Five Easy Theses: A book review by Bob Morris

Five Easy ThesesFive Easy Theses: Commonsense Solutions to America’s Greatest Economic Challenges
James M. Stone
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)

Alas, many of those in power with the greatest need to read this book are least likely to do so.

It will come as no surprise that the five theses that James Stone poses are easy to articulate but very, very difficult to act upon, especially now when the world seems to have become more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can remember.

Also consider this. In 1865, a German physicist, Rudolph Clausius (1822-1888), coined the term entropy during his research on heat. The word’s meaning: “a turning towards” (in Greek, en+tropein), “content transformative” or “transformative content.” Claudius used the concept to establish a mathematical foundation for the second law of thermodynamics: without the injection of free energy, all systems tend to move (however gradually) from order to disorder, if not to chaos.

If being on the brink of organizational chaos as well as entropy doesn’t describe the U.S. federal government, especially the Senate and House, I really don’t know what does. However, all that said, I think it is important for thoughtful and concerned people such as Stone to speak up and reach out, offering their solutions to various problems associated with the domestic economic issues on which Stone focuses:

o Fiscal Balance
o Inequality
o Education
o Health Care
o Financial Sector Reform

Stone offers solutions — that will be debated — to major problems that no rational person can deny. For example: “The largest of the wasteful tax expenditures is the interest deduction…The corporate deduction for interest is probably worse, providing an incentive for business to use debt rather than equity and paying at taxpayer expense for the increased corporate concentration that comes from debt laden takeovers and buy-outs.”

Also: “There are two major issues in education. One is that our high schools fail to prepare all of those kids who aren’t going to college for meaningful careers. The other is that college is becoming unaffordable for all but the very poor and very lucky, who get full scholarships, and the wealthy, who get preferential admissions.”

To repeat, James Stone offers solutions — that will be debated — to the major problems that no rational person can deny. I have no idea to what extent (if any) his book will have any impact but I thank him for it nonetheless. Who knows? Perhaps someday, a grateful nation will honor him. I do so now.

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