This is the P&R part of my thoughts on Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which is the best book I've read in the past few years. Here is a link to the book review in the Entertaining Diversions subforum. I'm posting this in two forums because I think there are two different discussions to be had about this book. The book has a very strong political theme, concerning the (almost inevitably) disastrous results of implementing unfettered capitalism. The India that Boo writes about is an anarcho-capitalist's wet dream; as I mentioned in the book review literally everything is for sale. This includes justice; characters accused of a crime are extorted by police investigators, forensics experts and prosecutors. On the other hand, murders without an obvious suspect are classified as deaths due to disease, because without a suspect to shake down investigating them wouldn't be profitable. Charities take in-kind donations from oversees donors and then sell them to the highest bidder. Corruption infects every level of the society; and everyone in society is looking for a way to make money. Especially from those below them; a vast amount of the paltry income earned by Annawadi's residents is skimmed off by various officials looking for bribes. Amy Chua wrote a book on this subject, from which the essay A World on the Edge is excerpted. Her particular focus was on the implementation of laizzes faire capitalism in a society with deep ethnic tensions, and the disastrous (and murderous) results that often flow from such decisions. Behind the Beautiful Horizons is a work in the same genre; offering up a look at capitalism unfettered by social mores and cultural norms. Westerners like to believe that some things ought to be beyond the market's reach, though we differ on where the line ought to be drawn. Yet, when we take a step back, it becomes obvious that the debate over whether or not basic health ought to be a basic right or a market applies equally to concepts like criminal and civil justice. Other than the fact that it's pretty squicky, who says that a wealthy person shouldn't be able to pay their way out of a crime? Annawadi is a cautionary tale of capitalism run rampant; it can properly be placed alongside William Gibson's various novels and the Cyberpunk role-playing game. In Annawadi, everything has a price and everyone is looking to make a profit. Now that I've done the typing, I'm actually not sure that there's much to discuss here; except for various extreme libertarians and the various anarcho-capitalist nuts nobody will find the idea of truly unfettered capitalism uncontroversial. Any economist worthy of the profession will tell you that capitalism needs to be accompanied by strong social mores and institutions in order to reign in its excesses. At the very least, the next time you're arguing with an anarcho-capitalist, you've got another example of why we shouldn't totally eliminate all public institutions!