Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review of "The Return of the Great Depression," By Vox Day

Vox Day, aka Theodore Beale, has several books out, most of which by a perusal of his site are along sci fi and fantasy/fiction lines.  However, perhaps his original claim to fame was a book I've been procrastinating reading "The Return of the Great Depression," available in both paperback and kindle.

Unlike the title would suggest the majority of the book is not, in fact, about the next Great Depression as much as it is a very good analysis and study of conventional and historical economic theories and how they are playing out during today's turbulent and uncommon economic times.  This is my largest complaint about the book in that I was expecting a book on the next Great Depression and what this man's thoughts would be, but it isn't until the second to last chapter that you actually get to his own personal observations and theories.

That being said, the book was certainly not a let down, surprising me in other regards warranting the purchase AND READING (that's for you, Aunt Judy) of his book.  First, the book is an outstanding, thorough, but succinct analysis and comparison of the various economic philosophies that are duking it out today.  He compares and contrasts Austrian, Keynesian, the Chicago School and Marxism in ways that shows he's actually read vastly more books on economics and philosophy than I have and can use words like "praxeology" in a sentence.  THis makes him "one of those guys" who while would be considered a Buzz Killington at a party, is the guy you'd probably defer to when it came to matters of economic history and technicality.  Second, like reading other economists, you always pick up a trick or two you weren't aware of or observe mistakes you may have made (for example his explaining what the GDP deflator is NOT the same as the CPI may not help you pick up chicks at a bar, but will provide for some interesting adjustments to modern day RGDP).  This has not only further advanced my understanding of economics, but plugged some minor holes in my own economic theories and philosophies I've procrastinated plugging.  Third he writes very well and very dense, efficiently packing as much information into the fewest and optimal amount of words.  The introduction alone is a perfect synopsis that would benefit everybody in terms of "what economics is."  Finally, the man is a genius.  I say this not in a flattering way but because he belongs to mensa and factually is a genius.  This means his writing and the pace at which he covers and delivers material, concepts and theories, etc., is not slow and is sure to engage, if not challenge your mind (sometimes requiring multiple re-readings of certain paragraphs).

Unfortunately, this leads to the second largest drawback of the book, it will shoot over most non-economist's heads.  Though intended for "economic actors, not economists" and purposely simplified in language, vocabulary, mathematical formulae and charting, it's obvious Beale has been in an environment where his mind is among equals.  Even "dumbing it down" it's still a heavy read requiring your full mental attention and a constant referencing of the glossary.

Ultimately the book is a great read for two groups of people.  Those those already in the profession and (more importantly) people who have an intellectual or hobby interest in economics, but are not in the profession.  It is this second group that would benefit most, not just because of the exercise your brain will receive, but Beale does a great job breaking down the current and past economic philosophies, providing you the background and history as to how different schools have come about and how they are playing out in the real world today.

It is worth the price of paperback, but the $2 price on Kindle practically compels you to purchase it.

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