts tax rates
alongside rates of growth in GDP to remind the reader that the authors
are stating uncontestable scientific fact.
While someone wanting an ABC of economic theory may be frustrated with
this book, for the ethicist, economic historian, and political
economist, it is as good a compilation of free-market philosophy as can
be found in one place. From the emphasis on property/income as reward
for “helping others,” to a defence of corporate profit, to a
disparagement of leisure as nonmonetary activity, the market is promoted
as the model of basic human behavior.
The extreme disgust directed at any level of government that would dare
take away property through tax ends in a call for markets to be
constitutionally upheld over the “myth” of democracy. This is to
ensure that special-interest groups (i.e., “young people, old people,
[and] those who live in areas of high unemployment” and in the
transfer-receiving regions of Canada) cannot rob the hapless property
owner. Government functions are to be limited to enforcement of
contracts (courts), protection against theft (police), and road
As Gwartney and Stroup conclude, if individual autonomy through
exclusive control of property is the goal, all of the content of this
book must necessarily follow.