If Conard is right that the Bush-era economy was basically on a sound footing, then simply rolling back Obama-era interventions and forestalling tax increases on the investor class would probably restore our economic health. That points to a relatively conventional Republican policy vision, focused primarily on keeping marginal tax rates as low as possible.

Zingales’s narrative, on the other hand, suggests that more radical reforms are needed to restore American competitiveness. A Republican administration influenced by his book would place a heavier emphasis on issues that the right is often uncomfortable tackling — not only health care and education, but also some form of financial-sector reform.

Given his own background, it’s a safe bet that Mitt Romney identifies more with Conard’s perspective on the world. But that makes it all the more important that he consider Zingales’s equally provocative account as well.