Reaction to the Wall Street Journal ReviewJune 6, 2008
My book, which you can see artfully displayed at the top of this blog, was reviewed today by the Wall Street Journal. It was reviewed by Steven Landsburg, an economist at the University of Rochester. Mr. Landsburg is well-know for his libertarian views, as well as his clear and direct writing style.
He made several complimentary comments about the book, including his belief that most the material presented was very valuable and that the writing had an “enviable lively prose style.” He also had some negative comments, including his belief that my description of over-consumption behavior smacked of some populist (and incorrect) views of the subject and that foreign capital flows into the U.S. are not one of the causes of Americans’ inordinately low savings rates. These are relatively minor points in the book and, in my view, open to debate.
One issue that I do believe was mischaracterized in a reasonably serious way in the review was my own view of consumption taxes. I support consumption taxes rather than income taxes. Period. The book, rather than taking the thirty-second sound bite approach to explaining why consumption taxes are a better policy, goes out of its way to explain both the benefits of such a tax as well as some serious transition costs and other issues associated with implementation. These concerns are grounded in high-quality research which is cited in the book. Mr. Landsburg also supports a consumption tax, but his comments gloss over some difficult issues with regard to implementation. My book is about starting a meaningful conversation about practical ways to help Americans save more, not about easy-to-remember sounding arguments.
I am thankful to the Wall Street Journal for finding my book interesting and impactful enough to review. I also thank Mr. Landsburg for his careful reading of the text.