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Freedom works

Picks & pans | Author is a voice of reason in a swamp of statist megalomania

Issue: "Saving Isaac," Nov. 10, 2007

On a cold and blustery night I made up my mind to leave my home in search of a better life. Despite its hard-working and entrepreneurial people, Bulgaria was in ruins thanks to socialism. I came to America, a field where dreams come true in a climate of economic freedom, and I expected to find a nation that rejoices in its victory over the empire of evil.

Instead, I encountered grumpy old academics working hard to change the intellectual climate into one of servitude to the State. That is why I salute John Lott's Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't (Regnery, 2007), a voice of reason in a swamp of interventionist megalomania that threatens to push the land of the free down the road of the late Roman Empire.

Freedomnomics, translating economics into regular English, shows that bureaucratic and judicial attempts to correct the market restore feudalism and hurt the poor. Corporate scandals that lower a firm's reputation create disincentives to cheat and thus become part of a self-correcting market mechanism. Lott also discerns the true link between legalized abortion and crime: In opposition to the best-selling book Freakonomics, he shows that easy access to abortion leads to change in attitudes to premarital sex, more out-of-wedlock children, family breakdown, and thus to more crime.

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Another book, Human Goods, Economic Evils (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2007) by Edward Hadas, is not so successful. It is good to see an attempt to reverse the tendency of social engineers since the Depression to see people merely as matter in motion-but the author misunderstands the nature of scarcity and underestimates the importance of economic freedom.

Human Goods, Economic Evils contains valuable comparisons between different economic systems, as well as thought-provoking analysis of the nature of economic goods, yet it offers no clear directions, in part because Hadas looks at evil as a "philosophical mystery." The two most evil systems of the 20th century, though, are not so mysterious. Both communism and Hitler's applied Darwinism sought to improve humanity. Both ignored the depth of human corruption and created more misery.

Hadas stigmatizes Marxism as utopia but places undue trust in the goodness of human nature-a common mistake if you see Christ mostly as a champion for social justice. Evil is often an unintended consequence of trying to do good in an unbiblical way. It's important to tear down the wall of separation between mainstream economics and ethics, but problems arise when economic planners try to deprive us, for our own good, of individual freedom of self-expression.

Freedomnomics is a better book-and those who read it with an open mind will never again think of the Big Federal Government as the Big Friendly Giant fighting against greedy capitalists for the benefit of many.

-Alex Tokarev is an economics professor at The King's College

The tech reader

Many people use technology but are bored by discussions of it, and sometimes fantasize about its disappearance. And yet, The New Atlantis advises us that "there is nothing especially laudable in romanticizing lost worlds, or pretending that societies without running water or modern medicine are more 'authentic' than our own, or believing that disarming ourselves will make the perils of technological power disappear."

The New Atlantis examines our new world, reminding us that we are touched and transformed by the tools of our own invention-either because we use them or alter our lives so we won't have to use them. It honors technology but also calls us to humility and reminds us that technology is a great temptation to abuse, especially when it's used for moral ends.

The Christian is called to a life of technology-literally, a creative life of making things. We are called to redeem a broken world: The Christian life is a life of building, and a life of building is often a technological life that can use a special kind of reading material. Find it at thenewatlantis.com.
-Harrison Scott Key

Alex Tokarev
Alex Tokarev

Alex is the chair of the Department of Business at Morthland College in West Frankfort, Ill., and teaches at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. The native of communist Bulgaria fanatically supports the Bulgarian soccer team, Levski.

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