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Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Ilgunas is a really good writer who does a great job describing many interesting characters and experiences in his journey. Readers who have run up student debt getting a degree that the market doesn't value will surely relate to his story. Others will find it amusing as well. There are some heavy, thoughtful philosophical arguments made throughout that will get all readers to question their values and, if read with friends, will surely generate debate.
From my perspective as an economist, I do, however, always have to question people who put their value judgments on others. It is fashionable today, as Ilgunas does, to assume that people working in a corporation are leading miserable lives and that fulfillment comes from living in a shack in Alaska. Here's some news for those who believe this: IT ISN'T NECESSARILY TRUE! Many who work for corporations are leading very satisfying lives!
Another point along these lines: he takes some good pot shots at Duke graduates who migrate towards Wall Street and Goldman Sachs, etc. - another popular theme, especially given events of recent years. As in the recent hit movie The Wolf of Wall Street (I don't consider myself prudish, but I recommend not attending the movie with a date or any of your children), it is commonly accepted that buying and selling stocks creates no value. Actually a casual understanding of history reveals that the "invention" of the joint stock company, whereby people could invest in risky ventures and participate and liquidate as they choose, was instrumental in creating material wealth. Please understand that I am sympathetic to the view that the free market, capitalistic system has gone too far in creating material wealth and that some serious work needs to be done on reining in materialism. But this is because Wall Street does too good a job at creating wealth--not because it doesn't.
Finally, those who have visited Walden Pond will surely enjoy Mr. Ilgunas' take on Thoreau. All in all, this is an easy read that presents some interesting philosophical arguments - especially a great read for young people and those facing a long plane trip.