Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right

What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas


By Erica Grieder

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Erica Grieder’s Texas is a state that is not only an outlier but an exaggeration of some of America’s most striking virtues and flaws. Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right is a witty, enlightening inquiry into how Texas works, and why, in the future, the rest of America may look a lot like Texas.



AT NOON ON MARCH 16, 1861, Sam Houston, the governor of Texas, sat down to write his professional obituary. He was nearly seventy years old. Within three years he would be dead, and that afternoon his life’s work was being undone just outside his office, on the grounds of the Texas capitol.

On February 1, delegates to a state convention had voted to secede from the Union, by a crushing margin. A referendum held three weeks later found that nearly three-quarters of voters agreed. Texas formally left the United States on March 2, 1861, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day Texas declared its independence from Mexico. The day in question, March 16, was to be the day the governor of Texas swore his oath of allegiance to the Confederate States of America.1

That governor, however, would not be Houston. For more than a year, since the 1859 election, he had been trying to stamp out the secessionist fervor that had taken hold of the state, first by argument, and finally by stalling; in the end, it was the legislature that called for a state convention to vote on the question. And now the secessionists were calling for him to come forward and be sworn in as the governor of Texas in the Confederate States of America. But the governor could acknowledge how Texas had voted more readily than he could accept it.

“Fellow citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe to have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath,” Houston wrote. “I love Texas too well to bring strife and bloodshed upon her.”

Houston was concluding one of the oddest and most unlikely political careers in American history. He grew up as a fatherless boy from Tennessee, then as a teenage runaway lived with the Cherokees for several years before joining the infantry to fight in the War of 1812. From these semiferal beginnings he went on to power, fame, and, briefly, respectability. He was a congressman from Tennessee, then the governor of that state, until he had his heart broken and took off for the frontier, where he lived in a wigwam and drank himself half to death. Several years later, he roused himself and went to Texas, where he took up arms again and led the revolutionaries to their decisive victory at the Battle of San Jacinto. He became the first official president of Texas, then the governor of Texas, then the state’s first senator, then the governor again. By the time he finished writing his letter of resignation, that was all over: when he didn’t turn up outside, the convention delegates vacated his office, and Houston’s lieutenant governor was sworn in instead.

“It is, perhaps, meet that my career should close thus,” Houston continued. “I stand the last almost of my race . . . stricken down because I will not yield those principles which I have fought for.”

The principle at hand was union. Despite having been the president of Texas, Houston was the state’s most devoted American. He had gone to Texas to see if it could be won for the United States, and he had fought for Texas assuming that it would be. He had called for annexation in his inaugural presidential address.

And for the past several years, although he supported slavery, Houston had been fighting to preserve the Union. He was the only Southern governor who opposed secession. At first, he had said that the state had no right to secede, that Texas had joined the United States, not the North or the South. Several years later, he modified his pitch: maybe the states had that right, he conceded, but the war would be bloody, expensive, and ruinous.

Few were swayed. Texans didn’t like to listen.

Neither, for that matter, did Houston. For his whole life he had maintained an idiosyncratic, stubborn, and occasionally self-defeating sense of principle. On his wedding night his wife had confessed to him that she was in love with someone else. He was too humiliated to stay in Nashville, but he took an ad in the papers, warning that anyone who questioned her virtue “would pay for the libel with his heart’s blood.” As he prepared to lead the Texans into the Battle of San Jacinto in April 1836, he knew they would be badly outnumbered, again. Twice in the preceding six weeks, the Mexican army had massacred the revolutionaries—first at the Alamo, where the Texans hadn’t surrendered, and then at Goliad, where they had. In light of that, Houston took only one precaution: he ordered his troops to burn the bridges behind them.

And when the Mexican army surrendered, when the monstrously erratic president and general Antonio López de Santa Anna was finally captured, it was Houston whom he asked for mercy. “That man may consider himself born to no common destiny who has conquered the Napoleon of the West,” said Santa Anna, “and now it remains for him to be generous to the vanquished.”

“You should have remembered that at the Alamo,” Houston said. He had been wounded in the battle and was lying on a blanket under an oak tree. A biographer would later write that “a ring of savage Texans had pressed around, with ominous looks on their faces and ominous stains on their knives.”2 But Houston spared Santa Anna’s life and laid out the terms of the armistice that ended the revolution.

And now Houston was wounded again. “The severest pang,” he wrote, “is that the blow comes in the name of the State of Texas.”

IT’S COMMON FOR STORIES about Texas to start at the siege of the Alamo, and for good reason. That half-accidental battle is at the emotional core of the state’s story about itself, and in Texas, as in the United States, origin stories have been reified by belief and devotion.

But this isn’t just a story about the state. One of the fundamental truths about Texas is that, although the state is genuinely sui generis, and self-consciously different from the other states, it is, in many ways, the most American of all. Texas is part of the United States. This is a story about both of them. That’s why it makes sense to start with Houston. He was among the first people to see that Texas was part of the United States, even before the United States was committed to it, and even if Texans wavered along the way.

In retrospect, he was right. Today, Texas sometimes looks like the United States taken to its logical conclusion, with Texans themselves being an exaggerated version of Americans—the revolutionaries among the revolutionaries, the fighters who never left the ring, the inmates taking over the asylum. These are “the Super-Americans,” as New Yorker writer John Bainbridge put it in his 1961 book of the same title. “America on steroids,” agreed The Economist in 2002.

If people are resistant to this conclusion, you can hardly blame them. Texas is, despite Florida and New Jersey, America’s most controversial state, and when skeptical outsiders look at it, they have plenty to pick on. It has creationists on the State Board of Education. It has evangelicals in the governor’s mansion, except during those episodes when the governor has to move to a taxpayer-funded McMansion because someone threw a Molotov cocktail over the gates (2008–2012). It has America’s biggest prison population and its busiest death row. It grew rich on oil and worked that wealth on behalf of cronies, dirtying itself and the nation in the process.

Meanwhile, if you want to talk about schools, about health care, about poverty, Texas is at the bottom of the pack, keeping company with its bedraggled southern neighbors. The politicians all wish they were cowboys, and on the rare but unfortunate occasions when they get to national office, they go hog wild. They start wars. They take the rule of law out for target practice.

When confronted with any of these charges, Texas’s leaders are blithely unconcerned. They might even take them as a compliment and think about running for president. “It’s like a whole other country,” as one of the official slogans puts it. When compelled to self-reflection—if, for example, you specify one of the many metrics where Texas is among the worst in the nation—they just joke about it. “Thank God for Mississippi,” as Rick Perry might put it. That casual belligerence, that reflexive stupidity: further grounds for offense.

Texas’s boosters, meanwhile, can’t stop bragging. They would brag no matter what, probably, but over the past ten years they’ve had a lot to hang their hats on. In 2002, Texas accounted for 7.4 percent of the country’s economy; by 2012, that figure had jumped to 8.7 percent.3 Between June 2009 and June 2011, the lone state of Texas created 40 percent of America’s net new jobs. Since 2000, several million people have moved here, drawn by the factor that has always drawn people to Texas—the chance to find work and wrestle a new life out of this inhospitable soil. This is where America goes for jobs, for energy, for land, for soldiers, for industry, for growth.

And Texas manages all that, the boosters note, without any special favors. The state is a net contributor to federal tax receipts. When scrapping with Washington, the state is often trying to turn down federal funds: Texas would rather not have the money if doing so means taking the rules that go with it. And the state does its share in the face of special challenges. The land border between the United States and Mexico, for example, runs for some 2,000 miles, about 1,200 of them in Texas. Yet it’s Arizona and California that are the squeaky wheels when it comes to unauthorized immigration and border security.

It’s hard to say which side is right, because there are a lot of mixed signals.

This is the state that gave America George W. Bush. Republicans control every statewide office, and the religious right has a chokehold on the state GOP. Yet it’s also the state that produced Lyndon Johnson, who signed a lot of the laws that today’s Republicans are so angry about.

Texas’s oil industry is as powerful as ever. In 2011, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one of the state’s congressmen apologized to BP, the British oil giant that was leasing the rig in question, for all the hassle. Texas is also America’s top state for wind power, and it was Texans who kicked off the shale gas revolution that is currently killing Big Coal.

Texans are sticklers for law and order, yet the state has maintained one of the nation’s most moderate policies toward unauthorized immigration. Texas has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the nation, but in the past ten years some two dozen states have pursued sensible criminal justice reforms—more treatment, fewer mandatory sentences—based on an initiative that started in Texas.

The cheerleaders dismiss Texas’s inequities, its glibness, its hubris. The state’s critics minimize Texas’s entrepreneurial ethos, its openness, its confidence. There is one thing everyone can agree on: Texas punches above its considerable weight. Over the past fifty years, three Texans have held the White House. More have held fearsome power in the halls of Congress. The state’s powerful oil interests have had their grimy fingers all over America’s foreign policy, and the religious right comes here to field-test its messages. If Texans figure out a way to sell something, be it shale gas or science textbooks or criminal justice reforms, you can bet they’ll try to foist it on your state. Even worse, the state just keeps getting bigger and stronger and, apparently, angrier, like Bowser in Super Mario 3.

At the same time, Texas is clearly getting some things right. Over the past century, it came from nowhere to become one of America’s biggest, most dynamic, and most important states. Over the past ten years, it’s posted an economic performance that most states would love to see. Jobs are available. Household incomes are rising. The schools are improving. The cities are thriving. Between 2000 and 2010, Texas added 4 million people, between the migrants and the babies. Because of this staggering growth, it picked up 4 new seats in the House of Representatives during the most recent round of congressional redistricting. It’s become a cliché to say that people are voting with their feet, but nonetheless, if a couple million people move to a state, this starts to look like a pattern.

The possibility that Texas is doing some things well is not, in itself, a menacing one, and the bluster about how the nation has nothing to learn from Texas is just willfully obtuse, almost prima facie absurd.

Much of the nation, though, still wants to ignore or discount Texas’s success. That’s understandable—it’s a lot more fun to talk about sex ed and the death penalty than the structural economy, and it would be myopic to admire a state’s economic growth if it comes at the expense of the working and middle classes, the environment, the rule of law, and so on. That hasn’t been the case in Texas, though. The state is getting better for everyone. It’s strange that other Americans can’t seem to see that. Maybe something about this state just clouds people’s judgment.

Even so, even if the nation is tired of Texas, the state shouldn’t be ignored. Despite its idiosyncrasies, today’s Texas looks more like the future United States than any other state except, perhaps, California. America’s two biggest states have already been trying to figure out how to deal with a young, urbanizing, and increasingly heterogeneous population in the face of globalization, recession, realignment, and structural economic change. If neither of them can manage the transition, the United States is going to have a big problem. If either of them can, the United States should pay attention.

And I hate to be gloomy, but California . . . well, given its economic problems, maybe we should look elsewhere for ideas. Texas is the logical choice. Even if some of its politicians don’t believe in evolution, it’s already managed to evolve. A hundred years ago, for many Texans, infrastructure meant having a pail for water. Fifty years ago, it was the last state in the country with a poll tax. During the second half of the twentieth century, though, it clawed its way out of poverty and backwardness—thanks to luck and federal support, but also to a lot of old-fashioned bootstrapping and individual initiative.

Today Texas is one of America’s genuine powerhouses, and it has all the tools it needs to keep that up as long as it plans accordingly. Texas is, despite its rhetorical flare-ups, a pragmatic and largely reasonable state. It has a deep-seated suspicion of government and, not coincidentally, unusually high confidence in the private sector and in individuals, but as far as that goes, it’s an exaggeration of American tradition rather than a break from it.

Texas, in other words, is not a menace. There’s no reason to be scared. There’s no reason to be jealous. There are, however, plenty of reasons to pay attention. Texas might not be a role model for every state, but most places could use a little more of this state’s spirit, drive, and determination. The United States isn’t doing itself any favors by keeping its scrappiest state at arm’s length. That’s not preaching, by the way. Texans are Americans, so we can’t say it’s their loss. It’s ours.




“I’M PRETTY SURE that to Washington, DC, Texas is an outlaw state,” said Rick Perry, the governor of the rogue place in question. It was June 2012, and he was giving a keynote address at the state Republican convention, in Fort Worth. The audience, some 6,000 strong, laughed and cheered.

It had been only a few months since he had face-planted in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but Perry, with his smug grin and expensive suit, was looking like the cat that ate the canary. For the previous ten years—a period that neatly overlapped with his tenure as governor—the state of Texas had been having such a good run that pundits, and not just local ones, had taken to calling it the “Texas Miracle.” The state had added millions of people, and hundreds of thousands of jobs; the year before, its GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, had hit $1.3 trillion. For the sake of comparison, Texas’s economy was bigger than that of Mexico or South Korea, and almost as big as, say, Australia’s.

The state’s unemployment rate had been lower than the national average every month since February 2007.1 The number of jobs in Texas had been growing more or less steadily for about a decade. In January 2002, there were 10.04 million workers in the state; in August 2011, the figure was 11.45 million.2

Texas had never been short on self-love, perhaps its greatest natural resource, but it had also been basking in praise from America’s business community. “In Chief Executive’s eighth annual survey of CEO opinion of Best and Worst States in which to do business, Texas easily clinched the No. 1 rank, the eighth successive time it has done so,” wrote the magazine’s editor.3 In November 2011, it claimed the number one spot in Site Selection magazine’s annual ranking of “top business climates.”4 A few months later, Business Facilities magazine agreed: Texas was the “best business climate,” according to its 2012 ranking.5 CNBC gave Texas top honors in its survey of “top states for business” in 2008, 2010, and 2012.6

Texas’s cities had also been singled out. In 2011, demographer Joel Kotkin, writing at Forbes, announced that Austin was America’s number one “next big boom town.” San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas were number four, number five, and number seven, respectively. That same year, the Milken Institute, an economics think tank based in California, took a different view: San Antonio was America’s best-performing big city, followed by El Paso (number two); Austin was only fourth.7 A 2012 list of the twenty-five best cities for business and careers, also from Forbes, included five in Texas.8

At the state convention, Perry didn’t bother to run through the entire list of tributes to the state, but he did highlight one that he seemed to particularly savor: “Even the New York Times let it slip on its pages.” He was referring to a blog post, “Texas Is the Future,” published a few days earlier, that had noted the state economy had grown by 3.3 percent in 2011 (“not just oil, not just manufacturing”).9 There was more laughter, more cheering.

The governor smirked. The Texas economic engine was still humming along, and so it didn’t matter whether he was a laughingstock for the nation. The nation was still a laughingstock for Texas.

THE STATE’S FLOURISHING ECONOMY was only one of the reasons that many Republicans had been delighted when Perry announced in August 2011 that he would run for the Republican presidential nomination. Since the 1970s and 1980s, America’s Republican Party had come to rely on a coalition of fiscal and social conservatives as the two pillars of its political base. Under normal circumstances, it was an equable marriage of convenience. The fiscal conservatives brought the money and the social conservatives brought the passion. Even if the two groups weren’t perfectly aligned—why would they be?—at least they managed, for the most part, to stay out of each other’s way. When they didn’t, though, the Republican coalition could seem like a Faustian bargain.

That was the party’s position when Perry entered the race. The gentlemen’s agreement between the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives had been challenged by the sudden appearance, in 2009, of the Tea Party movement, which applied the social conservatives’ traditional zeal to the fiscal conservatives’ traditional issues—taxes, spending, regulation. For months the Republican power brokers had been hoping for a new candidate. It was looking like the Republican presidential nominee would be an ideologically suspect Mormon from Massachusetts unless somebody else came along. As Mitt Romney slogged along in the polls, the far right—the social conservatives and Tea Partiers—were increasingly out of temper. For Republican moderates, this presented a dilemma. If the far right voters got their way, the party would end up with an unelectable nominee, such as Rick Santorum. If the base was ignored, though, those voters might sulk or even sit out the election altogether. Now here was a socially conservative evangelical southerner, a red-meat politician who had just hosted a massive prayer rally. He was the longest-serving governor of America’s biggest red state—a state that just happened to be leading the nation, by a whopping margin, in job creation.

As it happened, the power brokers and pundits had slightly exaggerated his social credentials. Perry had never cared as much about the culture wars as people expected him to, given his biography and job title. The fact was that, although the governor had always described himself as a social conservative, he had rarely been asked to prove it, and he had never much exerted himself over those issues. Even in announcing his candidacy, he didn’t pander to the religious right; he was there to talk business. “Since June of 2009,” he said, “Texas is responsible for more than 40 percent of all of the new jobs created in America.”10

It was a pretty good line. At the time Perry joined the race, the nation, and almost every state in it, had been struggling for several years with high and intractable unemployment. The national unemployment rate had jumped from 5.4 percent in May 2008 to 9.4 percent one year later and wouldn’t drop below the 9 percent threshold until October 2011.11 The figures were even higher for certain subsets—young people, minorities, and people without much education. The underemployment rate, meanwhile, was hovering around 16 percent.12 Millions of Americans, after months of unemployment, had just given up.

The unemployment rate, of course, is a key indicator of social welfare, arguably the most important one. Anyone who can afford not to worry about it is someone who hasn’t had to worry about his or her own employment status. And the question of whether a job is “good” enough for someone probably should be answered by the person in question. So given that jobs were the absolutely critical issue for so many Americans in the years after the 2008 financial crisis, wouldn’t Democrats have been genuinely curious about how Texas had managed it, on the off chance that any aspects of the situation could be replicated elsewhere?

But it turns out that Democrats don’t believe in miracles. And so the national left’s reaction to Rick Perry’s narrative of jobs and growth in Texas looked like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief.

First there was denial. “What you need to know is that the Texas miracle is a myth,” wrote Paul Krugman in the New York Times, “and more broadly that Texan experience offers no useful lessons on how to restore national full employment.”13 Other left-leaning critics concurred: the statistics had to be misleading. After all, Texas had all that oil, and all those people, plus the governor spent all of his time poaching jobs from other states.

Besides, why get excited about an economy that wasn’t even that great? As of June 2011, Texas’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent, not much below the national average. “While Texas has created more jobs than any other state in the past two years, the increase is far less than advertised,” wrote Merrill Goozner at the Fiscal Times. “The rate of increase is not much higher than a number of other states, including former rustbelt centers like Pennsylvania or liberal sanctuaries like Vermont.”14 Another version of this line of argument was that oil-rich Texas would naturally be buffered against a recession. While high energy prices hurt most states, the few that produce most of America’s fuel tend to be countercyclical; they do well precisely when other states struggle, and vice versa. North Dakota, for example, was thriving too; it had even less unemployment than Texas, but no one was strutting around talking about a North Dakota Miracle.

Then anger arose. Those weren’t good jobs; they were insulting, minimum-wage “McJobs.” Kevin Drum, at Mother Jones, explained that the whole thing “looks a lot less miraculous once you put it under a microscope—and pretty soon it won’t just be churlish lefties pointing this out.”15 Harold Meyerson, in the Washington Post, argued that Texas was no role model for a developed country. If the state was creating jobs, he said, it was only because Perry was wielding “a range of enticements we more commonly associate with Third World nations—low wages, no benefits, high rates of poverty, scant taxes, few regulations and generous corporate subsidies.”16 Anyway, Democrats weren’t powerless to create jobs. Barack Obama had presented a jobs plan to Congress (about a month after Perry got in the race, surely unrelatedly). He could pass it if only Republicans in Congress would quit stonewalling.

Then came bargaining. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which is nominally nonpartisan but calls for less immigration, released a report saying that of the jobs created in Texas since 2007, 81 percent had gone to immigrants. In other words, “immigrants (legal and illegal) have been the primary beneficiaries of this growth since 2007, not native-born workers.”17 On hearing this, the right joined the left in having a problem with Texas, and both sides indulged in a little spasm of self-righteous xenophobia, even though, by CIS’s own account, half of those immigrants who were taking up American jobs were legally authorized to do so. Over the next few weeks, another, even more desperate theory surfaced. These were drug-war jobs. Of the 4 million people who had moved to Texas in the preceding decade, some very significant share were traffickers or kingpins.


  • Houston Chronicle
    “Readable and often amusing… For those of us who didn't grow up here and study Texas history, ‘Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right' is a brief but perceptive introduction to the state's colorful past and fascinating characters.”

    San Antonio Express-News
    “Grieder delves into Texas' motley past, looks with humor and insight at where we are today, and makes some interesting predictions about our future…. the depth of research, objectivity and philosophical underpinnings of Grieder's writing make ‘Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right' a dang good read for native Texans, and for those of us who got here as fast as we could.”

    Austin American-Statesman
    “Pacey, colorful, humorous and cutting… The book is a commendable achievement. Some people are going to be very annoyed that they didn't write it….Neither apology nor sonnet, the book's treatment of Texas is robustly moderate.”
  • Mother Jones
    “You know that college friend, the big, boisterous, obstinate one who was always up to party, quick to fight, and said the most regrettable things, and embarrassed you—but for some reason you just couldn't drop? Well, if Texas were a person, it would be that guy. In this folksy read, Texas Monthly senior editor Erica Grieder explores her home state and its idiosyncrasies, from its fiercely independent streak to its zany characters to its deep distrust of government. While the ‘Texas Model' – low taxes, low services—isn't perfect, Grieder argues that the state remains an economic powerhouse with low unemployment. And if the rest of the country would quit rolling its eyes, it might just learn a thing or two.”

    National Review
    “Grieder is…a native of San Antonio, and comes at the question of Texas with an insider's perspective that Collins's jokey, stereotype-obsessed book sorely lacked. She knows enough about the state to argue, convincingly, that the rest of America ignores Texas at its peril…Grieder is among those who see that Texas, for all its faults and contradictions, is not an outlier but a zealous inheritor of the American ideal and a grateful son of the Union, and that its dogged pursuit of prosperity might be blazing a path forward for the rest of the country.”
  • Publishers Weekly
    “Journalist Grieder pens a primer on Texas that is serious and lighthearted in turn. She might as well have referred to the ‘strange genesis' of Texas in her subtitle, as she runs through historical highlights and lowlights from the state's beginnings to explain its present. Grieder's account includes notably bizarre episodes, including the 1951 election in which both the governor and the state attorney general ran on both Democratic and Republican tickets, with the Democratic incarnations of each pulling easy victories…. Anyone curious about or proud of Texas will find something of interest, as will readers of current politics.”

    Kirkus Reviews
    “In this brisk and sassy counterweight to recent book-length complaints about Texas, Grieder challenges common prejudices about the state and insists that Texas is a better place than people expect… [Grieder] delivers an extensive, perceptive analysis of the state's politics—how it turned Republican in the 1990s and the prospects for a growing Hispanic population to bring it back into the Democratic column…. Due to the fact that Texas is thriving while much of America struggles, it might be wise to consider what Texas is doing right.”

  • Texas Observer
    “An astute observer of this state's contradictions, and she avoids the caricature and cliché that plague so many books about Texas by non-Texans. Her forays into Texas history to explain the state's myriad oddities are useful.”

    American Spectator
    “A splendid book about the rich history and the social, political, and economic strengths and weaknesses of the Lone Star State, where the essentials of the American Dream are still taken seriously.”

    Weekly Standard
    “Grieder knocks down many of the liberal complaints about the Texas boom.”

    Fort Worth Star-Telegram
    “[Grieder] uses a journalist's objective eye to offer a primer on the Lone Star State, from its larger-than-life beginnings to what's right with it today: strong economy, job creator extraordinaire, forward-thinking energy policies (it's not all about the oil), an immigration policy that doesn't alienate Latino voters, and population growth.”

    Geoff Berg, KPFT Houston's “Partisan Gridlock”
    “A terrific read. If you want to understand anything about Texas—modern Texas or historic Texas—you can't unless you read this book. It is just absolutely terrific.”
  • Chris Hayes, MSNBC host and author of Twilight of the Elites
    “Thirty years from now there's a good chance that most of America will look like Texas and somehow, improbably, using some strange dark prose magic, Erica Grieder has managed to convince me that might actually not be so bad. Written with verve and nuance, this is a fascinating, provocative read. If there were a book like this for each state I'd read every one.”

    Bill Bishop, co-author of The Big Sort: Why The Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart
    “Texas isn't the uninhabitable right wing bully East Coast howlers imagine and it's not the open range paradise described by free market myth-makers. Erica Grieder describes the state as it is — a place shaped (and misshapen) by its past and by the entirely human characters who live there. She is a sure-footed guide, pointing out what is to be admired and warning when we had best watch our step.”
  • Bryan Burrough, New York Times
    “Ms. Grieder's is the rare book that takes stock of the Texas model without ridiculing many of its traditions and politicians…This is a good book, and Ms. Grieder's clear, vivid writing makes it downable in a single afternoon…. This is a promising debut from a promising young author.”

    The New Yorker
    “[A] lively and wide-ranging book…Her account is equal parts history, apologia, and reportage, and explains everything from why Rick Perry wasn't really advocating for secession to how the repressiveness of Reconstruction in Texas sowed the seeds of the state's aversion to big government.”

    Wall Street Journal
    “‘Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right' mixes equal parts history, political reporting, back-of-the-envelope economics and cultural commentary. For those who have never enjoyed a plate of Kreuz's barbecue, toured the Alamo or attended the annual Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, Ms. Grieder's thumbnail sketch of Texana will make for an entertaining introduction. But most revealing may be the way she connects the state's current boom with its unique history… a well-timed plea for the rest of the country to wake up and learn from its example.”

On Sale
Apr 9, 2013
Page Count
288 pages

Erica Grieder

About the Author

Erica Grieder is a senior editor at Texas Monthly. From 2007-2012, she covered Texas as the southwest correspondent for the Economist, to which she still contributes. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Spectator, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and the New Republic. She lives in Austin.

Learn more about this author