Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, and prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Because where there used to be just two standard economics primers that the aspiring Austrian student could get started with, there are now three.
We have already reviewed the first two primers, here at the Cobden Centre:
However, these may have just been superseded by a third: How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes, by Peter D. Schiff and Andrew J. Schiff.
The Schiff brothers have created this new primer by basing it upon two cartoon-style books written in the 1980s by their father, Irwin A. Schiff, that have since gone on to become underground classics and which are also available on Scribd:
These two books have been blended together into a cohesive unitary whole and brought right up to date, with much more text added than in the original books, to nail home all of the major lessons of Austrian economics. (Or as we Austrian adherents sometimes like to call it, True economics.)
Quite simply, this new Schiffian book is a joy to read as it follows the story of three Robinson-Crusoe-Style men — Able, Baker, and Charlie — and maps out how they and their descendants travel in time from a lost island of rude existence — catching and eating one fish per day with their bare hands — to a land filled with government-subsidised universities offering voters fun degree courses in surfboarding.
Just as Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard begin with Robinson Crusoe scenarios in Human Action and Man, Economy, and State, Able, Baker, and Charlie start out with nothing but their bare hands and then work their way up through capital savings and capital goods production (building nets to catch fish), all the way through to every aspect of modern government-dominated economics (with oriental agents eventually using cartloads of Fish Reserve Notes to buy up everything of any worth on the original island).
One of the best parts of travelling through this telescoped journey is working out who represents who in the cartoons. Ben Barnacle and his ‘Strong Fish’ policy are easy enough to work out, but can you guess who Franky Deep and Cliff Cod are, with their ‘Official Fish’ policy conundrums?
It actually goes well for the island until Franky Deep ousts Grouper Cleveland. But from then on it’s a downward fish school spiral until the islanders hit a remarkably similar economic reef to our own. The Schiff brothers then take this situation on a few years to show where the island will end up if it keeps following the fantasy fish policies of Barry Ocuda.
As well as being a great quick read, virtually every economic and financial policy you can think of is explored and examined within the pages of this book, without there being a single “There She Blows!” moment where everything suddenly reverses meaning, as happens between Classical micro-economics and Keynesian macro-economics, when saving and production flip from being moral and sensible to becoming immoral and nonsensical.
Instead, this book is simply based upon the sound rigorous principles of Austrian economics, which work from back to front in all climates, on every island, for all time, and which make sense all the way through from micro to macro.
In simple fish-related terms, reading this book will give you a whale of a time.
If I am forced to find a flaw, I suspect that the book will date fairly rapidly and will need to be updated in five to ten years, unlike either Economics in One Lesson or Economics for Real People; however, I am confident that this necessary update in a few years time will not be beyond the wit of the Schiff brothers to carry out, as and when it is required.
In the meanwhile, that still gives us plenty of fish-time Fridays to read and enjoy the current version, a flavour of which can be seen in the following YouTube video:
Before purchasing the book, you may also want to read these two splendid reviews:
- The Best Introduction to Economics in Print (LewRockwell.com)
- Review: “How An Economy Grows & Why It Crashes” by Peter Schiff (BlackSheepReport.com)