Who's the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America

Encounter Books
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President Obama has declared that the standard by which all policies and policy outcomes are judged is fairness. He declared in 2011 that "we've sought to ensure that every citizen can count on some basic measure of security. We do this because we recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any moment, might face hard times, might face bad luck, might face a crippling illness or a layoff." And that, he says, is why we have a social safety net. He says that returning to a standard of fairness where anyone can get ahead through hard work is the "issue of our time." And perhaps it is.

This book explores what it means for our economic system and our economic results to be "fair." Does it mean that everyone has a fair shot? Does it mean that everyone gets the same amount? Does it mean the government can assert the authority to forcibly take from the successful and give to the poor? Is government supposed to be Robin Hood determining who gets what? Or should the market decide that? The surprising answer: nations with free market systems that allow people to get ahead based on their own merit and achievement are the fairest of them all.
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About the author

Stephen Moore is senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal editorial page and a member of the editorial board. He is also an economic commentator for CNBC TV and Fox News Channel, where he appears daily commenting on economic, fiscal policy, and political issues of the day. His most recent books include Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain its Economic Superpower Status (Threshold, 2011).
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Additional Information

Encounter Books
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Published on
Oct 9, 2012
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Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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When submarines failed to return to port from patrol, they were officially listed by the Navy as overdue and presumed lost. Loved ones were notified by the War Department that their siblings, spouses, and sons were missing in action and presumed lost. While 52 U.S. submarines were sunk during World War II, the Japanese took prisoners of war from the survivors of only seven of these lost submarines. Presumed Lost is the compelling story of the final patrols of those seven submarines and the long captivity of the survivors. Of the 196 sailors taken prisoner, 158 would survive the horrors of the POW camps, where torture, starvation, and slave labor were common. This is the most complete and accurate record of their captivity experiences ever compiled. Author Stephen L. Moore draws on personal interviews with the survivors, as well as on diaries, family archives, and POW statements to reveal new details and correct longstanding errors in previously published accounts. Moore's research brought to light the following facts: Most crewmen from USS Perch endured 1,298 days of captivity without their families ever being told that they were still alive. The Perch and USS Grenadier were so badly damaged by enemy depth-charge attacks that their crews were forced to scuttle their ships. USS Sculpin and USS S-44 went down fighting, with only forty-two men from the Sculpin being taken prisoner and half of them perishing on the way to Japan. USS Tang and USS Tullibee, victims of their own faulty, circling torpedoes, had few survivors, five of whom managed to escape from the sunken, burning Tang when it was 180 feet below the ocean surface. As many as six men survived the loss of USS Robalo after it struck a mine off Palawan, but none of those survived the prison camps. The book includes dozens of rare photos of the POWs, many of which have never before been published. Appendices include final muster rolls of the seven submarines and a complete list of the U.S. submariners who were held as POWs, with details of their various camps of internment.
Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
-- Arthur B. Laffer and Stephen Moore

When Arthur B. Laffer spearheaded the theory of supply-side economics and became a member of President Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board, he took his place as an economic icon. More recently, he joined with Stephen Moore and Peter J. Tanous to write The End of Prosperity -- a clarion call delineating what is wrong with current political approaches to America's present economic challenges. Steve Forbes himself described The End of Prosperity as "brilliantly insightful," saying "READ IT -- AND ACT!"

Now Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore follow the rousing success of The End of Prosperity with a book even more vital to America and Americans, delivering a plan that shows how our country can regain its lost prosperity. With the economy flat on its back, unemployment at a twenty-five-year high, and the housing default crisis still worsening, is this even possible? But America can once again become the land of economic opportunity, and this brilliant new book tells us exactly how.

While President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama may hail from different parties, their response to the crisis has been strikingly similar. The Bush-Obama plan is a failure that has produced nothing except a cascade of trillions of dollars of debt. Is the situation hopeless?

No, say Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore resoundingly, the situation is not hopeless. A return to prosperity is still entirely possible...if the correct strategies are followed. In The End of Prosperity, the authors primarily discussed how lower taxes are essential to economic growth. Now, in Return to Prosperity, they detail the other essential components: putting government at all levels on a low-fat diet; emphasizing debt reduction and retirement; and bringing back the investor class in America, where every American can "own a piece of the rock."

In a time where most of the proposed solutions are fraught with peril, the argument provides a refreshing counterbalance. The Return to Prosperity is a prescription that gives America the fundamental tools it needs in order to set about recovery. This book is an urgently needed road map to renewed prosperity, and it is vital reading for anyone who worries that the current economy is faltering, with no clear plan articulated for recovery.
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