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Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: The Invisible Heart

Admit it. At one time or another, you've had to argue with someone about politics or economics. It doesn't matter whether it's often or not, it's just something that happens. I've fallen down the pitfall of arguing with a few of my relatives about various political or economic ideas (I won't name any names), but I believe that I've finally found a book which can help you argue about economic ideas. This book, written by one Russell Roberts back in 2002, stars a young Washington, D.C. economics professor named Sam Gordon as he argues various economic issues with English teacher Laura Silver. Meanwhile, a story written in the present tense is taking place across town where Erica Baldwin, the crusading head of a government watchdog agency as she try to bring down positively ruthless CEO Charles Krauss.

This book is subtitled An Economic Romance. And yes, we get to see the absolutely implausible romance between Sam and Laura unfold. I'd say that they're star crossed lovers, except that they are neither star crossed nor lovers. But what am I saying? This book isn't meant to showcase complex character development and motivations, nor is it meant to tell a touching romantic story. It's supposed to teach you about economic issues in a compelling way, which is why I was reading the thing in the first place, in my Economics class.

I'll admit, this book has a compelling story. Didactic, but compelling. It has some genuinely good economic info from a decisively conservative viewpoint, which I find to be a good thing. My favorite part was the chapter where Sam is playing a game with this students where they have to make up a perfect law. We actually had this as a review question in my Economics class; what would be your perfect law? I said that all elected officials would have term limits. Feel free to poke holes in that in the comments section, hint hint.

Of course, this book's secondary plot drive, the romance, is completely ridiculous. I don't believe for a minute that these two people could fall in love somehow, no matter how contrived the situation was. To be fair though, Sam shares my opinion, and they still haven't gotten together by the end of the book, which brings me to my next point; what the heck happens next? We're kind of left hanging, in a manner slightly reminiscent of the ending of the ghastly Sherlock Holmes and the Titanic Tragedy. The heroes have come through their trials, and they're walking off into the sunset- but what about Sam? What happens to him? Will he get into a real relationship with Laura (We're not supposed to ask about the Erica vs. Krauss thing, as illustrated by a admittedly clever plot twist in that area)? And most of all, what was the point of this story if almost nothing changed in the characters? To put it simply, the ending raises more questions than it answers, and that annoys me to no end. 

In the end, I must concede that in a book not totally devoted to presenting a good plot, in what is essentially a textbook with a fictitious flavor, not to mention a plot twist which raises the question of why the Erica vs. Krauss story was there in the first place, is good at what it tries to do. That would be to teach about economics from a conservative point of view. It got lots of rave reviews from some prominent conservatives, including Amity Schlaes, some of whose books are on my list. Thusly, I will rate the book a little higher than usual for a substandard plot with a needless B-plot meant only to overly illustrate a small point, not to mention the less than believable romance. A good book on economics, but not on much else.

RATING: 8.5/10

Image courtesy of amazon.com