Cooperation and Coercion: How Busybodies Became Busybullies and What that Means for Economics and Politics

tags: society, politics

(Note: this is a weird one. This is both a review of this book, and experiment in reading style and strategy.)

I decided to try something new with this book: I decided to give it one hour of my time, and see how much I could get out of it.

If you search for “how to read like a graduate student,” you’ll learn an important point: grad students don’t read every word of all the books they’re assigned. They just can’t. There’s too much reading.

I remember an article I read once about “breaking a book,” which is a method for breaking down a book and getting the point of it without reading every word. I can’t find this article again, and I’m not sure if that phrase is actually in common use, but it stuck with me. I set out to “break this book.”

It was an ideal book for this:

So, here’s what I did:

And that was my hour.

I think it worked well. I believe I a decent of the contents and point of this book.

Here it is (note that this is an objective representation of the content and POV of this book; these are not necessarily my personal feelings or beliefs) –

And that was the book.

Do I agree with the point of the book? I don’t know.

Books written by smart, passionate people can always be pervasive to some extent, and this is certainly the case here. The information is well-written and well-presented, but I’m sure there’s just as much persuasive information arguing in the opposite direction, I just didn’t read that today.

What makes me a little nervous is that someone might just read this one book about the subject, and come away believing they totally understand it. Confirmation and sample bias would cause some people to simply read books that they think they would agree with, and if they already believed the points in the book, they might come away from this one thinking, “Well, that’s all solved and settled and there is no other side to that story.”

The other thing I worry about here is that Libertarians like the two authors don’t seem to have much to offer in terms of solutions, other than “just leave everyone alone and it will all work out.”

…is that true, though? I think there are lots of countries dominated by crappy people, institutions, and social phenomenon that needed strong, positive, collaborative – and yes, even coercive – action to prevent it.

So, the information was good, the book was well-written, and authors did a credible job for their point. I’m just not totally sold on it.

But I am sold on my reading experiment. For a specific type of book, this is a good method. Another test will be when I try it for a history book. I might not work as well there, but we’ll find out.

Book Info

Antony Davies

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