Sunday, November 30, 2003
Season's readings
A book-length fable teaches lessons in economics.

By STEVEN GREENHUT
Senior editorial writer and columnist,
The Orange County Register
sgreenhut@ocregister.com

How often do you read a book about economics that you're sure your teen-age child will enjoy? "Never" comes to mind. For some reason, I never believed my 14-year-old would love "Human Action" or "Atlas Shrugged" or "Economics in One Lesson," even though those classics explain free-market principles in succinct form.

But after reading "The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey," I quickly wanted to hand the book over to my daughter. Written by Ken Schoolland, an economics and politics professor at Hawaii Pacific University, the book is anything but an academic tome. It is fiction - something like John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" - in that it is a simple story about a man's odyssey. Unlike Pilgrim, Jonathan learns about the importance of free markets in a series of simple, not-so-subtle stories.

It's a fun read. The book, translated into more than 20 languages and distributed at schools around the globe, teaches the economic lesson of the tragedy of the commons in the form of a discussion between Jonathan and a fisherman who cannot pull more than a meager catch out of the overfished lake. We learn similar basic economic lessons about taxation, the food police, private property, innovation, special interests and so forth, all through experiences Jonathan has on his travels.

"People like satire," Schoolland pointed out in an e-mail. He's right. Libertarians also need to find innovative ways to present their ideas to the broadest audience.

(Published by Small Business Hawaii; 118 pages; $19.95. Check out www.jonathangullible.com.) visitors