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Book Review of the Invisible Heart

In: Business and Management

Submitted By depotic2
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Book Review The first thing that comes to mind when the average college freshman picks up a copy of The Invisible Heart An Economic Romance is, “What is an economic romance, and why am I purchasing one right now?” Though the idea of an economic romance sounds both boring and absurd, the author, Roberts, combines introductory economics with slow-developing but touching romance, in a way that is exciting and thought-provoking. Roberts is currently a research fellow at Stanford University previously teaching at George Mason University, Washington University, University of Rochester, and the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also a notable author with several published works from credible sources, such as “The New York Times” and “The Wallstreet Journal”. The book itself is published by the MIT Press, a very credible source. In order for the novel to be published by MIT, the sources used in it would have to be credible and upon further inspection they are. Most if not all of the sources are used only for the specific statistics mentioned in the book and all of the sources are reliable names such as the National Highway Traffic Administration and the Princeton University Press. The above information proves that Roberts is qualified both intelligently and as a writer but does this novel live up to his qualifications? The novel starts out introducing the two main characters, Sam Gordon and Laura Silver. Sam is a free market worshipping economics teacher who works at the Edwards School. Laura is a new teacher at the Edwards School in the English Department. This story follows the struggling romance between the two caused by differing views on almost every subject, public policy and the business sector to name a few. The irony of the story is that their ability to argue over these topics is what brings them together, their debates being the device Roberts uses to deliver his message about economic issues and public policy. This is an effective modem to deliver the message because the romance between the two supplements detailed analysis of these issues in a way that makes a reader want to keep turning the page. The interesting thing Roberts does in order to convey his message through these debates is use Sam to symbolize himself and express his knowledge and use Laura as the average person whose knowledge of economic topics is based off stereotypical assumptions.
There is also a side story following Charles Krauss, the CEO of a major international company, Health Net. Roberts uses this side story as a satire of what the average person thinks of the business world. As a major twist he reveals this side story to be a television show, shortly after Sam declares to his class that if he could make one law it would be to ban television because he thinks, “Watching television is a total waste of time… It saps everything from us that is human…” (135) This side story is both captivating and intense with moments of high drama delivered perfectly.
Another twist Roberts throws into the story is the fact that Sam is going to be fired. Throughout the entire story, what is happening to Sam is a mystery to both Laura and the reader. Near the end of the novel it is revealed that Sam was given a choice to either quit his job at the Edwards School or to be persecuted for his beliefs in a court of law and fired, so he makes the decision to walk away from the Edwards School. This twist does two things for the reader. First, it humanizes the average person’s view of economics and business, and second, it provides another mountain for Sam and Laura to climb in their relationship.
As stated earlier, the themes, issues, and ideas of the book are delivered through the friendly debates between Sam and Laura. One of the main ideas of this novel is that “there is no free lunch”. What this means is that everything comes at a cost. One specific debate between Sam and Laura, the first time they meet each other on the subway, outlines this idea very well. The debate they have is over whether or not the law should require people to wear seat belts and to have airbags. Laura’s position on the topic is that there should be a law requiring people to wear seat belts and to have airbags, and she thinks that it is erroneous to think otherwise because of their safety advantages. Sam’s position is in direct opposition to Laura’s, and Roberts expresses this opinion exceptionally well when he has Sam state, “There is no free lunch. More safety means less of something else. Force people to buy safety devices for their cars and maybe their kids don’t go to college or get music lessons.” (23)
Another main idea of this novel is that the actions of the government reduce people’s freedom. Roberts expresses this idea through Laura snooping on Sam during one of his classes. During this class, Sam plays a game with his students in which each student got to play the part of a dictator but could only pass one law. Sam then asks each student which laws they would pass but in the end, each is flawed and most have more drawbacks than they do benefits. Through this example Roberts shows how government interference has unforeseeable and detrimental effects on society.
A third main idea expressed in this novel is that there is an “Invisible Heart” at the core of economics. This idea is expressed through Sam and Laura’s debate at the dry cleaners. Laura’s opinion is that the dry cleaners charge too much for women’s clothing and she backs this opinion with her stereotype that businessmen will do anything moral or immoral to make an extra buck. Robert’s opinion, which he expresses through Sam, is that businesses are forced to please their customers in order for them to make money. This includes providing services cheaply and conveniently. He expresses this best when he has Sam state, “…The potential for profit spurs a business to please its customers. And when a business has competition gouging the customer just sends him out the door in search of alternatives…” (67-68)
In conclusion, this novel is both entertaining and informative. Roberts provides a wealth of information on economics in a way that is both interesting and easy to understand through the medium of Sam and Laura. Based on information stated earlier, he is more is a more than qualified author and economist. Bottom line, I would recommend this book to any and every person because it represents a factual interpretation of the business world that could change the way the people in today’s society think.
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