Sam is usually right on target with the free-market ideas that he puts forth, but Laura's objections and counterarguments are usually too weak to even show whether his ideas are unassailable or arguable. For example, when Laura says that her brother carries around cans of V-8 to give to panhandlers, Sam has very little difficulty in showing how this is ineffective (the homeless man will simply try to sell the V-8 or drink it and skip a meal) and also arrogant (her brother thinks he knows what is best for the homeless). But what would happen if Laura put forth another idea, saying that it would be better for Sam to refuse the panhandler and save his sixty cents If he saved sixty cents everyday for a year, he could donate $219 annually to a local homeless shelter or rehabilitation clinic. Aside from helping the homeless by making this decision, he would also be helping to clean up the city and reduce panhandlers by reducing the incentive for begging. Sam could still debate this idea and maybe even come out on top, but we don't get the benefit of seeing how this elevated debate might pan out. Maybe it is an unfair criticism that Laura is too nave, since her navet helps to make the book a very good introduction to economic ideas for people who've never studied it, but for people who are familiar with economics, the book might be more interesting if Laura were a Marxist economist. Perhaps someone should present the idea of a Marxist antagonist to Russell Roberts as an idea for a sequel that would present a more advanced polemic on the benefits of free-market capitalism.
One of the stronger points of Sam's worldview is that he doesn't view money as some kind of ultimate end as economists are sometimes accused of doing. He believes that money...
He believes, in short, that money is the best tool for mutually beneficial trade that is in everyone’s self interest. This is a perfectly reasonable and healthy way of looking at the function of money and it helps to show that all economists aren’t money hungry greed heads. He makes a distinction between greed and self-interest when he explains his money-dangling class example to Laura. Over coffee, he uses the example of the bagels that Laura buys for breakfast at her local bakery. He asks her if she ever needs to call ahead to the baker and make sure he will have enough bagels and she replies, amused, that of course she doesn’t. Then Sam goes on to explain that, even though she takes it for granted, the baker wakes up at 3 o’clock in the morning to make a wide selection of bagels for her to choose from out of his own self-interest, because it will make him a profit. He goes on to say that this self-interest is not necessarily greedy—the baker might be saving up money to give to charity or to pay for an operation for his sick son—but it is still self-interest that makes her bagels possible. In this example Sam does a very good job of showing Laura (and the reader) how money and the invisible hand of the market create value and regulate the distribution of goods flawlessly. But when Laura comes back and says that she’ll admit that self interest is good if Sam will admit that sometimes there are bad and greedy CEOs that prosper and some regulations might be able to improve the marketplace, he comes back and asserts.