Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: OOBonomics - 12 Great Outside of the Box Policy Ideas

I have the pleasure to be asked to review books about innovation, and ideas quite regularly.  Some are great, and some not so much.  But most of the books I receive have to do with innovation techniques or stories in the private sector.  So it is refreshing and encouraging to receive a book about ideas for the public sector.

The book under consideration today is OOBonomics, or Outside of the Box Economic Policy Ideas, from Al Lewis.  You can find the book on Amazon here.

Al Lewis has taught economics at Harvard, run a healthcare company and has been a partner at Bain and Company.  Needless to say, he's smart and has good insights.  Fortunately for us readers, he presents a number of policy ideas in a funny, tongue in cheek approach that makes the book interesting and approachable.  After reading a few of his ideas, you begin to wonder why none of them have been adopted.

One of his ideas for stimulating the economy, for example, is a time limited gift card.  Since a significant portion of the last stimulus checks to households have been applied to saving or paying down debt rather than boosting spending and consumption, Lewis argues that the government should send out gift cards which have to be spent at certain retailers.  In this manner we ensure that the stimulus money gets recycled into new spending, rather than into saving or paying down debt.  This is just one of twelve fairly simple ideas that could work and make the government more effective.

Lewis has a number of policy ideas along these lines that would improve the way the government works and would require very little change to implement.  His ideas are insightful and based on the way people actually work and live, rather than the way Congress imposes laws based on the way they think we live.  His book of simple changes indicates what's wrong with much of what happens today in Congress:  big, sweeping changes meant to benefit some industry or segment of the population, rather than well considered, well-crafted ideas that address the needs of the vast population.

Check out his ideas, and more importantly, try to win some money from Al as well.  On his website,, you can enter ideas and win up to $1M if you ideas is adopted and implemented into national policy, and $500 if you idea is used in the next edition of OOBonomics.  Got to like a man who puts his money where his ideas are.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:55 AM


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