Exit, Voice and Loyalty by Albert O. Hirschman

With a full title of "Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organisations and States", this is a fairly old (1970) but nevertheless current and interesting book. Written by an economist making forays into political science, his first point is that 'exit' is not necessarily the only response to discontent, dispute or 'unsatisfaction', and that 'voice' - aka protest, causing a stink, making a fuss - is also a perfectly legitimate response, and interacts with exit in interesting and sometimes unpredictable ways.

The book makes a second point, seemingly in reaction to a trend that was only just getting started in 1970, and is sadly now more-or-less embedded into the modern cultural mindset: the applying of free-market principles to absolutely everything in the public sphere - regardless of the benefit gained thereby. Healthcare, in the USA particularly, is of course a prominent and relevant example.

These points, concisely addressed in 125 pages, are slightly ironic given that Albert Hirschman commits the now-classic Thing That Economists Do by insisting on looking at everything as an economic transaction - families, political parties and cabinet politics all fall within his purview. That there are thoughtful things to be said illustrates the utility of this frame of reference, but to the exclusion of all others? Well, this is a treatise on economics after all. I shouldn't grumble :-)

(P.S. an interesting anecdote about how I actually read the book: when it arrived, via a second-hand book seller on Amazon, 12 pages in the penultimate chapter were blank, probably due to a printers error. 'How annoying,' I said to myself, and promptly checked the title on Google Books. No such luck - half the pages missing in my copy were also missing there, too. I checked Amazon 'look inside' and that was even worse. Finally, I googled '"Exit, Voice and Loyalty" pdf'. The first result was a complete copy of the book on a server with a domain ending in .cn. I downloaded the complete book, printed out the pages I needed, folded & glued them into the book, and went about my day. Make of this what you will.)

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