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As with all of Bob Frank’s books, I highly recommend you read his Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy. Bob taught me in grad school. I model some of my teaching after his. Nonetheless I part ways with him from time to time.

But even though there are indeed bridges to nowhere and other clear examples of government waste, most people concede that a large portion of the government’s budget is spent on public goods and services that actually deliver real value. That’s in stark contrast to the actual growth we have seen in private consumption at the highest levels, much of which is squandered in fruitless positional arms races. Contrary to popular belief, private waste is not only far more pervasive than government waste, but far easier to curtail.

As you will see when you read the book, it is almost entirely fact free. This argument is representative of many others in the book. As a start, he could have at least shown government expenditures at federal, state and local levels and broken them into categories. That again does not constitute data on whether any of it is wasted or whether private spending is wasted, but it would at the very least be a starting point. You will find that narrative drives the book. That is, of course, a strength of his writing and ideas. More on them to come.

One Response to “Robert Frank in Success and Luck”

  1. stan says:

    Other people’s stuff I don’t like is waste. Fortunately, when my peeps are in power we can use the force of government to make people conform to my preferences. And since I’m an economist I can pretend that I’m not just dictating preferences. I can deflect blame to my model and mathiness and stuff.

    Dude is one sick puppy.

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