This is a difficult book to read for 2 reasons.
First, Stockman builds a solid narrative of successive short-sighted political decisions that led to terrible repercussions for democracy and the US economy. Starting with Roosevelt on through Obama, each president made choices that deformed normal economic mechanisms. His criticisms are not really partisan, as he bashes Nixon and Bush as much as Democrats. The examples he uses are numerous, devastating, and often mind-numbing in detail. The conclusions and predictions are very pessimistic.
The second reason the book is difficult is because Stockman is a really bad writer. Seemingly everything "grows like Topsy." Thousands of things are said that are "needless to say." Things "literally explode" that are not pyrotechnic. The countless cliches and a rather tedious sentence structure make the reading unpleasant. That a businessman like Stockman is not a prose stylist is not much of a fault, but why didn't the publisher have the book edited by someone fluent in English?
Gary Taubes does an excellent job poking holes in the conventional wisdom about dieting. It does seem the official medical theory of obesity fails to provide any advice except "have more willpower," and that advice is not very helpful. There are some questionable statements in the book's argument, such as the idea that humans have not genetically adapted to agriculture. The selection for lactose tolerance in cultures that have adopted milk products refutes this. Overall, the book is a solid refutation of what so many think is "common sense."
The words "causal" and "casual" are different words, and not homophones. Same with "causality" and "casualty." This repeated error in the narration seriously detracts from the credibility of the book.
The Spirit Level is one of those rare examples of social science being science. There are centuries of theoretical discussions about how best to allocate wealth, but this book actually provides data. The authors do their best to keep it entertaining, but it is occasionally demanding on the reader. Downloading the pdf file is a must to understanding the book. I hope the Spirit Level is read by every policy maker in the world.
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