First Book Chapters

The first two chapters of the book I am writing for my American Government class are now on-line. Everyone capable of thoughtful commentary is invited to look at them and make any constructive comments whatsoever. The book is targeted to college students, and is designed to replace $80-$100 textbooks of dubious value. I want to challenge the students to be analytical. I want the book to be readable, so I don’t want to either talk down to them, be too dry and academical, or shoot so high over their heads they can’t catch up (shooting a little over their heads so they have to stretch is ok, though).

It’s hard to judge one’s own writing, it’s easy to lose focus within a chapter, and I simply don’t know everything, despite my best efforts to persuade you all that I do. I would appreciate comments that help me know if the focus and tone seem to work, whether I’ve got my facts right, and anything else that anyone’s particular expertise can contribute. All I can offer in return is a thank you when I get the book published.

Invite your friends to join in the fun.


About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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7 Responses to First Book Chapters

  1. James K says:

    I’ll have to take a look over the weekend.

  2. James Hanley says:


    On another blog I mentioned your comments about the U.S. heading toward an NZ-style debt crisis. Since all the old PL comments are disappeared, could you give me a refresher on what happened, and the cause?

  3. ppnl says:

    Giving it away for free!?! And I thought you were libertarian…

  4. OFT says:

    There’s a quote written by James Madison saying the principles of the Constitution are the same as that of the Articles of Confederation. Can anyone find it?

  5. James K says:

    James Hanley:
    Bear in mind that the whole thing came to a head when I was 2, and it’s a politically charged event, but this is my understanding of what happened:

    For a long time New Zealand was a heavily regulated country and it spent profligately. Agricultural subsidies were a major factor in bankrupting the country (this might seem strange, but bear in mind that New Zealand is and always had been a primarily agricultural country), as was the public service, which was in may respects a glorified jobs service (the common anecdote is that 8 people were hired to do the job of 1). Many industries were entirely nationalised, and most of the remainder were hobbled by taxes or ran entirely on subsidies. On top of that the NZ dollar was pegged, and the government was fighting hard to maintain the peg without spending a lot of money in the process. This led to comprehensive price and wage controls to the point where the whole country watched the Budget speech each year with baited breath, in order to find out how big a pay rise they were going to get. It was reckoned that the best way to get rich was to obtain an import license, allowing one to profit from our rigid tariff and quota regime.

    Like all things that can’t carry on forever, it didn’t. The stress of maintaining the currency peg, agricultural subsidies and bloated public sector grew too much. One night Robert Muldoon, Prime Minister from the right-wing National Party got drunk and decided to call a snap election. This was before the Fiscal Responsibility Act was passed, so Labour had no idea how bad a situation the government was in. When they won the election the new Prime Minister David Lange realised the government was basically insolvent.

    At that point, the new Minister of Finance Roger Douglas, along with some policy advisors in Treasury sketched out a reform programme that came to be known as Rogernomics. Lange was more a traditional lefty than Douglas and I suspect he only went along with it because there wasn’t a choice, it was this or go to the IMF.

    Rogernomics started in 1984 and ended in late 1987 / early 1988 when Labour purged it’s free market elements (including Douglas) and returned to a traditional free market platform. This included mass firings in the Public Service, the near abolition of export subsidies, tariffs and quotas, a flattening of the tax rates and privatisation of many government agencies, including the phone system, the rail network some power generation and the national airline. There were protests, but it didn’t matter. Douglas has said in interviews that his approach was to do so many things at once so quickly that the protesters couldn’t keep up. In the end, Labour was re-elected in 1987 (before the purge occurred), so the public must have had enough support for what was going on, or perhaps National was still to much in disarray.

    When Labour was voted out of office in 1990, National adopted a semi-free market approach and that has set the political dynamic ever since. National is at least nominally friendlier to markets and favours lower taxes and lower spending. How much room there is between the two parties varies over time, and is at a narrow point at the moment. Labour re-nationalised some former public assets in the 2000s, but overall the basic Rogernomics reforms are mostly untouched.

  6. James Hanley says:

    Thank you, Mr. K.

  7. James K says:

    No problem 🙂

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