Friday, July 17, 2009

The Smothering of Tom Woods' Book

On February 9, 2009, the Tom Woods book, Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse, was published.

It blew the cover on the major role the Federal Reserve played in the economic crisis.

Curiously, exactly one month--to the day--before Woods' book was published, January 9, 2009, a paperback book also titled Meltdown was released. That book's full name is Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover. It was published by the publishing arm of the left wing magazine, Nation.

An obvious confusing situation that would clearly benefit Nation, since A. all they did was slap together articles previously written, so their time to press and costs of production would be much lower and, B. They would greatly benefit from the much larger publicity campaign of Woods' big bucks publisher, Regnery.

You could pass the entire thing off as coincidence or maybe Nation was slick and tried to catch a free ride on what word in the industry was a sure to be best seller from the Woods' Meltdown book.

But then a real curious thing happens. A third book named Meltdown is published in paperback. The full title is Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed. It is published by tiny Verso Books. This book was launched on May 19, 2009. Interestingly, a book that wasn't published in hardback, and published by a publisher that surely isn't going to run any major campaign, is being carried in huge quantities by the major book stores, such as Borders.

This third Meltdown book was written by a Paul Mason, who seems to have done heavy research and then thrown it all together in kaleidoscopic fashion to see what would come out. In one section, he has Friedrich Hayek flying to Chicago from London, getting a job at the University of Chicago and teaching Milton Friedman free market economics. This absurdity then supposedly inspired Friedman to write his book on Monetary History.

That said, I don't seem to ever remember three books coming out simultaneously with the same title. Two of them by very small publishers. Is some one trying to smother the Woods impact, by confusing his title with two others? The confusion is clearly there.

According to Amazon's own stats, 47% of the people who first land on the Meltdown published by Nation, end up buying Woods' book. 6% of those who land on the Verso published book end up buying Woods' book. In comparison, no one, according to Amazon data, who lands on the Woods book ends up buying one of the other Meltdown books.

There's confusion all right, and it all seems to be from those who end up on the non- Woods' Meltdown book and want the Woods' book. One has to ask, what about those who don't notice the three possibilities?

What happens in bookstores where it might be less obvious that there are three books with the same title?

The only thing we can't know for sure is if this is all because of coincidence, because of opportunists who have suddenly decided to take advantage of Woods' bestseller, or a deliberate attempt to dilute and smother the impact of Woods' book which is highly critical of the Federal Reserve.


  1. I'm pretty sure Naomi Klein said that Hayek was Friedman's mentor. It's like these people don't even try.

  2. I haven't checked the timelines. Are these claims about Hayek and Friedman demonstrably impossible, or are we just saying it's not right because Friedman obviously wasn't an Austrian economist?

  3. @Bob Murphy

    I checked the timelines before I made the post. They fit. Friedman actually wrote Monetary History a year or two after Hayek left. But I haven't seen anything from Hayek or Friedman, or anybody else, that claims Hayek taught Friedman about free markets.