Until the book “The Invisible Heart: an Economic Romance” came out in 2001 nobody would ever think to unite in one book two utterly different from the first sight ideas. Dr. Russell Roberts, who is the author of the book, was able to write about the essential concepts of economics, explaining the terms, and giving his personal ideas on fundamental economic issues in a very special way. The author wrote about two people Sam Gordon and Laura Silver, who by communicating with each other, revealing very thought-provoking ideas, making the readers look differently on some of the basic economic concepts. Generally speaking, economy and romance are two concepts that are very hard to unite with each other. For many centuries, there has been an argument of physicists and lyrics that could not agree, because physics is the exact science that deals with correct laws and rules, and there are no precise rules or regulations that passionate people obey, but they still are romantic.
And many people still believe that either a person has an economically-oriented mind or romantically-oriented mind. However, it is impossible for a person to combine both traits. Just think about businessmen who are busy with the process of making money. Are they very romantic? Probably not, because people who are concerned with economic issues do not have time to think about love and romance. And this is what Russell Roberts disproves. By writing his creative book, the author combines the two opposite concepts. This combination very much explains why the book became so popular with the readers. It is not a dull book on economics explaining dry and well-known facts, but it is a fictional novel that might be interesting for student studying economy, businessmen, politicians and everybody who wishes to read something new and creative.
The book deals with such fundamental concepts of economics, like capitalism, liberalism, private market, salary differences and others. The concepts mentioned above can be found in the dialogues of two main characters of the book – Sam Gordon and Laura Silver.
Hence, the main point of this paper is to analyze fundamental problems of the book, to speak about peculiarities of the author’s thoughts on some economic issues, and to identify the importance of the book for its potential readers.
Is the heart of an economist invisible?
Before speaking of the book itself, it is necessary to devote a couple of sentences to the author of the book “The Invisible Heart: an Economic Romance” – Dr. Russell Roberts.
Russell Roberts is the Professor of Economics working at George Mason University. Before he joined George Mason University, he worked at the University of Rochester, UCLA, Stanford University and Washington University in St, Louis. Russell Roberts holds Ph. D in economics, which he obtained at the University of Chicago. He often works at the National Public Radio as a commentator for “Morning Edition.” Russell Roberts is a member of Mercatus Centre, and the Features Editor of the Liberty website and Library of Economics, where he is also a member of founding the advisory board. Though one of his most famous books is “The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance” (2001), he is also the author of another famous novel “The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism,” which speaks about the international trade and policy. This book was among the best ten books named by Business Week in 1994. Besides a great variety of academic publications that Russell Roberts writes annually, he has also written several articles for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Currently, the Professor of Economics is working on a new book, concerning the standard of living, wealth and unplanned cooperation.
Having spoken about the author of the book it is high time to start analyzing the book itself. The action of “The Invisible Heart: an Economic Romance” takes place in Washington D.C., at Edwards High School, where main characters Sam Gordon and Laura Silver start teaching the students. In the first chapter the author describes the beginning of the year, the first day of school to be exact. Both Sam Gordon and Laura Silver meet their students for the first time, and later they meet each other in the street, and get acquainted. Sam Gordon is a 30 year old teacher of economics, who is considered to be “a crazy guy” by some of his students during the first day, however, the things change, and the students become fond of his economic games. After introducing himself Sam told the students that they had to write a quiz, which was very much surprising as it was the first day of school. The teacher wrote two numbers on the blackboard, 531 billion and 16.5 billion. After explaining what the numbers meant, Sam Gordon asked the students “when will the world run out of oil?” And when the students were trying to calculate the exact date, the teacher said that it was all about thinking, and that calculators usually added little help in such situations. Generally speaking, a lot of ideas given by Sam Gordon are very thought-provoking and it seems like the author himself agrees with the main character on every economic issue. The second main character depicted in the book is a young woman named Laura Silver. Laura Silver is a young teacher of English literature. She is 24 years old. Laura planned to work at Edwards High School for two years, and later enter a law school to follow the steps of her father. Laura has a very caring heart. She likes helping beggars, but in a very special way. Laura thinks that giving beggars money is useless and even harmful, because they might spend it on drugs or alcohol. For this reason, she is very proud of her brother, who gives the beggars V-8 juice, because it contains vitamins. And this is the first point of disagreement between Sam and Laura. During their first meeting near the Woodley Park Metro Station Sam reveals the most essential features of his character. He is very difficult to offend, sceptic, not too much caring for other people, and he always says the things he thinks, not worrying if other people might like it or not. At some point of Sam’s dialogue with Laura he says the idea expressing his internal world, a world of economist whose only love is economics – “Welcome to the wonderful world of economics. Everything precious in life has a cost.” Sam Gordon thinks that everything has its cost. This is definitely an opinion of an economist, and Laura, as a teacher of literature can hardly agree with him on this point.
Speaking of the main ideas of the book, it is necessary to emphasize that it discusses such concept as capitalism, by showing it uniquely. The book deals with socialistic attempts to legalize the fairness, which will obviously have a negative influence on the economic life of society, and attack already new rights and liberties. Dialogues between the main characters play the significant role in the book because through them the author provides the readers with economic arguments discussed at both sides. However, long and informative dialogues between Sam and Laura, are not the only source of financial issues in the book. The author provides the readers with small economic lessons by showing Gordon teaching his class at Edwards. By reading these industrial experiences, the readers become Gordon’s students and learn or maybe revise the core concepts of economic science.
The book shows the contrast between the theory of free market economy and liberalism. As we can see Sam Gordon is fanatically devoted free-market capitalist, while Laura Silver is a liberal follower concept. Because the author created two protagonists with opposite points of view, the disagreement between them gives the readers an opportunity to see different sides of the argument, and maker their conclusions on the main points. Thus, it is fascinating to watch the march of events in the light of ideas discussed in the dialogues of two main characters. Sam and Laura discuss minimum salaries, unions, a standard of living, inflation, charity, pollution, and other burning problems of the day. Because Sam Gordon is a follower of the theory of free market, he is in love with capitalism. He considers the regulations of government useless and harmful in some way for the development of an open market. Sam thinks that only economic freedom will bring happiness to the society. On the contrary, Laura believes that government should develop regulations to protect workers and consumers from the harmful influence of free market.
As I’ve read the book, I concluded that we do need the government regulations at least for the protection of private property and contract safety, taxation and spending on public healthcare, education, and medicine. I do not think that government should interfere with the free market because the competition is the best regulation for it. The government should not try to protect the factories producing domestics by imposing high customs duties and quotas because cheaper foreign goods imported to the country can bring more profits to the state. And when domestic plants and factories see the possible effect of international competition, they will try to compete, and thus, develop new, economically sound technologies to produce more competitive goods.
So, what about the love? The subtitle of the book is “An Economic Romance,” which means that though Sam Gordon was in love with economics, he could also fall in love with a woman, who possesses opposite views on underlying economic and social issues. However, the future life of such people may be very stressing, because sooner or later they would start arguing due to their opposite opinions.
Russell Roberts created the main character of the book Sam Gordon to express his own opinion on fundamental economic issues. Russell Roberts explains favorable effects of the “invisible hand” of the market introduced in economic theory by Adam Smith. As Sam Gordon tries to convince Laura Silver that his and only his ideas are correct, he makes her believe that the “invisible hand” does not necessarily mean the “invisible heart.” Despite all principle differences, which they have concerning economics and ethics, the power of love wins, and Laura Silver also falls in love with Sam Gordon. So, it is possible to say that the battle between economic and ethnic views is over. And at the end of the book we see, that both Sam and Laura can risk anything for their beliefs, meaning to risk their jobs and even careers.
“The Invisible Heart: an Economic Romance” brought a lot of fame to Russell Roberts, who is now considered to be a member of a small group of economists that can teach and explain core economic ideas to the vast mass of people, who know nothing about economic science. The book is fascinating to read; it is thought-provoking, and it allows the readers to develop their own opinions on economic, capitalism, free market, etc. The book by Russell Roberts is considered to be the best and the most successful attempt to convert boring economics into interesting and fascinating fictional novel. In “The Invisible Heart: an Economic Romance” Russell Roberts showed himself not only as a successful economist and a skillful teacher but also as a talented fictional writer, who was able to make economics accessible for average people. But the book leaves the question. Whom Sam Gordon loves more: capitalism or Laura Silver? Every reader has his/her answer to this question. There’s one thing that remains clear. Sam Gordon is ready to struggle for his belief, strong belief into successful future of capitalism, because “capitalism involves struggle, but it has an invisible heart beating at its core that transforms people’s lives.”
The readers of the book will not necessarily agree on the fundamental concepts of the book, but they will remember the main ideas of it because it is impossible to forget something written in such a clear and accessible manner.
1. Roberts, Russell. “The Invisible Heart: an Economic Romance”. MIT Press. 2001.
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