Thursday, May 21, 2020

Cooperation and Coercion By Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan


Rethinking America's COVID-19 Responses

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, we've seen unprecedented government coercion. State and local governments have ordered everyone to stay home and have shut down businesses, schools, and churches. The federal government has sent debt to record heights with its spending. What's missing here? Cooperation.

Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan show why in their enlightening new book, COOPERATION AND COERCION: How Busybodies Became Busybullies and What That Means for Economics and Politics. 

Davies and Harrigan, hosts of the popular podcast Words & Numbers, reveal that there are only two ways that humans work together: they cooperate with one another, or they coerce one another. This fundamental fact provides an essential framework for understanding what we're seeing play out with the coronavirus crisis.

Government is all about coercive power. That doesn't mean it's all bad. We need government. But Davies and Harrigan show the immense - and overlooked - power of cooperation. They also reveal the dangers of embracing government coercion as the knee-jerk reaction to any problem.


·    The two biggest reasons we shouldn't be in thrall to government solutions and expert pronouncements: the knowledge problem and unintended consequences;

·    Why people tend to believe the worst about the damage a crisis can cause but overlook the damage that proposed solutions will do;

·    Why "if it saves just one life" is an empty slogan that leads to bad policy;

·    Why policymakers who are trying to manage the economy don't understand what the economy actually is;

·    Why supposed corporate villains like Amazon and Walmart have become a lifeline for Americans;

·    How government coercion pushes obvious solutions to our problems into the background;

·    Why there are many problems government can't fix; and

·    Why governments, even as they clamp down on citizens, are relaxing all kinds of onerous regulations - allowing cooperation to flourish.

Davies and Harrigan explain much more than government responses to coronavirus. By looking for cooperation and coercion in everyday life, they help make sense of a wide range of issues that dominate the public debate. You'll come away from this book with a clear understanding of everything from the minimum wage to taxes, from gun control to government regulations, from the War on Terror to the War on Drugs to the War on Poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Antony Davies is associate professor of economics at Duquesne University. James R. Harrigan is managing director of the Freedom Center at the University of Arizona. Together they host the weekly podcast Words & Numbers. Davies and Harrigan are distinguished fellows at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

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