Invisible Hand Revealed: Economic Lessons in Everyday Life

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+


Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Matthew Hennessey, Wall Street Journal editor and author of Visible Hand, A Wealth of Notions on the Miracle of the Market, about how the principles of economics manifest themselves in our every day lives and how we can use that insight to better understand our personal and civic choices.

Guest:

Matthew Hennessey is associate editorial-page features editor at the Wall Street Journal. He was City Journal associate editor from 2013–2017. Previously, he was managing editor of research publications at the Manhattan Institute and a staff writer at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. His essays and op-eds have appeared in the New York Post, New York Daily News, Hartford Courant, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago Tribune, as well as at National Review Online, Time, Townhall.com, and FirstThings.com. He is also a contributor to Ricochet.com. He holds a B.A. in political science from Hunter College of the City University of New York and an M.A in international political economy and development from Fordham University.

WATCH:

Get new episodes of Hubwonk in your inbox!

Please excuse typos.

Joe Selvaggi:

This is Hubwonk, I’m Joe Selvaggi.

Joe Selvaggi:

Free market economics. What is it? And how do we learn about it for its advocates? The terms given credit as the source of American prosperity. First its detractors, free markets are the scape goats for inequality and the suffering of the poor. As market participants, we don’t need to understand economics, but a deeper appreciation of market dynamics could serve to better inform our life choices and give us the necessary tools to scrutinize the promises of business leaders and politicians eager to enlist our patronage and support. If the laws of economics underpin our society and spontaneously organize us into producers and consumers, how can we use our own experience to reveal those principles and find economics in our everyday lives? My guest today is Matt Hennessey, associate editorial page features editor at the Wall Street Journal, an author of the recently released book, “Visible Hand: A Wealth of Notions on the Miracle of the Market.” In the book, Mr. Hennessey targets readers without economics degrees, challenging them to observe the incentives that motivate their decisions and then mapping those choices to the fundamental principles of supply and demand. And the tenets of economics, Mr. Hennessey will share with us why he believes an understanding of economics is so important to us all and why with a little reflection and observation of our own behavior and choices, we can see the world with a fresh perspective and perhaps anointed ourselves budding economists. When I return, I’ll be joined by Wall Street Journal editor and author Matt Hennessey.

Joe Selvaggi:

Okay, we’re back. This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi. I’m now pleased to be joined by associate editorial page features editor at the Wall Street Journal, an author of the recently released book, “Visible Hand: A Wealth of Notions on the Miracle of the Market.” Matthew Hennessey, welcome to Hubwonk, Matthew.

Matthew Hennessey:

Thanks, Joe. Thanks for having me.

Joe Selvaggi:

Well, I enjoyed reading your book. It was it was really an easy read, a wonderful read, and I recommend it to our listeners. I wanna wet their appetite about what the book is about. The title gives the thing, I think a great deal away. It’s a reference clearly to Adam’s invisible hand. You, you coin it as the visible hand. So a little a turn of a phrase there. Tell us why you frame the book with this visible hand or reference to Adam Smith. Give us a sense of where the book is coming from.

Matthew Hennessey:

Well, my big idea was that I wanted to write a book about economics for people who think that they don’t like economics or for whom that idea is that word is it represents something scary. Because I was very much that kind of personal. I, I think I might actually still kind of be that, that type of person the word economics is not in, is not intuitive to a lot of people. What it means sounds it sounds like it has something to do with money or math, or just ideas that, that, that are difficult to comprehend. And, and that you’d rather sort of not spend any time with. I w I grew up in a home that was oriented in that way. We didn’t talk that much about economics. So I wanted to write a book that helped lay out some basic principles to demystify a few things about what economics is and why it matters.

Matthew Hennessey:

But also to kind of give three tiers for the free market, because you don’t hear too much positive about market economics these days, a lot of criticism from both the left and the right of the, of, of markets and of capitalism broadly. So I wanted to do a little bit of a I had a, I had a dual agenda in mind. I wanted to offer a kind of a primer of basic economics for lay people. And just a reminder that capitalism has been very, very good to us, despite, you know, it’s obvious occasional shortcomings. We’d be really lost without it

Joe Selvaggi:

Indeed. I like how you set this up by saying, you know, economics for, for those who may not be familiar with all those concepts, but what I thought some of the magic of the bill of the book was that you describe economics rather than being a system that’s sort of created by someone with rules to follow. You see a, it more as sort of this ubiquitous energy a descriptive way to talk about how we all interact with one another. I think you compare it in some cases to, to sciences like physics, you, you don’t need to understand it, to have it have its effect on you. We gravity affects us whether we both understand how it works or not. Why do you describe economics more as something that is not valuing, but rather ever and always present?

Matthew Hennessey:

Well, I think a common misperception is that the market economy is simply one of a number of choices that a society could use to organize itself. You could be a market economy, you could be kind of a half and half hybrid, Mar market, half market economy, half controlled economy. You could have a collectivized economy. There are all sorts of different flavors that you could choose from. You pick one, like a suit of clothes. You put it on, you see if it fits, if it’s not quite fitting, right. You know, you make some adjustments and you tinker with it, and you you end up with the system that works the best for you. I think that that’s the wrong way of looking at economics because the, the forces of the market, IE supply and demand and some of the you know, corollary implications of supply and demand such as that, you know, we live in an environment of scarcity.

Matthew Hennessey:

So we can’t have everything we want. Therefore life is about trade offs. We have to make trade offs based on valuations of our own utility in various circumstances. All of that stuff is not up for debate. It’s simply an observed reality. It’s the, you know, what Adam Smith was doing in the wealth of nations was much more like reporting much more like you know, excavating the, the reality that we, that we live inside of and reflecting it back to us than it was about invent team or invent, you know, coming up with some sort of new fangled system that you could overlay over a traditional society and make a lot of money that would be very profitable for certain class of people, which is frequently how capitalism is misrepresented. So I wanna make sure, you know, it’s been very difficult.

Matthew Hennessey:

I have to train my myself not to talk about the market system, because that’s the kind of lingo that we use when we discuss these things. Because I very much don’t believe that it is a system, a system implies a systematizer, an inventor of some kind. I think a lot of people make that mistake of thinking that Adam Smith invented this stuff that, you know, know before he came along. And a couple of other guys, economics didn’t even exist. We just lived in these sort of traditional patterns governed by the rhythms of nature or the rhythms of the church, or the rhythms of throne and alter kind of lifestyle. And here comes Adam Smith with his brand new system and kind of you know, ruined the garden of Eden. If you, if you choose to look at it that way, or unleashed a bunch of terrible forces that have destroyed a lot of things that are really valuable in terms of you know social structures and interpersonal ties, the kind of all the negative things you hear about what capitalism does, how it roads you know, important values or destroys the foundation of certain institutions.

Matthew Hennessey:

That’s just not true. That’s not what happened. Adam Smith wrote a book in which he described the way that people live their lives, their commercial lives certainly but also their social lives, how they make decisions in an environment of scarcity, how they evaluate trade offs and how they profit from the fruit of their own ambition and how sort of the sum total of every individual working for his own benefit or the benefit of his own family or for his own ends. Somehow miraculously, this is the miracle of the market creates a net benefit for all of society mu mu much more so than, you know, the effects, the work of some exterior force trying to increase that benefit. That’s this is the famous notion of the invisible hand. So that’s a long way of saying, I don’t think economics or market economics is a system, and I think that people should avoid using that term.

Joe Selvaggi:

Wonderful. Okay. So you, you introduced a couple of good terms there. One of them is scarcity. I think we will all learn then if we do take economics on day one, infinite infinite needs finite supply. So we have to make choices in your book. You use real world examples to talk about how we as actors in a market, in a free market. We have the capacity as consumers to make choices and, and make trade offs, share with our listeners. Some of the cases you use in your book about how the principles of economics in our own lives and our own choices as consumers.

Matthew Hennessey:

Well, the one that Springs to mind is is, is was a very personal one that, that I, you know, a trade off that I faced when I was in high school, which is that and it was, might have been the first time that I really encountered this reality, which is so important. And which if you try to ignore it or fight against, it will make your life really miserable, which is that we can’t, you know, as, as the rolling stones said, you can’t, what did they say? You can’t always get what you, oh,

Joe Selvaggi:

Get what you want. <Laugh>

Matthew Hennessey:

So you have to make trade offs. I, I wanted to play baseball in the spring, but I also wanted to be in the, in the, in the school musical. And both things happened at one, the, the, the baseball season overlapped with the, the season of rehearsing for the play. I had to make a very difficult decision about which one I was going to do. I didn’t think at the time I’m making an economic decision, but essentially what I was doing. The people that I was describing at the beginning of this who hold economics at arms length, as a matter of practice or of mental hygiene you know, would say, well, that’s, that’s odd that you described that as an economic decision. It doesn’t involve anything having to do with making money or you know, interest rates or bond prices or any, anything that I tend to think of as an E as the, the meat and potatoes of economics, but it fund it absolutely is an economic decision.

Matthew Hennessey:

Anytime you’re making a, a, a sort of a, a, a, a choice that requires you to forego something that you value in favor of something else that you value, that’s an economic decision. So that’s one example you know, the big, probably the, the, the, the show piece example that I, that I turn to in my book is, is the example of my parents who lived their whole lives as sort of <laugh> as what you might call wage slaves. They were just working for you know, institutions. My dad worked for, they were teachers. My dad worked for a while for the county government, you in in the place where I grew up in New Jersey. And then around about the time he was 50 years old, he lost his job and found himself sort of like stuck in midlife and, and unsure of what to do.

Matthew Hennessey:

He scraped together a few dollars and managed to buy this local bar from an older fellow who he had been working there nights you know, for some extra cash, because he had children, teenage children who were getting ready to go to college. So he bought this place. And at the age of 50 years old, with zero precisely zero training and anything relating to business, or of that nature, you know, he had never, he had never taken a class in accounting or meeting a payroll or ordering inventory, or you know, paying his taxes, like, you know, he was sort of like sailing through life. Like most people do working for a living. He bought this business. And somehow in the span of about five years, turned it into a, a, what you might call a going concern. I’m not gonna say they got, they, they got, you know, independently wealthy off the bar, but they did very, very well.

Matthew Hennessey:

And it enabled them to live a very a very successful American life story. And I, I use this, I refer to this, I go back to this over and over in the book, because I think it’s an example of just how miraculous the free market is that if you show up every day and you keep your nose clean and you play by the rules, very chances are you’re gonna be rewarded very handsomely. So I know that my own parents didn’t look at it that way. They just, you know, I think they might have thought that, you know, fortune had smiled on them for reasons reasons unknown, but in, in actual fact, they were making the best possible use of the free market that, you know, using, using the system, that’s not a system precisely as it was intended, which was to make a living for themselves, and then to increase the, the social good, which is exactly what Hennessy Washington bar did.

Matthew Hennessey:

It served as a, kind of a, a spoke for a, a, a, a hub for a, a bunch of smaller businesses that, that fed off and interacted with it. And also for, as a, sort of a, a feeder for larger businesses in the community, as well as a place for people to hang out and have a few cold beers, which you know, I’m the kind of guy that thinks that that’s a net social. Good. So you know, the story that I tell about my parents’ bar, I think I neatly sort of sums up both, or, you know touches both of the bases I wanted to touch at the beginning, which was to give a prim on basic economics. They really succeeded with simply all they had was the basics, because they didn’t know any economics. And you know, capitalism was very, very good to them often you know in spite of their their own, you know, sort of thinking on the subject. So again, that’s a very long-winded way of explaining what’s going on in my book and forgetting what the original question was that you asked

Joe Selvaggi:

<Laugh> well, that’s okay. It’s a very, I love that personal accounts, and I think that’s part of the magic of your book in that it, it introduces economic concepts, but in a very sort of touching and, and personal way. So we were talking about the trade offs. You mentioned as a, as a consumer you make trade offs, you described a situation where you’re, you’re, you’re limiting resource is, is time. You don’t have in a time, you have to choose whether you wanna go to BA baseball practice or, or, or theater. Some of us make trade offs based on economy. You have a, a, a an example in your book about ice cream, if, if you like strawberry ice cream and there’s, it’s a thin price to chocolate. There’s no nothing to worry about.

Joe Selvaggi:

You choose the strawberry. If strawberry were a hundred times expensive, you’d have to then consider whether it was a hundred times more valuable to you when, and you wanted to trade a hundred dollars for a scoop rather than a dollar for an alternative flavor. Now on the producer side, of course, in this world we are both consumers and producers. You described very, very colorfully your dad’s choice of going from one to type of producer of, of, of labor to to a different kind describe for our, our listeners, your concept where you find how markets inform our decisions where, what we decide is consumers, but also how we decide which, which labor will, will produce, or which products will produce

Matthew Hennessey:

Well, the is very interesting because you know, I used the example of the ice cream in the book to sort of make a larger point about how we, how we assign values to things. But the most important bit of it is that we do it often on the fly. We do it without really you know, getting out of pen in a paper or spreadsheet and sort of comparing how much we, or strawberry ice cream to chocolate ice cream, you know it would be sort of insane if you walked around making those kind of calculations explicitly. So, you know, when you go to a restaurant and you decide, or, you know, let’s just say, when you’re deciding which restaurant to go to, you’re going to make some sort of implicit on the fly calculation about how much you can afford, how much it’s, how good it’s gonna be, whether it’s worth it, and what you’re gonna have to give up in order to do it.

Matthew Hennessey:

You know, economics is economics is complicated, but the way we live is a lot less complicated than it. Well, both things are a lot less complicated than they need to be. So I’m, I’m, I’m approaching this whole thing from the point of view that of you know, you’re, you are all, whoever you are, are better economists than you think you are, because life is really imbued with this stuff. You don’t, you know, there’s not a, there’s no sort of line of separation between your, your personal life or your social life and your economic life or your professional life and your economic life, which I think is a, a, a view that an awful lot of people have, which is that sort of like, there’s the business of making a living, there’s the business of buying and selling and fortune telling.

Matthew Hennessey:

And then there’s my good life, my real life, my life, where I get to do the things that I wanna do. And I don’t have to worry about that stuff. The fact of the matter is you can’t separate the two things, the two things aren’t separable you are, you know, just like you sort of, you are, or one person, whether you’re going for a run or whether you’re on your knees, praying in church, or whether you’re at the desk or at your job, you’re the same person in all of those places. You can’t separate, you can’t factor out economics from decisions about whether to have another you know, another scoop of ice cream. You know, it’s all sort of economics is life in that way.

Joe Selvaggi:

Well, we’ve got this wonderful system that again, I think we’re in violent agreement here. <Laugh> where as consumers, we get abundant choices and we decide for ourselves, which is more important to us as, as producers, we can work where we like and, and decide whether we want a lot of income or free time or status, whatever our priorities are. But your book does also touch on the fact that despite the many benefits of, of free markets, it has its detractors both on the right and the left marketers are I would say rhetorically at least under attack in many different extreme circles. Why do you think such a wonderful system that essentially pays you to, to make choices? Why would that be under attack? What do you think fundamentally? What are the vulnerabilities of such a a wonderful system? Why, why wouldn’t everyone be in violent agreement?

Matthew Hennessey:

Well you know, there’s a lot of economic ignorance. There is a, you know, there’s economic, you know, there’s competition in, in the, in the, in the marketplace for ideas. So there are you know there are people who just disagree with what I’ve been saying that the laws of economics are observable reality. They fundamentally disagree with that. You know, they, they, they believe as I was explaining earlier that there are different systems and you can pick and choose I, that if you try to fight the laws of economics, you end up creating a lot of friction that not only reduces prosperity, but reduces overall happiness. And in some places can, you know, reduce lifespans and get people killed. So you have in the, you know, in the Mo modern American context, let’s just say the free market is under attack from the extreme light left and the extreme right.

Matthew Hennessey:

For different reasons. So you’ve got your Bernie Sanders types or your Elizabeth Warren types, or your Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Although I don’t think her her her criticism of the market is as evolved or as mature, let’s say as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who just don’t like the inequality quality that they see. They think that there’s a way to use the government power to, to to do some leveling, to bring these sort of differences in, in individual wealth and concentrations of what, or what they think of as concentrations of corporate power and wealth. There’s a way to sort of close the gap through taxation and government intervention and anybody who’s listening to this will be familiar with that point of view. And I, I won’t have to describe it much, much further.

Matthew Hennessey:

We’ve run this experiment a couple of times in the 20th century putting ideas of equity over sort of a society’s overall prosperity. And it fails every single time. It’s never worked. It’s caused great misery many deaths and an impoverishment of the human spirit. So I think we can, you know, just between us chickens here, I think we can just <laugh>, we can dis we can discard that as a, as a, as a possible alternative to free markets lately. There’s been criticism of the market system from the right in, in the United States from a very unlikely set of, of former mainstream. We call them mainstream Republicans or, or regular Republicans, or who have, have migrated towards a philosophy that seems deeply informed by Catholic teaching, a Catholic understanding of the proper ordering of the economic sphere in service of a, a kind of a hazy notion of the common good a skepticism about the intentions of modern politics and, and a, and a real focus on the erosion of traditional systems and values and institutions that I talked about at the beginning that they, that they attribute to the forces of the destructive forces of, of capitalism.

Matthew Hennessey:

This is a sort of a, a rump faction. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t think that they have much of a constituency at the moment, but their criticism of the market appears to be very exciting to lot of young, young conservatives, shall we say? So it’s a real threat. I doubt that, you know, they come broadly under the banner of national conservatives. They believe in a sort of in a, in a, in protectionism immigration restriction is a sort of a, a, a vision of an economy that is not open to the world and not free, but that is somehow put to the productive still, still cranks out you know, gobs and gobs of money that can be used to pay people to have large families or something. Some sort of like Hungarian fantasy of, of, of a sort of <laugh> of of a Catholic integral estate.

Matthew Hennessey:

I, like I said, I don’t see that this has much of a, a constituency politically and oddly enough, it seems extremely anti-American in the sense that I, I believe very strongly that Americans of, of which I know there is a diversity are committed pretty much unshakably to the idea that they want, not that they want to get rich, but that they wanna do well, and they wanna be able to pursue their ambitions to develop their talents and Americans wanna live in a country and in a society that values work, that rewards excellence. And a and, you know, oddly enough markets provide an avenue for, for the ambitious, provide a, provide a way for new ideas, productive new ideas to come to the surface and to be explored and realized none of these other economic options. You know, I’m trying to avoid saying systems because I’ve just said that I would never say it but they are systems, the free market is not a system.

Matthew Hennessey:

So none of these other economic systems provide that outlet for creativity, that outlet that can surface the productive impulse. Instead they’re focused on punitive that that, that, that send that impulse Curring for cover to the detriment of, of, of the entire society. If, if and I’m not making some kind of you know, fountain or I, Rand argument in favor of liberating you know, the, the, the, the the Superman entrepreneurs and, and, you know, giving, giving Elon Musk and anyone like him, you know, the license to sort of organize our affairs. I’m just talking about my parents. I’m talking about people who want to start a business, or who want to see how far they can go with a, an idea. You wanna live in a country where that’s encouraged, you don’t wanna live in a country. I, I don’t think most Americans wanna live in a country where that’s discouraged or punished, which is the, kind of the option that we’re getting from both of these both of these market skeptical groups that I’ve just been describing.

Joe Selvaggi:

Indeed. Your book is very, very good. It’s replete with lots of references to some of my favorite economists among them Milton Friedman Thomas. So Henry has like all these wonderful authors. But I think what you’re talking about is the notion of on both sides on the extremes something more akin to a command economy that’s, that’s ordered indeed the word trying not to use a system. I think they imagine a system in which wiser people than us can order things in a way that would make happier than we can make ourselves. I think it was Thomas. So who said, we either have to give up on utopia or give up on freedom and in my view those who give up on freedom and in favor of utopia are going down a dangerous path. I, I mentioned some of the economist that you cite in your book. What, what was your your inspiration for this book? I I can guess because I’ve read some of the books mentioned in, in the, in the, in the book where where do you find a kindred spirit among modern economists are somewhat modern economist?

Matthew Hennessey:

Well, all the guys that you mentioned for the reasons that you mentioned Henry Haslet book economics, and one lesson is a sort of the, the inspiration, although, you know, I, I wouldn’t dare to suggest that I did as good a job as he did, but I, I do see that that book is in spirit what I’m trying to do, it was written in the late forties. So it’s a bit outdated, the ideas aren’t outdated. Some of the examples are a little dated. You know, Haslet was an interesting guy, didn’t even go to college. So I like the idea of not, you know, not needing to be a PhD in order to grasp, you know, the, the, sort of the basics of economics, and also wanting to speak to people who have never read Tom soul or Milton Friedman who may be afraid of those names, or maybe have never heard of them just to sort of sprinkle them throughout my book.

Matthew Hennessey:

So like bird seeds, so that if they’re just pecking along and liking what they’re reading they might be inspired to, to search out some of those other names. You know, it’s like <laugh> in the early days of rock and roll, like you know, whatever, whatever the whatever the Beatles or the who wrote in their liner notes about, you know, how much they liked, how wool for muddy waters or whatever, it inspired a lot of people to go hunting for those records and revived a lot of, of careers. You know, maybe, maybe in some small way, I can do the same thing for Henry Haslet

Joe Selvaggi:

Indeed. I wanna get back to your own personal experience. Again, you talked about the journey your parents had. I, I have a question that it wasn’t answered in the book, but I wanna describe what you, how you characterize your, your parents, a and at least as you were growing up you said quote, my parents were mid-century American Democrats pure and simple, old fashioned liberals. They believed in the promise of America felt that it hadn’t fully been delivered for a lot of people, which to be fair, it hadn’t then. And hasn’t today bridging the gay up between the promise and the reality in their view was the government’s job and its purpose. Now, I think a lot of our listeners perhaps grew up in homes where parents had that same basic worldview. And yet you you are their son and you’re working at the wall street journal and you, in a sense came to a different view.

Joe Selvaggi:

Do you think there’s a way to help as a society reeducate or reorient our, our, our future, our youth on the, the benefits of markets and perhaps the limits of government policy to to quote unquote, the problems of markets. How do we get from, let’s say where even your parents were perhaps 50 years ago to where we are today and where again fewer and fewer people seem to have faith in markets where, what do we do to help cultivate a deep respect and understanding of markets?

Matthew Hennessey:

Well, the answer is very simple. Every high school in America needs to assign visible hand a wealth of notions on the miracle of the market, to every student in America. That’s the only way out of this mess. <Laugh> you know, when I was in high school I don’t recall ever study. I think that the high school I went to offered a course in economics. I don’t know what was going on there because I didn’t take it. And I wouldn’t have taken it. I suspect it was a few charts, a few graphs some elementary discussion of supply and demand and, and then some economic history, which, I mean, who knows, I I’m just making stuff up. I have no idea what was going on there, but what I know is it wasn’t required. And it wasn’t anything that anybody was drawn to who wasn’t going to go study accounting in college.

Matthew Hennessey:

Anyway. I think that we need to find a way, I mean, this is a, this is a bigger project than, you know, I’m being flipped by saying they should re assign my book. It’s a bigger project than a book. And it’s a, a bigger project than, you know, the opinion pages of the wall street journal. Although I do recall that when I was in college and I took an economics course on day one or day two, my professors said, you know, one of the best things you could do right now, if you wanna study economics is get yourself a subscription to the wall street journal, get yourself a subscription to the financial times, any financial newspaper, although the wall street is the best one and read it every day. And if you do that for a couple of years, you’ll certainly have an understanding of how economies work, how the world works, how politics work.

Matthew Hennessey:

You know, the bad news is that newspapers of all stripes are, are dying and, and appear to be going away. So I don’t know how useful that suggestion will be to a college student in 2022. You know if I knew the answer, I would’ve put it in the back of the book, Joe, I, I, I think that the very first step would be to understand what a market is and how it works. And the second step would be to stop lying about it, you know, to stop, to stop to stop and, you know just stop telling lies about what, what markets are and, and what they, what they’re there for. They’re not there. So that one or two guys can get rich at the expense of everyone else. That’s not what a market economy is for market economy is for you know, expanding the pie for raising the tide so that all the boats will lift. That’s what a market economy is for. Not all boats go up at the same rate pie, doesn’t get, you know, not everybody’s eaten from the same plate around the table when we’re cutting up the pie. I understand the markets have shortcomings. They they occasionally leave people behind in very you know, visible ways but better to live in a, in an environment where there’s enough prosperity to help the people who fall behind to help those who fall behind then to destroy wealth in the name of making everybody equal.

Joe Selvaggi:

Indeed, I don’t know who first said it is you know, sort of I dunno what the alternative to markets is perhaps socialism or command economy. And, we trade in this case with socialism, we paid you know, uneven prosperity for universal misery. And that would be a shame. If it gives you any comfort, I’ll say my time at the Kennedy school, we had some remedial economics for those who hadn’t taken economics, their whole whole lives. And on the first day, essentially we’re explaining supply and demand, you know, curve goes up and the man curve goes down and one young Harvard student raised his hand and said, geez, if this is true, everything I believe in this life is, is wrong. And I, I said, I turned him and said it is wrong. But it, they

Matthew Hennessey:

That could have been me that I had the exact same experience, you know I went to school I dropped out of college when I was young in the early nineties. And I went back in the early two thousands, right after 9-11. Because that day, that event really shook up my worldview. And I knew that I wanted to study something having to do with politics because I wanted to, I wanted to help. A lot of people had this impulse after nine 11, you know, I want to do something. I don’t want to just continue as I had been. And so I started studying politics and I thought, you know, I’m not gonna, you know, if all you study is politics and you don’t study economics, then maybe you’re not getting the full picture. So I just wandered into an economics course, and I had exactly the same.

Matthew Hennessey:

I didn’t wander into it. I signed up for it and, and attended as an enrolled student. But I had the exact same experience as that person that you just described. I mean, my head popped off. I couldn’t believe how true it all was. It really turned me around. I thought, I mean, it’s, it’s not fair to the people that I, that I love and who, who raised me, but I thought to myself, how come nobody told me about this? This is all comports with what my with what my instincts tell me are true about the world and everything else that I had been hearing about how we could have it all or how the government can improve lives by, you know, taxing the rich and spreading the wealth. I couldn’t believe that I, that I didn’t know about this. I couldn’t believe that I had believed that. So I have a lot of sympathy for that young Harvard student. Who’s probably now running a bank or a country somewhere. <Laugh>,

Joe Selvaggi:

That’s a third world country, unfortunately. Yeah. So we’re getting close to the end of our time together. Let our listeners know now that they’ve gotten a little taste of what your book has to offer, where can they find it, buy it buy many copies for their friends how do they find you?

Matthew Hennessey:

Well the great thing about the market is there, you can find the book almost anywhere. There are a lot of players in the online book selling and delivery game there’s one big one, obviously, which is called Amazon, which sort of blots out the sun when it comes to buying and selling books. But you don’t have to go there. You can go to a lot of different places. You know, I don’t have a website, if that’s what you’re asking me, you can go to my publisher’s website, which is Encounter books. That’s the name of my publisher. And I’m gonna give your listeners a very special offer, not available anywhere else, except right here.

Joe Selvaggi:

This is great. We’re gonna move some product here.

Matthew Hennessey:

So if they go to encounter books.com and, and buy my directly from the publisher, they can enter a discount code, which is my last name, Hennessy, H E N N E S S E Y. And they get 30% off. So wonderful. Only available. Yeah. <Laugh> limited time only.

Joe Selvaggi:

Yeah. For Hubwonk listeners a special offer. I think this is the first we’ve ever presented on the show. So the

Matthew Hennessey:

Copies are limited. So act now <laugh> right.

Joe Selvaggi:

All right. Our callers are standing by all right. So thank you very much for for joining us today, Matthew, I really enjoyed our conversation. I’m looking forward to, I, I think there should be a follow up book a second version and where we, we go a little more into a little more detail on steps forward, how, how you’re gonna, how you’re gonna cure this, this world. So I, I really appreciate your your thought, your insight and, and the warmth, wonderful warmth of your book. Thank you for, for joining us today day at hub long.

Matthew Hennessey:

Thanks, Joe. Thanks for having me.

Joe Selvaggi:

This has been another episode of Hubwonk, a podcast of Pioneer Institute. If you enjoy today’s episode, there are several ways to support the podcast and Pioneer. It would be easier for you and better for us. If you subscribe to hub long on your iTunes podcast, catcher, if you’d like to make it easier for others to find Hubwonk, it would be great. If you offer a five star rating or offer a favorable review, we’re always grateful. If you wanna share Hubwonk with friends, if you have ideas for me, or suggestions or comments about future episode topics, you’re welcome to email me at hubwonk@pioneerinstitute.org. Please join me next week for a new new episode of Hubwonk.

Recent Episodes

Progressive Policy Study: Californians Dreamin’ While Jobs and People Leavin’

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with California Policy Center president Will Swaim about how the state’s ambitious policies have combined to stick its residents with the highest cost of living and a tax regime that discourages investment, innovation, and its vital entrepreneurial class.

Student Debt Cancellation: Paying For Your Neighbors’ College Education

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with education financing expert Mark Kantrowitz about the $1.6 trillion in U.S. public student debt - who owes it, who stands to benefit from the Biden administration's recent promise for across-the-board student debt reductions, and what strategies are available to target only those most in need.

Invisible Hand Revealed: Economic Lessons in Everyday Life

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Matthew Hennessey, Wall Street Journal editor and author of Visible Hand, A Wealth of Notions on the Miracle of the Market, about how the principles of economics manifest themselves in our every day lives and how we can use that insight to better understand our personal and civic choices.

Zoning Reform Revisited: Local Control Determines How, Not If, Housing Gets Built

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer research associate Andrew Mikula about the need for affordable housing near the mass transit network and the requirements and local design opportunities of the 3A zoning reform law. Read Pioneer Institute's recent public comment on this topic.

Pharmacy Benefit Profiteers: Distortions and Costs of Half-Trillion Dollar Drug Middlemen

Hubwonk Host Joe Selvaggi talks with ALVA10 Chief Executive Hannah Mamuszka and Dr. Blake Long about the perverse incentives imposed by Pharmacy Benefit Managers adding nearly $500 billion to U.S. drug costs.

Ascending Justice: Where Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Fit in New Court

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination hearings and what her background and responses reveal about her views on the Constitution, the role of the Supreme Court, and her likely judicial positions relative to her fellow justices.

Exploiting Charity Drugs: Hospital Program Earns Billions But Forgets Mission

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer Institute’s Dr. Bill Smith about his recently released paper entitled, "340B Drug Discounts, An Increasingly Dysfunctional Federal Program," which analyzes the evolution of a well-intentioned program to offer discounted drugs to the uninsured from a benefit that had helped charitable hospitals to one that has exploded to generate billions in profits while serving fewer uninsured.

Rent Control Redux: Mayor’s Committee Likely to Provide Astroturf Over Expertise

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Doug Quatrocchi, executive director of Masslandlords.net about the historical effects of rent control in Boston and Cambridge in the past and discuss the gap between the stated goals and the likely outcome of Boston Mayor Wu’s 25 member Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee.