Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide Of The West is a book everybody should read. It is not a great book but it has parts that are absolutely awesome and is full of thought provoking moments.
The best part is the discussion of what Jonah calls The Miracle and Deirdre McCloskey calls the Great Enrichment. On titles, we’re with Deirdre but we will use Jonah’s here. Jonah does a great job of explaining the extent of The Miracle. We love his “most important “hockey stick” chart in all of human history” on page eight. It shows actual global GDP over the last two thousand years and we get a hockey stick. He doesn’t limit himself to one method of teaching so everyone should get it.
Sidebar: We thought of saying that everyone should be required to read Jonah’s introduction and appendix but we can’t count on everyone’s sense of humor. Everyone should read it but we are not into coercion. End Sidebar
Jonah’s book’s appendix has a nice summary of his four core arguments which we have abridged even more here:
The Miracle has caused us to be unnaturally prosperous
We stumbled into The Miracle and we can stumble out
Human nature is fundamentally unchanging
Human nature can overpower the institutions that make prosperity possible
We agree. We are fans of the growth fairy so we would add (and think that Jonah agrees based on the last argument) that we now have the knowledge to make prosperity more likely. We think that Jonah would say that our romantic side, the feelings of human nature, cause the conflict that might end prosperity.
Part of his stumble out argument is that we got The Miracle by argument and rhetoric and we can lose it the same way. Here Jonah cites Deirdre’s article above. We love both of them and especially Deirdre’s Rhetoric of Economics. It was a light from above in our understanding the intellectual differences between economics and accounting. When Deirdre finds rhetoric for the second time it is less convincing to us.
The conflict of the book is the the rationality of the discussion of economics and human nature and Jonah’s feelings towards The Donald. Jonah despises The Donald because he has brought tribalism to the right. With an already tribal left then there is little to do but despair for The Miracle because corruption will set in and capitalism will become ineffective.
In summary, we were beyond delighted that somebody made such a beautiful and sincere argument for capitalism. Jonah hasn’t convinced us to share his pessimism but we are concerned. It is an important book that you should read but it is not a great book.