Wray's prose is dense, rich in jargon, and tedious to work through at times, so it could not go any higher than three stars. However, the ideas in thi...moreWray's prose is dense, rich in jargon, and tedious to work through at times, so it could not go any higher than three stars. However, the ideas in this book are fascinating, hence it could not go any lower than three stars.
The central idea of this book is that taxes drive money. That is, contrary to the belief that governments need to collect tax revenue to be able to spend (underlying the push for fiscal austerity in government), Wray argues for the view that the reason to charge taxes is to create a demand for the fiat money created by the government, so that private citizens will accept that money in exchange for goods and services (i.e., government spending). On this view, governments will tend to run perpetual deficits, as private citizens and banks will hoard money, so that the government will have to spend more than it collects in taxes. Wray then proposes a measure the government can use to stabilize the price of its currency: offer a fixed price for unskilled labor, so that government spending responds automatically to fluctuations in private demand (as private demand for that labor decreases, government spending will increase as it absorbs the unskilled labor, and vice versa as private demand increases again).
It's hard to escape the feeling that, as with all economic models, this one glosses over myriad difficulties that would plague this policy if it were implemented in the real world. But it is tempting to think that much of the current debate about government fiscal policy is all built upon a misunderstanding about the nature of money and its relation to governments.(less)
Two chapters into this book I was shocked how interested I actually was. This should maybe not have been such a surprise considering I went out and bo...moreTwo chapters into this book I was shocked how interested I actually was. This should maybe not have been such a surprise considering I went out and bought a book specifically because the topic intrigued me, but the first hundred pages or so are really very much worth reading, even if you already feel you've considered the issues (say, by reading Fishman's article about Wal-Mart, out of which the book grew, or this piece about Wal-Mart and monopsony, which got me interested). Nearer the end I was somewhat less enthused, not because I lost interest in the topic but because Fishman's chapter tying the themes of the book back together falls flat at points. But it doesn't much take away from the overall strengths of the book, and its coda - a group interview with several women laid off from an Illinois factory - redeems it in the final pages. (The notes are also contain some interesting tidbits, as I learned on the subway home after finishing this with literally nothing else to read.)(less)
This quick read by John Bowe gives the reader into contemporary labor slavery through three recent American stories (migrant farmers in Florida, India...moreThis quick read by John Bowe gives the reader into contemporary labor slavery through three recent American stories (migrant farmers in Florida, Indian welders in Oklahoma, and garment workers on Saipan). While his journalism focuses on his America, he makes the case that this is a broader human phenomenon, which he concludes is about control and power. His account of Saipan is his most sustained attempt to examine the effects of slavery on a society, if perhaps also a bit disorganized in its approach. This book is worth reading if for no other reason than to bring home the reality that you have likely recently bought, or will buy before too long, some product that is a result of forced (or coerced) labor. But my take-away is that stories like these should push us to re-imagine our labor system.(less)