Review of Walter Rybeck's latest
Re-Solving The Economic Puzzle
In thirty-two short chapters, each as much a page-turner as the one before, the book has a wide sweep but uses simple terms. It appeals to moral intuition without casting blame or finding scapegoats.
by Bill Batt, May 4, 2011Just out, the first of three Georgist-oriented books to be released this year that I know of, is Walt Rybeck's treatise on how restructuring our economy can solve our current economic malaise.
It is part autobiography, part explication of the Georgist paradigm, and always an argument for its implementation.
Our Walt has had a remarkable life, with his adulthood beginning with service in the Second World War, followed by a rich and inspired education at Antioch College, and afterwards as a journalist in Latin American and then for the Cox Newspaper chain.
In thirty-two short chapters, each as much a page-turner as the one before, the book unfolds to reveal both continuity and conviction. The continuity of Walt's Georgist orientation has clearly served him well, and provided an integrating and moral perspective on all his reporting. This could not always have been easy, for coverage of so wide a beat as Washington news is certainly a reportorial challenge.
As Washington Bureau Chief for the Cox news syndicate, he had to have had every challenge. But the role of Assistant Director of the National Commission on Urban Problems, the newly created investigatory body chaired by Senator Paul Douglas, was enough to wean him from journalism.
The Commission produced a compelling body of work, having brought in major academic leaders from across the country to offer innovative perspectives and solutions to the problems of the 1960s. Walt makes clear that there were frustrations as well, and that the reports were left in the end to gather dust in the face of other agendas of the era.
Still, there were opportunities to be as effective in later roles as --
* Assistant Director of the Urban Institute,
* Assistant to Congressman Henry Reuss (who was chair of the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs), and then
* Assistant to Pittsburgh Congressman William Coyne who was a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Walt had opportunities to write reports of considerable import, one of which showed that the added increment of land values that grew out of the creation of the Washington Metro could easily have been recaptured to pay the full costs of it's construction.
As the book unfolds, however, it becomes less about Walt's life and career, and more about his observations on our nation and its economic health.
He writes of the many chances that were missed, where our nation's leaders could have done much more had different policies been chosen. He is, however, ever the optimist, and he points to the number of instances where policies of a Georgist nature have been seeded. In this nation and elsewhere, he points to progress in ways and where Georgist advocacy has mattered.
What is most valuable in Walt's book is its readability. At a time when so many of our Georgist efforts are narrowly focused or employ esoteric language, Re-Solving the Economic Puzzle is a book for the citizenry generally. It has a wide sweep but uses simple terms. It appeals to moral intuition without casting blame or finding scapegoats. It is, in the final analysis, the kind of book that I can recommend to people in order to make a case for our Georgist agenda.
Walter Rybeck: Re-Solving The Economic Puzzle, London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 2011 (hb, 238 pages).
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