Tag Archives: #businessbookreviews

Doesn’t Hurt to Ask by Trey Gowdy – Here are my six lessons and takeaways

I presented this book at the October, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis

I presented this book at the October, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis

Do you know what it is you are trying to persuade someone of? Have you studied it thoroughly, examined every aspect of it, and cross-examined it in your own mind?  
In 1650 Oliver Cromwell, imploring the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to step away from their pledge of allegiance to the royalist cause, said: “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” In other words, Consider the remote possibility you may be wrong.
The question is: Are you open to something you have not already thought of? …Don’t we have to be willing to do what we are asking others to do, which is to be persuadable?
Trey Gowdy:  Doesn’t Hurt to Ask


Persuasion is a challenge; a real challenge.  It is not easy to persuade. Anyone. Including yourself. Think about it; how easy would it be to change your mind about something that matters to you?

Trey Gowdy is a former Prosecutor, and former member of Congress.  And, he is honest about the difficult task of trying to persuade people in Congress.

And he has written a book that I found useful, and enjoyable to read.  (Mr. Gowdy is one of those “Southern funny” guys.  I’ve got a brother like that).  His book is: Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and PersuadeIt shot straight up on the New York Times list of best-selling business books (#2 in October). 

And, whether you are a Republican (his Party), or a Democrat – or a salesperson, or a leader in your community, or on a work team — you will find this book a true thought exercise, and something of a tutorial, on persuasion.

I presented my synopsis of this book at the October 2, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis.

In my synopses, I provide comprehensive, multi-page synopses handouts.  Here are some of the key excerpts of my handout for this book.

What is the point? — People hold incomplete, or incorrect, or harmful, or dangerous, ideas and viewpoints. …Learning how to persuade is how we help people move forward in their own lives; and in our own. Learning to ask questions is a key element in our efforts to persuade.

Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons:

#1 – This book is filled with stories from some very specific arenas of persuasion; the courts, the congress; and life itself.
#2 – This book lays out the steps in the process of persuasion.  It is a thorough tutorial.
#3 – This book reminds us that we need to engage in self-persuasion before we seek to persuade others.

Here are a few of the Quotes and Excerpts from the book that I included in my handout – the “best of”Randy’s highlighted Passages:

• The most effective persuaders listen as much as they talk. The most effective persuaders ask as many questions as they answer. Asking questions, in the right way and at the right time, may well prove to be the most effective tool you have.
• I left the courtroom because the questions were better than the answers. I left Congress because the questions never matter in politics. Almost everyone in Washington, DC, already has his or her mind made up. …I do not recall a single person’s mind ever being changed during a committee or floor debate during the eight years I was in Congress.
• While I may be a cynic, much of persuasion is about idealism. It’s about open-minded people who can have meaningful dialogue about what it is they truly care about. 
• And that should be our objective in persuasion: striving to communicate and to move those with whom we are interacting. To move someone from a yes to a no. To move someone to a maybe. To move someone to see our side. To move someone to get a new angle and new perspective. To move them to feel what you feel, to see what you see, to think what you think. Move them to do what’s worthy, what’s good, and what’s right. Move them to hire you, to give you a chance, to give you more responsibility. Move someone to take a chance on your idea. Move someone to invest as much in what you are trying to do as you have invested.
• The minute you make a false declarative, you lose credibility with the person with whom you are talking or whoever might be listening. 
• There are so few things I fully understand. 
• The person you end up persuading may wind up being yourself, and sometimes that is the toughest jury of all. 
• Debating is science. Persuasion is art.
• First I ask myself, What do I know? Then, How do I know it? Last, What are the limits of my knowledge? 
• Learn how people think. Learn what motivates them. Learn what moves them. Learn what inspires them. Learn what scares them. Learn where they are. How they got there. And what it would take for them to move to something or somewhere else.  What do people want? What do they crave? Where do they derive meaning and worth? Juries are a collection of jurors.
• There is a reason I begin many sentences with “Are you open to…?” No one considers herself or himself to be closed. So of course they want to be “open.”  The burden of persuasion to get me to “consider” something or be “open” to something is much lower than getting me to accept or participate in something. That is true with most of us.
• What happens when we are insulted is that we become simultaneously defensive and aggressive.
In every congressional hearing I participated in, there was something I really hoped did not come up. • I believe in having a plan and I doubly believe in having a plan for the worst-case scenario. What is your plan?
• Silence is the greatest attention grabber in the world.
• When you are talking to a large group, remember that they are not listening as a large group. …But fundamentally people hear on an individual level.

Here are some of the key points from the book:

  • We are all in the persuasion business:
  • the need to competently process and communicate information toward a desired outcome is every bit as essential on your job site as it was on mine.
  • What is persuasion?
  • Persuasion is not about winning arguments—it’s about effectively and efficiently advocating for what it is you believe to be true.
  • Persuasion is about understanding what people believe and why they believe it and using that to either debunk or confirm their position. Persuasion is subtle, incremental, and deliberate. It has the potential to be life changing.
  • Getting someone to do something they were not planning on doing. Convincing someone to buy into something they never knew they were looking for. That is persuasion.
  • Persuasion – the “old way” – (declarative statements)
  • When it comes to the art of persuasion, we have typically been led to think of the following format: opening statement, make a point, state an argument. Then there’s a long stream of declarations, statements, affirmations, presentations, proclamations, pronunciations to slowly build an argument with as few holes as possible and as many powerful assertions as one can fit in a breath. That’s the traditional model. But what if there is a better way?
  • Persuasion – the “new way” – (asking questions)
  • Questions can gather the time, the information, and the interpersonal connectivity to persuade in ways that simply proclaiming what you believe cannot accomplish.
  • Gowdy’s main point:
  • since all persuasion is self-persuasion, then…
  • ask questions – a lot of questions – to help a “jury” arrive at the conclusion the persuader believes is correct. Therefore…
  • therefore, all questions were so that they could arrive at the truth of their own accord. … Most people can attempt to persuade by saying what they believe and why, but can you persuade by asking the right questions, at the right time, in the right order? More important, can you, in essence, have the person with whom you are talking convince themselves?
  • The Persuader and his/her Jury
  • every persuader has to identify, and then seek to persuade, the jury he/she faces
  • the jury has to be open-minded before there can be any hope of persuasion
  • “jurors” need to be people of humility; and open-mindedness THE MOST PERSUASIVE ARE THE PERSUADABLE
  • I’d spent most of my life growing up around similar kinds of people, but if you do not understand all people—people of varying backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, religious beliefs, experiences, and thought processes—you will never be an effective communicator.
  • Persuasion is incremental; step-by-step…
  • If you can remember one thing, remember that the art of persuasion is not about winning people over. It’s about bringing people closer together.
  • Think of persuasion as change. Think of persuasion as movement. Think of persuasion as incremental.
  • The steps of persuasion:
  • identify your objective, your purpose, your end goal.
  • know (or gather) all the relevant facts that undergird your position
  • spend some time considering the other side of the issue or request.
  • have a clear sense of whom, or which group, you are trying to move, persuade, or convince.
  • Now the calibration. (Burden of proof) — How much persuasion is enough to move the person on the point you are trying to make? Call it burden of proof.
  • Some practical disciplines:
  • Practice!!! — Every closing argument ever given in a courtroom was given pushing a lawnmower weeks before. I play it out in my head before it ever happens in real life.
  • Put your argument in the best possible order — One thing almost everyone will tell you is not to bury your best facts or arguments in the middle. …I would tell you to start with your very best fact first.
  • Develop greater empathy. — empathy is powerful. Empathy connects us. …So, sit down. Listen to real people. Know how they think. Know what they think. Know why they think it. And then—if at all possible—feel what they feel.
  • Cultivate sincerity — If you don’t believe what you are saying, no one else will.
  • Real emotion moves. Contrived emotion repels.
  • Be engaged — If you cannot be sincere—if you cannot be authentic—you can, at the very least, be engaged. You make eye contact. Your body language is welcoming, not repelling. You listen.
  • Be likable — Part of being likable is understanding human nature and those characteristics most of us share.
  • Never lie — The number one credibility killer when it comes to communicating your perspective to others is lying. Lying is not simply making a false statement. …The worst is to make an intentionally false statement that is material to a point in question, with the intent to deceive. People can, will, and do forgive almost anything in life. But they are loath to forgive an effort to intentionally mislead them on an important and material point.
  • Learn to use repetition effectively — But redundancy and repetition not only firmly imprint the information in the mind of the listener, they are also code for “This is important so I am going to say it over and over and over again.”

And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – You could be wrong about some things – even some very important things. (And, so could I).
#2 – You will not change for the better if you are not open-minded.
#3 – You will not change for the better if you are not listening to people who can help you make such moves toward change.
#4 – You will not help others change for the better if you do not help them arrive at their own reasons to shift, and move, and change.
#5 – Questions really matter.  Ask questions.  Many questions. Start with questioning yourself.
#6 – And, in all matters, tell the truth; never lie. This is foundational.

This is a fun book to read.  And it will remind you of the power of asking good questions, from the perspective both of trying to persuade others, and of genuinely wanting to learn.  And, the power of listening.  I encourage you to check out the insights in this useful book.


And I included this footnote in my handout: revisiting Aristotle, and the ancients —

  • logos – the logical appeal (get the facts right)
  • ethos – the ethical appeal (the credibility of the persuader)
  • pathos – the emotional appeal (the emotion/passion of the persuader; the emotion used to appeal to the audience)
  • {mythos – the narrative appeal}


You can watch a video of my synopsis presentation, recorded from our event, on YoutubeClick here to access that video.

And, you can purchase my synopsis, with the audio recording of my presentation, and my comprehensive, mutli-page synopsis handout, on this website.  We have many, many synopses to choose from.  Click on “buy synopses” to search through book titles.  Or, click here for our newest additions.  (This synopsis will be uploaded soon).

The New York Times has published its October, 2020 list of Best Selling Business Books – Atomic Habits by James Clear is still at #1

Atomic HabitsThe New York Times has published its October, 2020 list of Best Selling Business Books.  For the first time in quite a while, there are a few new books on the list. Atomic Habits by James Clear is still at #1.  This book has been at the #1 spot for quite a few months.  I suspect that Pandemic Season has made many of us focus on how we can build and maintain good habits while life is so disrupted?

At the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, I present synopses of two business books each month.  We are in our 23rd year of these monthly sessions. (In the last four months, I have adjusted, and presented one business book and one book on racial issues.  We will be back to two business books in November).

We have presented five of these ten books from this month’s list at our event.   I presented the synopses of Atomic Habits, Doesn’t Hurt to Ask, Dare to Lead, and Extreme Ownership.  My former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented the synopsis of Thinking, Fast and Slow.

I will likely select How to Lead and How I Built This, from this month’s list, to present in coming months.

Here is the October, 2020 List of Best Selling Business Books.  Click over to the New York Times site for links to reviews of a couple of these books.

#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#2 – Doesn’t Hurt to Ask by Trey Gowdy
#3 – The Dynasty by Jeff Benedict
#4 – How to Lead by David Rubenstein
#5 – No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer
#6 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#7 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
$8 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#9 – Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday
#10 – How I Built This by Guy Raz


I presented this book at the October, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis

I presented this book at the October, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis

You can purchase our synopses.  Each synopsis come with the audio recording of the synopsis presentation, and the comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout.  Click on the “Buy Synopses” tab at the top of this page to search through titles.  Click here to see our newest additions.

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez (the Business Book of the Year, 2019), and Uncharted by Margaret Heffernan – Coming for the November 6 First Friday Book Synopsis (On Zoom)


First Friday Book Synopsis November 6, 2020 — on ZoomNov. 6 FFBS
Time: 7:30 am (Central Time)
Two Books: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future by Margaret Heffernan. 
Zoom link coming soon
Please invite one and all to participate in this session.


During Pandemic Season, we have continued to average well over 100 people gathering each month on Zoom for the First Friday Book Synopsis..

On November 6, I will present my synopses of two very good books.  One of them, Invisible Women, won the Business Book of the Year award in 2019, from McKinsey and The Financial Times.  Note:  this will be the third book I have presented that won this prestigious award.  I earlier presented Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford, the winner in 21015.  And, to another audience (not at the First Friday Book Synopsis), I presented Capital by Thomas Pinketty, the 2014 winner.

If you are like many, you do not have time to read all of the books you would like to read.  The First Friday Book Synopsis is designed for you.

Of course, it would be better if you read the books on your own. But, my synopses are comprehensive, surprisingly thorough, they will give you plenty of the key content.  You will learn, and be able to ponder the ideas in a useful way.  And, if you have read the book, my synopsis will help you remember more of what you read.

Here are the two books I have selected to present for the November 6 session:

  1. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. Harry N. Abrams; First Printing Edition (March 12, 2019)
  2. Uncharted: How to Navigate the Futureby Margaret Heffernan. Avid Reader Press; Simon & Schuster (September 8, 2020)


Come join us.


(Note: we had a little bit of a Zoom hacker event in October.  I will post the Zoom info on this blog soon. But I am working on shoring up the security).

Humanocracy by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini – Here are My Seven Lessons and Takeaways

HumanocracyBureaucracy: noun — a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation (Merriam-Webster)…
Our starting premise. Across the world, organizations are disabled by bureaucracy — they are inertial, incremental, and inhuman. — The premise of this book is that most of these choices can and must be revisited.
These companies were built, or in some cases rebuilt, with one goal in mind — to maximize human contribution. … The goal of humanocracy is to create an environment in which everyone is inspired to give their best.
One of our primary goals in this book is to lay out a blueprint for turning every job into a good job. Rather than deskilling work, we need to upskill employees.
As we’ve argued throughout this book, the shift to humanocracy requires radical change—in individuals, teams, and the core processes by which our organizations are run.
Bureaucracy was invented by human beings, and now it’s up to us to invent something better.
The question at the core of bureaucracy is, “How do we get human beings to better serve the organization?” The question at the heart of humanocracy is, “What sort of organization elicits and merits the best that human beings can give?”
The goal of humanocracy is to create an environment in which everyone is inspired to give their best.
While veteran leaders may… reflect a world that no longer exists.
From Humanocracy, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini


At the September Frist Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of the new book Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini.  (Harvard Business Review Press, 2020).  It is a good and important book; a true call to change things.

Here are some of the highlights from my synopsis presentation.

What is the point of this book?  Anything that takes away the true, full contribution of people is stifling and harmful.  Bureaucracy can do that, and thus it can be, and frequently is, deadly.  We need…HUMANOCRACY! 

I always ask, Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book is a terrific overview of the organizational shifts over the last many decades. You will learn needed history.
#2 – This book is filled with examples of success and failure.  You will see their argument through the examples.
#3 – This book provides a survey of the literature, but is written for the lay practitioner (the non-academic). You will understand the progression (regression?) of organizational structure, and grasp why we are where we are now.

I always include numerous highlighted passages in my synopsis handouts.  Here are some of the best passages I highlighted from the book:

• Bureaucratic organizations are inertial, incremental, and dispiriting. In a bureaucracy, the power to initiate change is vested in a few senior leaders. When those at the top fall prey to denial, arrogance, and nostalgia, as they often do, the organization falters. That’s why deep change in a bureaucracy is usually belated and convulsive. Bureaucracies are also innovation-phobic.
• While entrepreneurial enclaves like Silicon Valley are important, we need to find ways to turn up the entrepreneurial flame in every organization.
• While there may be a finite number of routine jobs to be performed in the world, there’s no limit on the number of worthwhile problems that are begging to be solved. Viewed from this vantage point, the threat that automation poses for employment depends mostly on whether or not we continue to treat employees like robots.”
• We are defined by the causes we serve. …At some deep level, we know that life is too short to work on inconsequential problems.
• In this maelstrom, the most important question for any organization is this: Are we changing as fast as the world around us? For most organizations, the answer is no.
• There’s no secret about what drives engagement. From Douglas McGregor’s The Human Side of Enterprise to Dan Pink’s Drive, the formula hasn’t changed in sixty years: purpose, autonomy, collegiality, and the opportunity to grow. …It seems that every generation rediscovers the essential elements of human engagement and then does nothing.
• While veteran leaders may have the benefit of experience, they’re weighed down by legacy beliefs. Many of their assumptions about customers, technology, and the competitive environment were forged years or decades earlier, and reflect a world that no longer exists.
• The question is, how much bureaucracy could be eliminated without sacrificing organizational performance? The answer: more than you think.
• We have an obligation to pay it forward. A living wage, equal pay, respect for diversity, parental leave, flextime, health-care coverage—these are worth fighting for, but should we aim still higher? We think so.
• We need a new organizational paradigm—one in which human beings are no longer viewed as “resources” or “capital.” We must also reframe the problem — the goal is to maximize contribution, not compliance. And we need to embed new human-centric principles in every structure, system, process, and practice. If we’re serious about creating organizations that are fit for human beings and fit for the future, nothing less will do.
• Bureaucracies are run not by inventors but accountants, not by builders but administrators. In a large company, only a fraction of employees are active members of what Phelps evocatively calls the “imaginarium.”
• In a bureaucracy, megawatts of emotional energy get wasted on petty battles, data gets weaponized against adversaries, collegiality gets shredded by zero-sum promotion tournaments, and decisions get corrupted by artfully concealed self-interest. …To change all this, to replace bureaucracy with meritocracy, we must do four things: decontaminate judgments about merit, better align wisdom and authority, match compensation to contribution, and build natural, dynamic hierarchies.
• As Thomas Kuhn argued more than a half-century ago, we are prisoners of our paradigms. As Kuhn observed, “All significant breakthroughs are break-‘withs’ old ways of thinking.”
• We can do better than this, and we must. By embracing the principles and practices of humanocracy, we can build organizations that are as resilient, creative, and passion-filled as the people who work within them. …Most importantly, it will turn every job into a good job. …Freeing the human spirit — that’s the promise of humanocracy, and with grit and determination, you can claim that promise for yourself, for your team, and for your organization. 

Here are a few of the important points and principles from the book: 

  • The hierarchy of work work-related capabilities:
  • Level 6 – Daring
  • Level 5 – Creativity
  • Level 4 – Initiative
  • Level 3 — Expertise
  • Level 2 — Diligence
  • Level 1 – Obedience
  • Hallmarks of humanocracy
  • zero distance between employees and customers (Haier)
  • very little friction within the organization– people have permission: to spend money;’ to innovate; to try (and fail);
  • provide freedom for peer pressure in a good way – employees are held accountable by team members and colleagues (and customers), not bosses or supervisors (more a network than a hierarchy) 
  • Think, and act, like a Hacker – Become a “Hacktivist”
  • Could rebel hackers have the same dramatic impact on management they’ve had on software? Yep. …To be a hacker you have to get a basic thrill from solving problems, sharpening your skills, and exercising your intelligence. 

I added this, upon reflection: A thought for those of us who work by ourselves; or in very small companies –you’ve established your own little fiefdom of bureaucracy, whether you know it or not… (You may be your own bureaucratic nightmare!)

  • innovation comes from many, many ideas
  • these ideas have to do with problems to solve — there’s no limit on the number of worthwhile problems that are begging to be solved.
  • So…schedule your own humanocracy schedule into each week – with time (and ritual/designed activity) for problem identificaiton, and idea generation
  • And here are my Seven Lessons and Takeaways:

#1 – The future belongs to those with the best next ideas. You need a lot of ideas, from anyone and everyone, to find the best ideas. – (Since game-changing business ideas are rare, the probability of coming up with a breakthrough strategy depends on an organization’s capacity to generate a large number of strategic options).
#2 – In order to find the best ideas, everyone has to be free of bureaucracy that stifles their ideas.
#3 – In order for people to come up with such ideas, they have to be valued as human beings, and set free – set free to think, to ponder, to try (and fail), and to make some money in the process. – (The starting point is to acknowledge that everyone, whatever their role or title, deserves the opportunity to cultivate their creative gifts.)
#4 – You need to both exploit and explore; or explore and exploit; as you explore some more.
#5 – Start with yourself. – (The question is, how do you change the system when you don’t own it, when you’re not a senior vice president, or even a manager? The first step is to change what’s inside of you. To change your organization, you must first change yourself. This means actively committing ourselves to the ideals of human agency, dignity, and growth. To varying degrees, bureaucracy makes assholes of us all. Getting woke means more than bashing “the system”; it means doing soul repair in the areas where bureaucracy has eaten away at our humanity).
#6 – Basically; put the wisdom of crowds to work in the best way possible. – (“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”).
#7 – And, reluctantly, a warning – starting from scratch might be better. But, beware – don’t kid yourself; that too will end up growing into (building into) a bureaucracy. Humanocracy will not come easily…

I think this book is absolutely worth your time.  It basically confirms what we know, but do not want to face:  there is an almost inevitable movement toward greater bureaucracy within organizations.  Bureaucracy will just happen; will most definitely develop.  Building a Humanocracy takes intentional work, and perpetual, diligent protection.  It will take a lot of work to keep a humanocracy at work.


You can watch a video of my synopsis by clicking here.

And, you will be able to purchase an audio recording of my presentation, along with my synopsis handout, soon from this page on our web site:  newest additions.  Browse through synopses of many, many books at the “Buy Synopses” tab at the top of this page (search by title).

The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton – Here are my Six Lessons and Takeaways

Deficit Myth, KeltonThis book aims to drive the number of people who believe the deficit is a problem closer to zero.
We will show how MMT demonstrates that the federal government is not dependent on revenue from taxes or borrowing to finance its spending and that the most important constraint on government spending is inflation.  
We are not like Greece.  We are like Japan.
Stephanie Kelton, The Deficit Myth


When I was young, I had an uncle who gave me money.  I asked him where he got his money, and he told me he had a money tree; he got it from his money tree… — Well, maybe Uncle Sam actually does have such a money tree.


Is this true?:
We are running out of money.  In fact, we are broke.  We ran out of money long ago.
Or, is this true?:
No, we are not running out of money.  We can’t.  Our government, because of the kind of money we have, can provide all the money we need.

OK… that’s the issue in a nutshell.

One side says that deficits are real, and matter greatly, and we are in super trouble.

Another side (a “new” side) says: have you been paying attention?  We have been running deficits for a very, very long time, and we made it through just fine.  And there is plenty more money where that came from.

This is the issue addressed by the book The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy by Stephanie Kelton.  I presented my synopsis of this book at the August First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas (on Zoom).

Yes, I am quite aware that there are many people, including many economists, that reject this book out of hand.  I included this section at the beginning of a major portion of my synopsis handout:

  • A few words of introduction:
  • this goes against traditional economic theory
  • this theory has been criticized, rejected, condemned, and, yes ridiculed, by traditional economists
  • more often and more critically by conservative economists; but plenty criticized by more liberal and progressive economists also
  • yes, it has been criticized, but…has it been understood?

Here’s my thought; it is just common sense to understand an argument before you decide if it has merit, or it does not.  My view is that this view does indeed have merit.  And this book presents its case very clearly; I think, persuasively.

So, a little about Stephanie Kelton:
• Ph.D. in Economics. Chief Economist for the Democratic Minority Staff of the Senate Budget Committee, a post that she held in 2015 and early 2016, when she left that position to become an economic advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign. Currently, professor at Stony Brook University

This book argues than any government with its own fiat currency is in a position to generate money that it needs.  Generate:  If the US Government can “make” (generate, print, enter in a ledger) money, is there any limit to their ability to do so?  — The answer is yes…there are restraints, just not the ones you might think.

In my synopses presentations, I always ask:

  • What is the point? With regards to the federal budget, the money is there already. It will always be there.  Just use it.
  • And I ask: Why is this book worth our time? Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book explains what federal deficits are; and why, in fact, they are not deficits at all.
#2 – This book explains the only real danger of spending too much government money – inflation.
#3 — This book offers practicable, implementable ways to put the (practically unlimited) money provided by the federal government to work for the good of all.

I always include a number of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are just a few that I included in my synopsis handout: 

• MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) radically changes our understanding by recognizing that it is the currency issuer—the federal government itself—not the taxpayer, that finances all government expenditures. Taxes are important for other reasons that I will explain in this book. • But the idea that taxes pay for what the government spends is pure fantasy.
In one sense, MMT is a nonpartisan lens that describes how our monetary system actually works.
• There’s a lot of talk about how everything must be “paid for” to avoid adding to the federal deficit.
• But have you noticed this never seems to be a problem when it comes to expanding the defense budget, bailing out banks, or giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, even when these measures significantly raise the deficit? As long as the votes are there, the federal government can always fund its priorities. That’s how it works.
• If we wanted to, we could pay off the debt immediately with a simple keystroke.
• The fact that 21 percent of all children in the United States live in poverty—that’s a crisis. The fact that our infrastructure is graded at a D + is a crisis. The fact that inequality today stands at levels last seen during America’s Gilded Age is a crisis. The fact that the typical American worker has seen virtually no real wage growth since the 1970s is a crisis. The fact that forty-four million Americans are saddled with $ 1.7 trillion in student loan debt is a crisis. And the fact that we ultimately won’t be able to “afford” anything at all if we end up exacerbating climate change and destroying the life on this planet is perhaps the biggest crisis of them all.
• Right now, and in the months ahead, the most fiscally responsible way to manage the crisis is with higher deficit spending.
• In practice, the federal government almost never collects enough taxes to offset all of its spending. Deficit spending is the norm, and everyone in Washington, DC, knows it. And so do voters.
• When the Wall Street banks needed trillions of dollars to survive the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed effortlessly conjured them into existence using nothing more than a keyboard at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
• For one thing, it’s hard to keep the economy strong when most of the income goes to the thinnest slice of people at the top, who save (rather than spend) much of their income. Capitalism runs on sales.
• President Nixon’s decision to suspend dollar convertibility increased monetary sovereignty to the United States, forever changing the nature of the relevant constraint on federal spending. Under the Bretton Woods system, the federal budget had to be fairly tightly controlled to protect the nation’s gold reserves. Today, we have a purely fiat currency. That means the government no longer promises to convert dollars into gold.
• As Nobel Prize–winning economist William Vickrey put it, when the number of jobs is insufficient, “attempts to push [the unemployed] into jobs is simply a game of musical chairs in which local agencies instruct their clients in the art of rapid sitting.”
• Paul Ryan was asking Alan Greenspan whether he agreed that Social Security was in financial trouble and that moving to a system of private, Wall Street–managed retirement accounts would help address the crisis. “I wouldn’t say that the pay-as-you-go benefits are insecure,” Greenspan said, “in the sense that there’s nothing to prevent the federal government from creating as much money as it wants and paying it to somebody.” …Uncle Sam can always pay! That was Greenspan’s point. That was Greenspan’s point.
• MMT is not a religion, and it’s not looking for disciples to follow some screed. What it offers is a realistic description of how a modern fiat currency works, along with some prescriptive ideas about how to transform that understanding into better public policy.

In my synopses handouts, after the best highlighted passages, I share the key points and insights from the book.  Here are a few from this book:

  • Some of the questions
  • Is the federal government budget like other budgets – your household budget; state budgets;city budgets? – The answer is No!
  • Is the US Government broke?
  • Are Social Security, and Medicare, and…going broke?
  • If the US Government can “make” (generate, print, enter in a ledger) money, is there any limit to their ability to do so?– The answer is yes…there are restraints, just not the ones you might think.
  • This is critical to understand:
  • monetary sovereign—countries, where the government is the monopoly issuer of a fiat currency.
  • The main arguments that I present apply to any monetary sovereign—countries like the US, the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, and others—where the government is the monopoly issuer of a fiat currency.
  • Thus, there are issuers of currency and users of currencyMMT takes as its starting point a simple and incontrovertible fact: our national currency, the US dollar, comes from the US government, and it can’t come from anywhere else—at least not legally. This might involve minting the coins in your pocket, printing up the bills in your wallet, or creating digital dollars known as reserves that exist only as electronic entries on bank balance sheets. 
  • In other words, is the very idea of the deficit correct?
  • This is critical to understand
  • no fixed standard (e.g., the Gold standard) means that the government can “create” all the money it needs to/chooses to.It’s also important that they don’t promise to convert their currency into something they could run out of (e.g., gold or some other country’s currency). And they need to refrain from borrowing (i.e., taking on debt) in a currency that isn’t their own.
  • it just spends its currency into existence.
  • The Myths:
  • (the first myth) – the idea that the federal government should budget like a household. Perhaps no myth is more pernicious.
  • The second myth is that deficits are evidence of overspending.
  • The third myth is that deficits will burden the next generation.
  • The fourth myth we’ll tackle is the notion that deficits are harmful because they crowd out private investment and undermine long-term growth.
  • The fifth myth is that deficits make the United States dependent on foreigners.
  • The sixth myth we’ll consider is that entitlements are propelling us toward a long-term fiscal crisis.
  • The Myths and the Realities:
  • MYTH #1: The federal government should budget like a household. REALITY: Unlike a household, the federal government issues the currency it spends.
  • MYTH #2: Deficits are evidence of overspending. REALITY: For evidence of overspending, look to inflation.
  • MYTH #3: One way or another, we’re all on the hook. REALITY: The national debt poses no financial burden whatsoever.
  • MYTH #4: Government deficits crowd out private investment, making us poorer. REALITY: Fiscal deficits increase our wealth and collective savings.
  • MYTH #5: The trade deficit means America is losing. REALITY: America’s trade deficit is its “stuff” surplus.
  • MYTH #6: “Entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare are financially unsustainable. We can’t afford them anymore. REALITY: As long as the federal government commits to making the payments, it can always afford to support these programs. What matters is our economy’s long-run capacity to produce the real goods and services people will need.
  • Maybe the author’s biggest idea:
  • Guaranteed jobs for all unemployed…
  • To supplement discretionary fiscal policy (the steering wheel), MMT recommends a federal job guarantee, which creates a nondiscretionary automatic stabilizer that promotes both full employment and price stability. — Several MMT economists have recommended that the jobs be oriented around building a care economy. Very generally, that means the federal government would commit to funding jobs that are aimed at caring for our people, our communities, and our planet. 

And here are my six lessons and takeaways from the book:

#1 – The US — along with other countries with genuine monetary sovereignty with a fiat currency — really are different.
#2 – The US deficit is a myth.
#3 – We need good jobs for all — we need a federal job guarantee.
#4 – The limit to be placed is at the level of full economy; full supply, demand, employment.  And the greatest of these is full employment.  (Once this is reached, THEN inflation is a genuine worry).
#5 – A balanced budget for the US government is actually a bad idea; it has not been a help to the overall economy in the past.
#6 – Can you imagine an economy where… …all human needs can be more fully met, and we can be a global force for good.

If you are worried about the federal deficit; if you are worried about the new debt piling up during the Great Global Pandemic of 2020, this book might be worth pondering.


My synopsis, with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, and the audio recording of my presentation, will be available to purchase soon from our website.  Click on the buy recordings tab above to search by title.  Or, click here for our newest addtions.

(I am also putting my Zoom presentation on YouTube.  Click here for this presentation).