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Book Review: The Invisible Heart

Mises Daily: Tuesday, July 22, 2003 by

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Most libertarian readers are heavily partial to reading non-fiction. Me too. Who has the time to read fantasy, keeping up with reality is a full time job. And, the idea of reading a romance novel has never occurred to me. I've never figured out who reads all of those paperbacks with the longhaired studs on the covers. Yet there are racks and racks of them at the supermarket.

But I couldn't pass up a book with both "economics" and "romance" in the title. The Invisible Heart: An Economics Romance will no doubt be disappointing for those who like their romance novels with Fabio flexing on the cover, damsel in his arms, his hair blowing in the breeze.

The Invisible Heart's hero, Sam Gordon, is no muscleman, but teaches economics at an exclusive private high school in Washington, D.C. The nations capital is an unlikely place for a free-market sort like Sam to be teaching. But, suspending disbelief is what reading fiction is all about.

Besides, it is not as if Sam is a Rothbardian or runs around quoting from Human Action. Sam is a Cato Institute sort of free marketer. He sports a picture of Adam Smith on his wall and makes references to Smith's Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Sam also leans heavily on the work of Milton Friedman.

The book does, however, contain tips of the hat to Frédéric Bastiat and Friedrich von Hayek, as well as Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia.

The author, Russell Roberts, injects a lot of good economic insight into the book through Sam's classroom lectures as well as Sam's conversations with love interest, Laura Silver.

Laura is a young, pretty English teacher, who on their first meeting, thinks Sam is an arrogant jerk, because of his free-market views and the fact that he is not shy about expressing his opinion. But, over time, Laura starts warming up to Sam. Conversely, Sam is smitten with Laura from the start. This is yet another case where opposites attract.

Sam is constantly trying to educate Laura, her family and her friends about free markets and how government intervention is not the answer to life's problems. Most anyone who reads LRC will have fond (or not-so-fond) memories of engaging in the same sorts of arguments. At the same time, Roberts has cleverly intertwined a story line that illustrates where many people acquire the government-is-good, business-is-bad attitude that serves government so well.

Interestingly, the book's hero also hates television, telling his students that television "takes a toll on human decency," and believing that "television is hazardous to your brain." Sam is in good company.

But, in the end, does Sam get the girl? Who cares? The important question is whether Sam should go for the girl in the first place. Can a free-market, pro-liberty guy have a successful long-term relationship with a big government, anti-capitalism girl? There is no question they can fall in love. But, can a person who is passionate about liberty make it work day-to-day with a person who believes that more and more government is the answer? Not likely. In real life, what start out, as intelligent conversations will eventually turn into constant arguments and then name-calling. Who needs the aggravation?

Sam is attracted to Laura because she is pretty. Laura is attracted to Sam because he is smart. Beyond that, their views of the world are drastically different. He probably will not change her point of view and she will not change his. Unfortunately for guys like Sam there are very few libertarian gals. For that matter, there are too few libertarian guys. But maybe, The Invisible Heart will reach a few romance novel readers and help expose those in the dating pool to the free-market message.