Thursday 24 May 2012

Book Review: "American Gridlock" by H. Woody Brock

Sorry. I can't help it. It was difficult to buy this book because of the juxtaposition of the authors name and the title of the book. I did, of course, mainly because of the sub-title:
"Why the left and right are both wrong - commonsense 101 solutions to the economic crises"
Ok. Let me state from the start. This guy is no dummy or just some hot head op-ed columnist. He's got a serious number of letters after his name. And given the number of endorsements (3 pages of them) worth taking seriously.

The book is written from the standpoint of a highly trained, articulate economist who "can't take it anymore" and instead of ranting and spluttering, presents bi-partisan solutions to the most pressing problems besetting the American political scene. For example here is the list of chapter headings:

  1. Dialogue of the Deaf
  2. Must There Be a Lost Decade?
  3. Resolving the Entitlements Spending Crisis
  4. Preventing Perfect Financial Storms
  5. Bargaining Theory 101
  6. Beyond Democratic Capitalism

One would be tempted to view this as a laundry list of "well, what I think we should do is..." but it isn't. Each chapter used rigorous deductive logic, theorems and proofs (Provided in detail in the appendix!) to show why simply shouting at each other across the aisle or letting media know-it-alls-who-know-nothing shout their opinions simply must stop.

By taking a purely deductive approach and using Nash, Marsinya, Arrow, Kurz, Mordecai et al theories (most of whom won Nobel Prizes for their work) he clearly articulates that the suggested solutions have been systematically and repeatedly ignored and *proves* (as in axiomatic) that they would work.

This doesn't seem to have the faintest whiff of Randism or Friedmanism to it btw.

I particularly like the use of the dialectic written as an imaginary conversation between himself and the President. The President repeatedly brings out real world objections, altruistic concerns, party politics, lobbyists, special interest group objections and so on. Each gets explained in an easy to understand way.

I do love his suggestions on using social media to gamify "Gotcha!" by trapping media talking-heads, phony liberals, policy wonks and op-eds in their insane and frustrating logical fallacies. I also love his suggestion for creating an "Idiocy Index" to be applied to White House economists and state dept nutters who let China Alpha-Foxtrot*1 the US for so long.

Finally, I'd like to suggest that even if you only pick this book up at a bookstore (if they're any left in your area), simply read the conclusion. It's only 3 pages and will have you optimistic, laughing and wanting more.

This is a remarkable book and well worth time reading. Especially *THIS YEAR* if you're American.

*1. Think about it. Like Charlie-Foxtrot can be applied to the GFC.


  1. Have read this as well and totally agree. This book should be required reading for all European and US voters and politicians. I am so sick of the shouting and media driven political dogma that solves nothing. Finally someone has the guts to say so.

  2. I could not agree more. Although aimed at the US market Europeans could learn a lot from this book. It should be essential reading for all politicians and voters. I am fed up withthe media driven political dogma of the left and right where nothing is resolved. Finally someone has stood up and said so, Do yourself a favour. Read this and demand real action from your politicians.

  3. Thanks. BTW, Love your blog. I'll add it to my list of regular site trawls I do each day. I originally started this blog as a in-house thing, but it's expanding faster than I expected. Really, really need to start working on monetizing this thing... :-)