Review of “Capital Offense” by Michael Hirsh

Capital Offense: How Washington’s Wise Men Turned America’s Future Over to Wall Street, by Michael Hirsh.

Most people view politics as a conflict between democrats and republicans. Similarly, economics is viewed as a debate between those who favor free markets and low taxes versus those who believe that government should play a role in mitigating market imperfections and helping create a fairer and more just society. Michael Hirsh’s portrayals of Washington’s wise men suggest these stereotypes are often not apt. One of these examples, presented in the first chapter, involves the treatment of Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Her attempt to reign in financial abuse was squashed by two Democrats, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.

The book has a lot of informative portrayals of policymakers, thinkers and the events they shaped.  These include: Milton Friedman and his impact on the futures and options markets, the conflicts between Larry Summers and Joseph Stiglitz, the influence of Ayn Rand on Alan Greenspan, and Paul O’Neil’s opposition to the Bush tax cuts during his short tenure at Treasury.  There are differences among policy makers, with some being highly ideological and others being pragmatic.  However, the book also suggests that corporate interests dominate both political parties.

Capital Offense is well written, informative and a pleasure to read