(Book Review) Labor Economics from a Free Market Perspective by Walter Block

I must commence this book review with the disclaimer that this book is nearly unobtainable as a new, hard copy book. The book is not suitable for e-readers given the book is in the style of a large-paged textbook, and consequently, this book is not downloadable or available for purchase on the Amazon kindle store. If subsequent to reading this review, you intend to buy this book, you will only be able to obtain it as a used hard-copy or to be purchased as a readable pdf on your computer.

Labor economics is one of my favorite subfields of economics. Since nearly everyone at some point in their lives enters the labor force, I find the principles of labor economics to be very easily observable to the person with little understanding or familiarity with the field of economics.

As the title suggests, this book covers the principles of labor economics from a laissez faire capitalist perspective. Although included in the preface of this book that this is not a labor economics textbook, and should not be used in lieu of one, but rather, as complementary material, I find that this book is not absolutely written in the style of a non-fiction novel the way Sowell’s, Friedman’s, and Rothbard’s. Moreover, this book is not totally written like a textbook the way that McGraw Hill’s Labor Economics is composed.

There are twenty-nine chapters in this book, and the main six topics are wage determination, unions, minimum wage, immigration, redistributive justice, and fringe benefits.

Final Ratings

Difficulty for economically illiterate to understand: moderately difficult.

Explanation: This book doesn’t introduce particularly abstract concepts. Moreover, many of the assertions and arguments within the book are built on axioms of labor economics and microeconomics, which those unfamiliar with terms such as “labor demand” and “labor supply,” and among others, may find nonplussing.

Keeping the reader interested: only if you’re very interested in labor economics.

Explanation: Given the moderate complexity of this book, in addition to the somewhat textbook style this book is written in, only those very interested in the subject would be able to remain engaged in this reading.

Verifiable claims: Block verifies his claims.

Explanation: Block cites sources and references for his claims.

Subfield of economics: this a book about labor/labour economics.

Do I recommend this book, and for who? This is recommend to students of economics, aspiring economists, and economists.

While I enjoyed this book very much, I have awareness to the likelihood that someone who is not interested in economics would lack incentive to obtain, and read this book.

One of the most widely perpetrated myths is that a wage is different from a price. In fact, no difference exists between wages and prices. Quite simply, a wage is the price of labor that the employees agrees to work for and the employer agrees to pay.2 Therefore, the laws of supply and demand govern wages, and a minimum wage is nothing more than a price floor which inevitably causes a surplus of labor.

Walter Block and Paul McCormick. Labor Economics from a Free Market Perspective

Modeling Consumer Demand for Complexion Cosmetics (Part 1: Abstract)

I have been wearing cosmetics since adolescence, and I have heard through beauty gurus (vloggers whose emphasis is reviewing and discussing cosmetics) in addition to other wearers of cosmetics, that makeup brands exhibit discrimination and racism towards people of deeper skin tones. While I am fully capable of writing a cogent debunking of such claims qualitatively through economic logic, I would rather use data-backed models.

Abstract: To test the claim that cosmetics institutions exhibit racism, I will collect data on the habits of foundation and concealer consumption for both drug-store products and high-end products. This data will be collected through both surveys and observational experiments within different department stores. Those surveyed will have their identities kept anonymous. Subsequent to collecting the consumer data, I will use statistical analysis to observe, analyze, and evaluate the correlations between skin-tone deepness and availability of cosmetics. After statistical analysis, the fundamental economic principles of supply and demand will be applied to test the claim that makeup brands practice discrimination.

(Book Review) Keynes the Man by Murray Rothbard

Considering that economics for the way it is taught within institutions of education is largely and homogeneously based on Keynesian theory and principles, it is important to understand John Maynard Keynes’s inspirations for his works in economics. One may inquire “‘For what reasons are understanding Keynes’s inspirations behind his works important to the field?.” Understanding Keynes, his theory, and his inspiration behind his theory is salient because endorsement of his theory is not limited to just academia and admiring scholars, but it has also affected the policies and actions politicians choose to adopt. Keynesian theory is not only the foundational basis on which economics is instructed in academia, but it is also the adumbration that policy-makers of both fiscal and monetary policy all around the world have referenced for nearly each and every decision they have birthed into existence since the mid 20th century..

Furthermore, since the world economy has been largely constructed around Keynesian theory, it is not only important to understand Keynesian theory, its principles, effects, and implications, but it is important to understand the man who wrote the book (The General Theory) that politicians, policy-writers, and economists have cosigned and made into their economic bible. For every economic issue or concern that arises, the intelligentsia endorse Keynesianism as the panacea. Any non-Keynesian theory or approach to economics gets the unfortunate label of “heterodox economics.”

Given the fact that Keynes and his theories are beloved and lionized by most politicians and economic scholars, it is not easy to come by verified information about his Keynes’s personal life that paints an unprepossessing image or highlights his many gaffes, despite there being no scarcity. For this reason, Murray Rothbard’s mini-biography Keynes the Man is a refreshing, honest, and verified account of John Maynard Keynes’s life, inspirations, and many bizarre practices and beliefs. Rothbard has written extensively on the flaws of Keynesian theory in many of his works, but here, as the title suggests, Rothbard focus on Keynes: the man himself.

The information provided about John Maynard Keynes’s life here are likely to be shocking for many readers given its gawky nature. Moreover, this book will provide the reader with a much needed reality-check on the true nature of John Maynard Keynes.

My Final Ratings

Difficulty for economically illiterate to understand: slightly difficult.

Explanation: This book doesn’t introduce particularly abstract concepts. Furthermore, in the passages in which Rothbard criticizes the assertions made by Keynes’s in his works, he uses arguments based on economic logic and following the logical train of his arguments would likely prove difficult for those not familiar with the rudimentary axioms of economics. The passages, however, in which Rothbard showcases Keynes’s strange proclivities can be understood by anyone with basic literacy and understanding of social etiquette.

Keeping the reader interested: keeps the reader fully engaged.

Explanation: Rothbard is known for being unrelenting, scathing, and merciless in his criticisms. Since Keynes the Man is a mini-bibliography (not extensively long and prolix) sprinkled with Rothbard’s unyielding commentary, it would be difficult to become bored with this book.

Verifiable claims: Rothbard verifies his claims.

Explanation: Rothbard provides sources for all the included quotes made by Keynes, in addition to providing sources when discussing Keynes’s proclivities.

Subfield of economics: this a book about Keynesian theory/economics, the history of economic thought, and heterodox economics.

Explanation: John Maynard Keynes’s works have contributed monumentally to the history of economic thought. Rothbard discusses and criticizes Keynesian economics throughout this book as the perspective of an Austrian economist who conspicuously follows the Austrian School of Economic Thought (which is considered a subfield of heterodox economics.)

Do I recommend this book, and for who? This is recommend to students of economics, economists of all schools of thought, and those who have careers in, or have prospective careers in institutions that write fiscal or monetary policy.

Explanation: Since the incontrovertible fact that Keynes’s work has had (and continues to have) influence in the entire field of economics, and fiscal and monetary policy, it is important for everyone to understand not only Keynesian theory and its implications, but the inspirations behind the man who wrote it.

Favorite Quote:

The General Theory was not truly revolutionary at all but merely old and oft-refuted mercantilist and inflationist fallacies dressed up in shiny new garb, replete with newly constructed and largely incomprehensible jargon.

Rothbard, Murray. Keynes the Man.

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A Capitalist’s Perspective on the Economics Sub-disciplines

Disclaimer: While Fridays are typically reserved for polemics and analysis, I am currently preparing for upcoming examinations that require me to allocate more energy away from this blog for the next few weeks. The Friday posts for the next fortnight will lack rigor, and until then, readers will have to be satiated by my opinion pieces. Furthermore, these rankings are based on my personal affiliations, anecdotes, and experiences in studying and dabbling in these respective fields. Many disciplines are purposefully excluded simply because I have do not have enough experience or knowledge of the field to feel that I can adequately “rank” it against others. Remember, these are my personal opinions and it is not stipulated for you to cosign them.

Least favorite: behavioral economics.

Behavioral economics is the subfield of economics in which the analysis of economic decision-making is conducted using knowledge of psychology and the behavioral sciences. While behavioral economics can be very fascinating and interesting, and I enjoyed reading what can be considered the behavioral economics bible (Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman,) the truth of the matter is that much of the research which constructed the foundation for behavioral economics has recently shown to be rather dubious, and unable to be replicated. When I am inquired about my opinion of behavioral economics, I like to refer to it as every economist’s summer dalliance: fun, exciting, short-term, silly, and quickly forgotten.

I am not particularly fond of econometrics.

Before I lay my opprobrium of econometrics, I will discuss the good it offers. Since econometrics is the application of statistical methods to economic analysis, students of econometrics and econometricians are well-studied on statistics, probability theory, and modeling programs. The implementation of econometrics in economics curriculum increases students’ human capital as it enhances their quantitative skills and programming language skills, and conspicuously, there is a high demand for these skills by firms. Without econometrics, many students of economics would be not much better off in the labor force than students of other low-skill social sciences such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistic science, and political science. At the very least, econometrics allows for economics students to not be just another under-skilled social science student. The study of econometrics allows for those who studied it to be able to find employment in highly demanded quantitative fields such as data science, market research, analytics, finance, statistics, and actuarial work.

Furthermore, all that is good about econometrics is the “metrics” and not the “econ.” In other words, the only value econometrics has is a result of its relation to statistics and mathematics, rather than to economics. Economics, is foremost, a social science. Sadly, economists often have physics envy, and feel concern that their work will not be taken seriously without being cloaked in a thick layer of mathematical complexity. While rudimentary statistical models can aid in modeling the application of economic theories, economics does not need this much more than any of the other social sciences. While statistics has applications in fields such as psychology and sociology, there are no fields such as “psycholometrics” or “sociometrics.” Any applications of statistics to any social science other than economics is just regarded as statistics, or applied statistics. To conclude this opprobrium, I will quote Murray Rothbard who put it best.

… the very concept of “variable” used so frequently in econometrics is illegitimate, for physics is able to arrive at laws only by discovering constants. The concept of “variable” only makes sense if there are some things that are not variable, but constant. Yet in human action, free will precludes any quantitative constants…

Murray Rothbard. Economic Controversies

I am mostly indifferent to macroeconomics.

While the subject matter of macroeconomics is surely interesting, such as employment/unemployment, GDP, international finance, etc. I find much of it rather tedious and fallacious. A lot of macroeconomic axioms have a foundation built upon Keynesian theory, of which I am not a particularly large proponent or endorser.

Many people’s first exposure to an academic topic of economics is under the macroeconomic umbrella, so macroeconomics has seduced many aspiring economists. Moreover, there haven’t been many contributions to lately, and this is unsurprising given the issue of praxeology. Indeed, it is very difficult to try to model aggregate variables with any degree of accuracy, and the use of third-rate mathematics does not make it salvageable.

I enjoy labor economics.

Labor economics, as the name implies, is about the functioning and trends of the labor market. Many would call labor economics applied microeconomics. I have mixed-feelings about this description, but my point is that I do find this field to be very interesting. Labor economics is the parent of several other subfields of economics such as health economics, and education economics.Most fully functional, and able-bodied are involved in the labor market one way or another.

If one is entering to the studies of economics because they want to understand the effects of controversial variables such as minimum wage laws, immigration shocks, or the effects of the welfare state, then labor economics is the subfield that one would want to spend time studying.

I have a strong predilection for economic history.

Economic history is truly an underrated subfield of economics. One can see both how history shaped economics and how economics shaped history. With more data becoming available for analysis on economic history, it is a growing subfield of economics.

Another aspect of economic history that I have affinity for is the lack of the aforementioned dreaded mathematical theory involved in it. You, the reader should not misunderstand, I adore mathematics. I love studying mathematics and refining my mathematical prowess. With that being said, the overuse of highly advanced calculus theorems in addition to unnecessary partial differential equations, and of course, mathematical statistics, it is nice to be able to open a textbook on economic history without being assaulted with multivariate functions.

Economic history, while being a different study from the history of economic thought, is intertwined with it. Economic history studies is a largely what I assert the field of economics should be. A social study that uses historical and apposite statistical analysis.

(Book Review) Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study by Thomas Sowell

I was going to commence this book review with the sentence ‘If you’re a Westerner, then you’re familiar with the controversial policies pertaining to affirmative action,’ but I then recalled what this book taught me: affirmative action policies are not exclusively a western phenomenon.

In this book, Sowell evaluates and analyzes the causes and empirical effects of affirmative action in multiple countries: India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and lastly, the United States. Sowell summarizes the causes of the implementations of these policies in these nations, in addition to evaluating their effects through empirical observation and statistical analysis.

If you’re wondering why I am reviewing this on an economics blog, for other than the fact that Thomas Sowell is a famous and influential economist, then you may not understand the economic implications of affirmative action policies. Affirmative action policies whether implemented from government mandates or from private businesses choosing to do so, affects the behavior and outcomes of those in the labor force. For education, it’s not a mystery that institutions of education strongly affect the accumulation of human capital, and consequently, affect the labor supply. Furthermore, affirmative action has an effect on the labor economy, and therefore, is a topic worthy of analysis from an economic perspective.

I will not further elaborate or elucidate my thoughts, conclusions, or convictions in regard to affirmative action policies; such analysis is worthy of its own article that I intend to write at some future time.

My Final Ratings

Difficulty for economically illiterate to understand: moderately easy.

Explanation: This book doesn’t include economics jargon, or introduce abstract concepts. However, for one to understand the effects of affirmative action policies on the economy to the fullest extent, one may need to brush up on their understanding of labour economics. This book does not require a deep understanding of economics, let alone, labour economics. With that being said, a person with no economic literacy will still be able to understand from reading this book the pernicious political and social consequences of affirmative action polices, even if they do not understand the economic consequences.

Keeping the reader interested: keeps the reader mostly engaged.

Explanation: While Sowell doesn’t go off on side-tangents, he does have a penchant for over-elaborating some assertions at times. If you share my affinity for the inclusion of extra details, then this should not be vexing, but you may find it so if you are someone who only wants to get to the point.

Verifiable claims: Sowell verifies his claims.

Explanation: Sowell cites sources for all objective claims and elucidations.

Subfield of economics: this a book about public policy.

Do I recommend this book, and for who? This is a book I universally recommend.

Explanation: With there being no shortage of officious politicians and public policy authors eager to lionize, endorse, and impose affirmative action policies on businesses and institutions of higher education, it is salient to understand the harmful effects of these policies from an economic, political, and social perspective. This book offers several case studies of the effects of affirmative action after they were implemented, and how each and every time, the policy resulted in more harm than benefits. This is a book I recommend to everyone considering the effects of affirmative action are not only economic and political, but social as well. The effects of affirmative action can result in alterations to everyday interactions, and for that reason, it is important for everyone to understand.

Favorite Quote:

People differ – and have for centuries. It is hard to imagine how they could not differ, given the enormous range of differing historical, cultural, geographic, demographic, and other factors shaping the particular skills, habits, and attitudes of different groups. Any ‘temporary’ policy whose duration is defined by the goal of achieving something that has never been achieved before, anywhere in the world, could more fittingly be characterized as eternal.

Sowell, Thomas. Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study.

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Plato Was a Prescient Communist and Aristotle Was Confused: Rebuking the Sacrosanct Philosophers

There is no surreptitiousness surrounding the fact that much of Western thought and civilization is Greek. Poet-philosopher Samuel Coleridge’s famous quote “every man is born either an Aristotelian or Platonist” invokes concern if it holds true. Frankly, the choices are unprepossessing: a dictatorial communist or a consistently self-contradicting and confused arriviste, but if I had to choose, I think the latter is the lesser evil of the two. Moreover, the title of this post (as well as the prologue) is purposefully facetious.

While Plato and Aristotle both had interesting contributions to the history of economic thought (which I will touch upon) I will also be addressing and vituperating the bizarre, sententious, and magisterial harangues for which Plato and Aristotle both had predilections.

On Plato

Plato’s vision of utopia can be adumbrated by his most famous and influential work The Republic, and in his later work The Laws. Plato’s adumbration of the ideal city-state is characterized by there being a ruling oligarchy ran by philosopher-kings and their cohorts, and therefore, allegedly securing rule by the wisest of the city-state. Beneath these philosopher-kings are the soldier thugs that Plato refers to as “the guardians,” whose purpose is to pillage other cities and lands, as well to the defend the “polis” from invaders. These guardians were also to function as a police force. Lastly, beneath the philosopher-kings and the soldiers were the detested laborers, merchants, and producers who were to supply goods for the kings and guardians to sustain themselves.

According to Plato, every human fits within one of three categories: one that craves, one that fights, and one that thinks. With that, Plato ranks as the thinkers above all, followed by the the fighters and then desirers as the most lowly. In Plato’s ideal city-state, the philosopher-kings and the guardians are stipulated to live under communism. There is no private-property for the kings and guardians: everything is communal including women and children. Plato’s apologia for this totalitarian dystopia is that money and possessions are venal to virtue. Marriage partners are arranged through pre-selection from the state. Plato’s proposal to keep the elite and subjects orderly is to spread what he considers to be a “noble” lie: for the philosopher-kings to spread the lie that their stock is from that of gods, and therefore, naturally superior to those of inferior stock. Freedom of speech was to be verboten. Any dangerous or rebellious thoughts of the populace was to be suppressed.

As is the nature of the communist, Plato hated money. For Plato, the love of money is detestable, and the producers “are by nature most insatiable for money.” How did Plato justify the tyranny of the philosopher-king? With metaphysics and epistemology. To Plato, humans are divided into three different races, Most souls are cursed to subjugation by the depraved appetitive soul. Given the depravity of the masses, communism must be imposed to establish social order and usher in the utopia. Absolute dictatorial power must belong only to the lionized philosopher-kings, those who are innately gifted with rationality and wisdom. All must be subjugated to the philosopher-king, for it is he who is blessed with knowledge.

Interestingly enough, however, Plato did state the importance of division of labour in society. In The Republic, Plato has Socrates state that specialization arises because ‘we are not all alike; there are many diversities of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations’. Plato further elucidates by stating that the specialization of labor increases the production of goods.

Plato’s communist nature still persists in spite of acknowledging the specialization of labour. Plato was opposed to the use of gold and silver as currency since they cannot be easily regulated by the “polis” and served as internal currencies. Plato advocated for a government fiat currency, in addition to heavy fines on the importation of gold from outside the city-state. Plato believed that in order for the city-state to remain manageable there must be little or no change, and therefore, no innovation or economic growth, as well as no population growth. Plato supported keeping the population of the utopian city-state stagnant.

Moreover, it’s clear that Plato’s utopia is anything other than that. Considering that Plato’s justifications for a dystopian totalitarianism were rooted in mysticism and superstition, why historians and philosophy scholars give accolades to Plato’s totalitarian ideas and apologia eludes me.

Aristotle’s Contributions and Confusion

While far from a proponent of free-market capitalism, Aristotle had a scathing opprobrium of Plato’s advocacy for communism of the ruling class. Aristotle pronounced the importance of private poverty, and the fact that private property is conducive to the productivity of goods and services. One of Plato’s arguments for the salience of communal property is that it’s a prerequisite for serenity, since there would be no envy amongst the masses. Aristotle’s gainsay to Plato’s defense of communal property is that people will complain that they have worked harder than another, and therefore, deserve more of the share of the common store and conspicuously resulting in turbulence.

Another one of Aristotle’s defenses of private property was that private property is innate to the nature of man. Since man has a love of money, property, and self, and the fact that private property had always existed ubiquitously, the engendering of communal property on society would be to fly in the face of human nature, history, and experience. Furthermore, Aristotle concluded his cogent defense of private property by arguing that private property grants people the ability to act morally, and exercise largesse and philanthropy. Despite Aristotle’s criticism of the accumulation of wealth, unlike Plato, he did not advocate for draconian restrictions on the ability of people to accrue private property, but rather, to educate them on virtue so that they don’t develop avarice. In fragmented works such as in Topics, Aristotle analyzes what he called the ‘instruments of production,’ in addition to talking about the importance of economics factors in calculating their value. Aristotle, in his famous example in relation to the history of economic thought, points out that a saw is more valuable to than a sickle in the business of carpentry, but is not valued the same everywhere and with all endeavors.

Aristotle, however, was no Chuang Tzu. Aristotle made a fallacious distinction between “natural needs,” and “unnatural wants.” Aristotle does not give any rationale as to why desires satiated by subsistence labor are natural, but those done with the intention of monetary gain are frivolous and unnatural. It becomes conspicuous that Aristotle has a penchant for self-contradicting statements. Aristotle reprimands monetary exchange as immoral, but also claims that such a system is conducive to the functioning of a city. Aristotle stated that money “holds all goods together,” but also claims that lending money with interest is ‘unnatural.’

Aristotle had a proclivity to conflate economic analysis with judgement of virtues. To be able to elaborate upon the implications of this affinity, I must discuss why he engages in this sophism, and the origins of his conflation. Greek philosopher, Pythagoras of Samos, developed a school of thought that believed in the idea that the only purposeful reality is number. The world is a number, and every number is the embodiment of certain virtues or abstractions: the number four according to Pythagoras and his followers, embodied the virtue of justice. Although it is incontrovertible that Pythagoras contributed to the field of mathematics, his mysticism of numbers was clearly what one would call today mumbo-jumbo. Unfortunately, Aristotle was wooed by Pythagoras’s numerology, and therefore, felt it was necessary to incorporate murky mathematical terminology where unnecessary. This all amounts to what is an amalgam of superstition, obfuscated economic logic, and unorthodox mathematics being lionized as a holy, unquestionable masterpiece by the standard devotees: historians and philosophy-scholars.

What the hagiographic followers fail to see is their idol’s tendency to sometimes spout gobbledygook. In book five of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle exhibits horseplay when discussing a builder trading a house for shoes produced by a shoemaker.

The number of shoes exchanged for house must therefore correspond to the ratio of builder to shoemaker. For if this is not so, there will be no exchange and no intercourse.

Aristotle in Nichomachean Ethics

It is conspicuous that this is a completely obfuscated amalgam. Why is there an equating of the ratios of shoemakers/builders to the shoes/houses themselves? Furthermore, how is it probable for there to be a ratio of builder to shoemaker in the first place? The truth is that this equivocation has no meaning, at least no discernible one. Sadly, this is not Aristotle’s last blunder. Aristotle states that the necessary prerequisite for the exchanging of goods is that both goods are of equal value; goods being exchanged must be equal because only objects of equal value will be exchanged.

Moreover, while it is incontrovertible that Aristotle had contributions to the history of economic thought, he also contributed a lot of contradictory statements as well as absolute poppycock. As much as historians and philosopher-scholars would not like to admit it, Aristotle was far from infallible or purely sensical.

Citations and References

Aristotle, and Richard McKeon. The Basic Works of Aristotle. Random House, 1941.  

K., Thomsan J A. The Ethics of Aristotle: The Nicomachean Ethics Translated. Peguin Books, 1953. 

Plato, and D. J. Allan. Republic. Methuen, 1965. 

Plato, and Robert Gregg Bury. Laws. Harvard University Press, 2001. 

Rothbard, Murray N. Classical Economics: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought. Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2006. 

(Book Review) Debunking Utopia: Exposing The Myth of Nordic Socialism by Nima Sanandaji

Ever since I began my studies of economics, I have had a predilection for free-market capitalism. While some proponents of laissez-faire capitalism concede the falsity that socialism sounds “nice in theory,” I have never granted a modicum of deference to the dogma. To venerate the morality of socialist thought would be to gift appurtenance to the already bloated and turgid ego of socialists. There is nothing auspicious, mellifluous, or reverent of socialism or its proponents. Socialist economies, much like their ideologues, have been an unfortunate recrudescence of failure. Given its pathetic track-record, it’s disappointing so many people of my generation have chosen to adopt the label. Moreover, given the conspicuous myopia, banality, torpidity, and intellectual facileness of the gawky generation y and z, it’s of little surprise, and truly rather tedious. Having commenced with this prologue, I will now propose the question, why has socialism been embraced by the youth besides for their charcateristic callow ineptitude?

If you’re an American born before 2005, then you probably have solid memories of the events antedating, and proceeding the 2016 presidential election, and that includes the tired bromides such as “Like Denmark!” from democrat Bernie Sanders, and “Make America Great Again!” from Donald Trump. Given the subject matter of this book, I will be focusing in on self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders who galvanized many young adults to adopt the label of “democratic socialist.”

Bernie Sanders’s tedious slogan “Like Denmark!” was used to gainsay those who pointed out that socialism had always failed, and who pointed out the oppressive hellholes that are North Korea and Venezuela. After all, Denmark, let alone, Scandinavia is nothing like those beacons of misery and subjugation, right? That is correct, the quality of life in Scandinavia far exceeds that of those draconian nations, but is Scandinavia’s success in debt to socialism? No, and that’s exactly what this book, Debunking Utopia: The Myth of Nordic Socialism by Nima Sanandaji, elaborates upon.

This book elaborates on how American progressives developed such an adulation for the Nordic welfare model, and as the title suggests, debunks the common misconceptions that progressives have about the Scandinavian economy such as healthcare, medical care, economic growth and stagnation, education, the welfare state, immigration, the Scandinavian market, and more. There’s also a fair amount of history of Scandinavia as well as the evolution of fiscal policy in the Nordic countries, but I do believe there could have been more elaboration on the history of Northern Europe pre-19th century.

My Final Ratings

Difficulty for economically illiterate to understand: moderately easy.

Explanation: The book doesn’t include too much economics jargon, or introduce particularly abstract concepts. However, a few of the arguments made in the book are based on some understanding of the free-market and how it differs from command-system economies, and someone without understanding of these terms or concepts may find themselves nonplussed. The book is written in such that it is assumed the reader has at least a rudimentary understanding of economics.

Keeping the reader interested: keeps the reader fully engaged.

Explanation: Sanandaji doesn’t go off on side-tangents or introduce abstruse monologues of filler to elongate the book. He’s concise enough to include the apposite details without concocting a screed.

Verifiable claims: Sanandaji verifies his claims.

Explanation: Sanandaji cites sources for all objective claims and elucidations.

Subfield of economics: this a book about the political economy.

Do I recommend this book, and for who? This is a book I universally recommend.

Explanation: As made clear in the book, democratic socialism as a political position has been around for decades as of writing this review. Since its nascent, it has not only pervaded United States politics, but Western and Southern European politics as well. If you have the slightest modicum of interest or care for political science, economics, or public policy, this is a must-read.

Favorite Quote:

Nobel Prize-Winning American economist Milton Friedman was talking to a Swedish economist, who told him, “In Scandinavia, we have no poverty.” Friedman cleverly replied, “That’s interesting, because in America, among Scandinavians, we have no poverty, either.”

Sanandaji, Nima. Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism.

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Apparel Retail: Sizeism or a Lesson in Economics?

Do you ever have difficulty finding clothes that fit you? Maybe clothes always seem a little too big. Perhaps clothes always feel a little too short or long for your body.

The conspicuous truth is that human beings coalesce all sorts of different topological formations. Some of us are Rubenesque, and some of us slim. Some of us are tall, and others are short. One may carry their mass primarily in their waist, and another may have a large bosom or hips. The point is that no matter what your body type, no one has the exact same dimensions as you, (granted you don’t have an identical twin) and therefore, mass-produced clothing will rarely fit perfectly.

Unless you go to a tailor, to find an article of clothing that is perfect for your dimensions would be serendipitous.

The reality is that because clothing manufacturers cannot tailor clothes for every single individual who buys them: they have to go with categorial general measurements. If you’re an American who wears t-shirts, you know the standard sizes: small, medium, large, and x-large are the standard sizes you can find at nearly every retail establishment that sells mass-produced clothing in the United States. With the increasing rate of obesity in the United States (5), it is becoming increasingly common to see sizes such as 2X, 3X, and even larger in non-plus-sized retailers.

While clothing retailers are becoming more inclusive of larger sizes, some feel that the absence of much larger sizes are indicative of something sinister: sizeism.

We have are all familiar with the terms racism and sexism, but what is sizeism? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, sizeism is defined as “discrimination or prejudice directed against people because of their size and especially because of their weight.” (6)

Some feel indignant about the fact that apparel retailers don’t supply their size.

Names concealed for privacy.

Are clothing manufacturers and apparel retailers “fatphobic?”

The absence of preternaturally large sizes can be vindicated by the rudimentary economics concept of supply and demand. Firms adjust supply commensurately to demand. In spite of the large amount of obesity in the United States (3), the average waist circumference for men remains at 40.5 inches and 38.7 inches for women. (3) How do these means compare with the supply of clothing?

To test the hypothesis of the absence of plus size clothing from apparel retailers being tantamount to sizeism or “fatphobia.” I sampled 88 dresses from three popular online retailers: Amazon, Target, and Nordstrom. I equally sampled clothes marketed as “plus-size” and those not marketed as such (44 dresses per category.) Since there is no true size standard for the waist circumference of dresses in American retailers, (i.e. a size 12 for one brand may be an 8 or a 14 in another) I am using the more quantitative measurement of maximum waist circumference that a dress can have countenance for. This waist circumference is obtained using the given size charts on a dress’s listing. I have constructed the histograms below using the obtained data. Below the histograms is further analysis.

Before we can accurately analyze the data, we have to keep something extremely salient to statistical analysis in mind: only examining the mean will very often belie accurate representation of the population. If you have a rudimentary understanding of statistics, you are cognizant of the fact that the mean can be influenced by extreme outliers. Furthermore, those with anorexia nervosa, and the stars of TLC network’s “My 600-lb Life” likely are affecting the overall mean. I will, however, represent the implications of results utilizing the mean, in addition to the more accurate measurement: percentiles.

Let’s start with looking at the mean and its relationship to the histogram, and what this means when applying economic principles. I have underlined in blue the range that includes the mean waist circumference of American women.

As one can observe here, the mean falls within the range of the most ubiquitous maximum waist circumference for all dresses. This aligns with the economic principle of supply and demand. Since American women average a waist circumference of 38.7 inches (3), it is unsurprising that the availability of dresses that can fit this circumference are more common than dresses that do not accommodate this circumference. A gainsayer may point out that this doesn’t fall true for the overall counted clothes for clothes not marketed as ‘plus size’ (and this doesn’t fall true for the plus sizes either when looking at the histogram.) This is where the statistical measurement of using the mean begins to fall short. Moreover, we cannot dismiss the fact that the mean still falls within the most ubiquitous range.

Before I discuss percentiles, it is salient to this topic to state the fact that the average waist size for women in the United States of 38.7 inches exceeds what is considered the ceiling for good health by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which is a maximum waist circumference of 35 inches (4). Moreover, one needs to use qualitative observation to examine the possibility that women of greater body mass are less likely to have demand for dresses (and therefore, less supply.) Given the fact that dresses are much more structured and geometrically defined than other articles of clothing, it can be reasonably inferred that women of greater mass are less likely to want to display their topological properties than women of a more gossamer frame since they are much more likely to have low self-esteem. (1)

Moreover, economists cannot form sound arguments on qualitative observations, possibilities, and inferences. So let us re-examine the data .

For American women 20 and over, the 5th percentile of waist circumference stands at 28.8 inches (this means that a woman with a 28.8 inch waist has a larger waist than 5% of other American women, and a smaller waist than 95% of American women.) The 95th percentile for American women stands at 51.8 inches (this means that a woman with a 51.8 inch waist has a smaller waist than 5% of American women, and a waist larger than 95% of American women.) Furthermore, this all means is that 90% of all American women have a waist size between 28.8 and 51.8 inches (3). How does this look on our histograms?

The blue line represents the waist circumference distribution of 90% of American Women. (in)

It can be observed from the data that the availability of clothes over the 95th percentile constitutes just as much, if not, more ubiquitousness than clothes under the 5th percentile. Does this mean that clothing manufacturers are sizeist towards very thin women?

The question asked earlier in the blog post, “are clothing manufacturers and apparel retailers ‘fatphobic?'” We can now answer that question with a resounding no.

The availability of clothes at certain sizes reflects the demand for these clothes. If it was profitable to manufacture or mass-produce dresses with a 19 inch waist circumference or an 80 inch waist circumference, apparel companies and brands would do so with no hesitation. It would be inane for a clothing business to deprive themselves of profit and wealth consequent of a jejune visual preference.

If a clothing business that mass produces clothes expanded their dress sizes to include waist circumferences of 65 inches, since so few people are that gargantuan, the businesses would end up losing money as a result of producing clothes for such a niche market. It is no different from a shoe brand that doesn’t carry size 20 shoes. Since so few people have feet of that size, to produce such large shoes would be costly to the shoe business, despite the fact that carrying a size 20 shoe would be more “inclusive.”

Clothing companies with considerable financial collateral could hypothetically start manufacturing larger clothes than they already produce, but the loss caused by this would require the business to forego something else that would also eventually result in loss, or needing to take measures that would be more costly to all consumers of that business. For example, if a clothing business incurred a loss caused by including niche sizes, they would either need to decrease the cost of manufacturing clothes by using cheaper materials, and therefore, producing lower quality clothes, or raise the prices of all their apparel. The decreased overall quality of clothes, or raised prices would burden to both the consumer and the supplier. The consumers would have to endure the reduction in quality of clothing or the increased priciness of the clothes. The suppliers would have to endure the losses caused by decreased revenue as a result of consumers not wanting low-quality or overpriced clothes.

When one understands the fundamental concept of supply and demand, it becomes conspicuous why clothing retailers that offer niche sizing are either cheap and of subpar quality, or extraordinarily expensive.

What can be taken away from all this?

If you have difficulty finding clothes in your size regardless of whether you’re very petite or very fat, it’s not a matter of discrimination or prejudice; in the end, it’s just business. The cleverest action you can take if you’re of niche dimensions is to either find a skilled tailor, or take on the endeavor of becoming closer the to the mean sizes.

Although, I cannot auspiciously advocate for the latter as it’s not the healthiest place to be.


(1) Alvani, Reza & Kimura, Laurel & Parvin Hosseini, Mehrshad. (2016). Relationship between Body Weight and Self-Esteem: A Study of Young Men and Women in Iran. Journal of Obesity and Overweight. 75450. 10.15744/2455-7633.2.202.

(2) Fryar CD, Carroll MD, Gu Q, Afful J, Ogden CL. Anthropometric reference data for children and adults: United States, 2015–2018. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 3(46). 2021.

(3) Cheryl D. Fryar; et al. (September 2018). “Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Severe Obesity Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960–1962 Through 2015–2016” (PDF). Health E-Stats. National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health Interview Statistics. Retrieved October 15, 2021.

(4) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Obesity Education Initiative: “The Practical Guide: Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults.”

(5) Marks, Jennifer B. “Obesity in America: it’s getting worse.” Clinical Diabetes 22.1 (2004): 1-2.

(6) Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “sizeism,” accessed October 15, 2021, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sizeism.

(7) The 2010 Census Summary File 1 (SF1) con- tains data on age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, group quarters, relationship, tenure, and households at a variety of geographic levels down to the block level. For a detailed schedule of 2010 Census products and release dates, visit <www.census.gov/population /www/cen2010/glance/index.html>.