Are there any good books on economics out there?

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GammaPoint
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Are there any good books on economics out there?

Post by GammaPoint » Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:16 pm

I'm a little interested in learning more about the economy, how economies grow, how different market participants act to grow the economy, etc. I'd like to find a book that would help me with this. My question is, is economics enough of a science, with good enough data, such that there are well-established understandings out there of how the economy works? I can easily go out and find a book that explains the economy to me in terms of my existing politics, but I'd like to learn something apolitical if such things exist.

Are there facts about economies that are almost universally accepted in the economics peer-reviewed literature and books that explain these things? Or is economics really just the political mess that sometimes it seems to be?

*Please don't get political in this thread.

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Post by avalpert » Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:39 pm

I would recommend any of ht mainstream intro micro and macro textbooks - the classic Samuelson is a very good choice, I believe the last edition was updated last year.

Most of the pop-intro books are either more political treatise than fair coverage of economic or are more about interesting storytelling than actually understanding the science.

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Re: Are there any good books on economics out there?

Post by FafnerMorell » Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:17 pm

GammaPoint wrote:I'My question is, is economics enough of a science, with good enough data, such that there are well-established understandings out there of how the economy works?

Personally, I've been wondering this a lot - although I don't expect to find a conclusive proof in a book. BTW, for an argument that economics, as currently understood, is not a science, "The Origin of Wealth" makes some real interesting arguments while covering the basics of economics. But I haven't come across a book that makes a good case for economics as a science that has theories with "predictive" data to it up.

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Post by GammaPoint » Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:52 pm

avalpert wrote:I would recommend any of ht mainstream intro micro and macro textbooks - the classic Samuelson is a very good choice, I believe the last edition was updated last year.


Thanks for the recommendation. Looks like something that would be helpful. In Boglehead style, I requested it from interlibrary loan.

As for whether economics is a science or not, I've always *guessed* that there must be at least some sort of quantitative theory that at least shows some success in predicting how the economy will behave (although inaccuracies in the theory may certainly lead to errors). Again, I've *guessed* that the reason we have so much debate about the way the economy should be and the way the government should operate is that people don't agree on the subjective goals an economy should have. For example, maximizing the happiness of all Americans is a subjective goal that may have decent guesses associated with it as to what should be done, but not everyone has to ascribe to that goal.

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Post by gravlax » Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:57 pm


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Post by avalpert » Fri Aug 05, 2011 5:27 pm

GammaPoint wrote:
avalpert wrote:I would recommend any of ht mainstream intro micro and macro textbooks - the classic Samuelson is a very good choice, I believe the last edition was updated last year.


Thanks for the recommendation. Looks like something that would be helpful. In Boglehead style, I requested it from interlibrary loan.
As for whether economics is a science or not, I've always *guessed* that there must be at least some sort of quantitative theory that at least shows some success in predicting how the economy will behave (although inaccuracies in the theory may certainly lead to errors). Again, I've *guessed* that the reason we have so much debate about the way the economy should be and the way the government should operate is that people don't agree on the subjective goals an economy should have. For example, maximizing the happiness of all Americans is a subjective goal that may have decent guesses associated with it as to what should be done, but not everyone has to ascribe to that goal.


At the end of the day, I think it is a science but like any other behavioral science it is rooted in probability with important variance bands that need to be respected.

But you are right, most argument about policy are not really about what economic theory would suggest but about different values and desired outcomes (all science is value neutral - though scientists, philosophers and everyone else may see in scientific conclusion the values they wish to see). On the other hand, there are certain value statements that assert cause and effects which we can falsify via science, even economics (such as the idea that a perfectly free market will result in perfectly efficient (or 'fair' as some might say) resource allocation - externalities, agency problems, assymetrical information, moral hazards, prisoners dilemma etc. tell us otherwise).

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Post by GammaPoint » Fri Aug 05, 2011 5:49 pm

Yeah, it's too bad economic policy can't be presented to voters in likely outcome format, without anyone biasing anything. I guess it'd be nice to have a flying pig too.

Are you an economist avalpert?

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Post by joey potsnpans » Fri Aug 05, 2011 6:00 pm

I am currently reading Basic Economics byThomas Sowell, highly recommended.
Regards, | | Joe | | It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.- Yogi Berra

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Post by avalpert » Fri Aug 05, 2011 6:12 pm

GammaPoint wrote:Yeah, it's too bad economic policy can't be presented to voters in likely outcome format, without anyone biasing anything. I guess it'd be nice to have a flying pig too.

Are you an economist avalpert?


I am by training - by profession I have found it more lucrative to apply the framework of economic thought to strategic business consulting.

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Post by avalpert » Fri Aug 05, 2011 6:34 pm

joey potsnpans wrote:I am currently reading Basic Economics byThomas Sowell, highly recommended.


That would fall under my first category of pop-econ books.

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Books on Economics

Post by yellowjacket » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:18 pm

A simple and fun book, written by a friend of mine, THE ECONOMIC NATURALIST, by Robert Frank. Also his college textbook written with Ben Bernanke, PRINCIPLES OF ECONOMICS, 4th Edition.
YellowJacket

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Post by Abciximab » Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:45 pm

My favorite by far is Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan. It's not academic by any measure, but it does an excellent job explaining relatively difficult economic concepts in a real-world, easy to understand way. The examples the author uses are very entertaining and keep you interested throughout.
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Post by Angst » Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:06 pm

Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One, by Thomas Sowell

http://www.amazon.com/Applied-Economics ... MDB34U19EE

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Re: Are there any good books on economics out there?

Post by fishnskiguy » Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:26 pm

GammaPoint wrote:I'm a little interested in learning more about the economy, how economies grow, how different market participants act to grow the economy, etc. I'd like to find a book that would help me with this. My question is, is economics enough of a science, with good enough data, such that there are well-established understandings out there of how the economy works? I can easily go out and find a book that explains the economy to me in terms of my existing politics, but I'd like to learn something apolitical if such things exist.
Are there facts about economies that are almost universally accepted in the economics peer-reviewed literature and books that explain these things? Or is economics really just the political mess that sometimes it seems to be?

*Please don't get political in this thread.


Sadly, it does not exist. Yet.

Chris
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Post by samsansmith » Sat Aug 06, 2011 1:58 am

try this The Economics of Life , by Gary S. Becker & Guity N. Becker. From Baseball to Affirmative Action to Immigration, How Real-world Issues

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Post by bottlecap » Sat Aug 06, 2011 3:23 am

joey potsnpans wrote:I am currently reading Basic Economics byThomas Sowell, highly recommended.


This is a fantastic book to familiarize yourself with economic theory and it's application in real life. If you want graphs and x and y equations, go with a text book. If you want to be able to think through applications of economic theory in a meaningful way with historical examples, go with Basic Economics. Actually, go with both if you want. No harm in that.

Sowell is not a Keynesian, but his book really isn't about macro economics. It's also not about politics.

I have an Econ Degree but don't work in the field. Basic Economics is by no means a textbook, but it cuts through the math to give you a working understanding that honestly gets lost in Econ textbooks and classes. I found it helpful to use common sense to address an idea before I sit down and map it out using graphs.

JT

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Post by NAVigator » Sat Aug 06, 2011 5:46 am

Thanks JT and Joey. I recently bought Basic Economics by Sowell and have barely started it. With the current events in the market, this book will provide a diversion from watching the ongoing train wreck. At over 600 pages, the book might appear intimidating, but the style is interesting and engaging (so far).

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Re: Are there any good books on economics out there?

Post by linuxizer » Sat Aug 06, 2011 5:55 am

fishnskiguy wrote:Sadly, it does not exist. Yet.


One thing that gets lost in the media hullabaloo is that there is a broad base of consensus in academic thought on these matters. I can tell you from my health-economics perspective that the vast majority of "controversial" political topics related to health insurance are simply not controversial in academic circles. There are good models for them, the models not only pass the mathematical test but the common sense test, and so they are widely accepted. And then politics enters the fray....

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Post by john94549 » Sat Aug 06, 2011 8:18 am

The absolutely best, ever, textbook was Paul Samuelson's coursebook. I have no idea if it has ever been up-dated (I used it at Stanford in the late 60's). I suspect most boomers bought this coursebook when they took "Econ 101".

Sadly, my wife re-cycled this tome some years ago when she cleaned out the garage.

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Post by meercat » Sat Aug 06, 2011 8:43 am

The Rotten Fruits of Economic Controls and the Rise from the Ashes, 1965-1989

Very good book on macroeconomic concepts. Read it during college and it was very good supplement to the course textbook.

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Post by leonidas » Sat Aug 06, 2011 11:17 am

Human Action by Mises and
Economics in one Lesson by Henry Hazlitt where both very
Good. Human Action is quite long and involved so reading it takes some discipline.

Enjoy.

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Post by GammaPoint » Sat Aug 06, 2011 12:11 pm

john94549 wrote:The absolutely best, ever, textbook was Paul Samuelson's coursebook. I have no idea if it has ever been up-dated (I used it at Stanford in the late 60's). I suspect most boomers bought this coursebook when they took "Econ 101".


It's been updated 18 times apparently =) I checked out the 1998 version (14th edition) from the library and am waiting on the latest version to come in from interlibrary loan (the latest version has some discussion on the Iraq war cost and such things that could be interesting). I've read about 50 pages thusfar and it's very good.

I looked up Sowell after some of you recommended his book. A quick Google search reveals that he's compared Obama to Hitler before. That doesn't necessarily mean his book is political, but it does make me question his outlook on things.

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Re: Are there any good books on economics out there?

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Aug 06, 2011 12:16 pm

GammaPoint wrote:I'm a little interested in learning more about the economy, how economies grow, how different market participants act to grow the economy, etc. I'd like to find a book that would help me with this. My question is, is economics enough of a science, with good enough data, such that there are well-established understandings out there of how the economy works? I can easily go out and find a book that explains the economy to me in terms of my existing politics, but I'd like to learn something apolitical if such things exist.

Are there facts about economies that are almost universally accepted in the economics peer-reviewed literature and books that explain these things? Or is economics really just the political mess that sometimes it seems to be?

*Please don't get political in this thread.


Krugman and Wright, Economics, is pretty good

So is Greg Mankiw's textbook.

Economics for Dummies (the UK one, not the one written by Blanchard in the US) is good.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Economics-Dummi ... 0764557262

Masaki and Flynn. An excellent place to start.

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Chris is right

Post by Rob't » Sat Aug 06, 2011 1:49 pm

Sadly, it does not exist. Yet.

Chris


Unfortunately, and probably unavoidably due to its basic nature as a social science, all economics textbooks are biased by the political, social, and philosophical views of their authors. So while it is true that Sowell has a particular world view (which he explains excellently in his philosophical work Conflict of Visions), and that it might bias his presentations or emphasis, the same is true of Samuelson. And to follow a concern expressed by the original poster that Sowell might be a questionable source with a recommendation of Paul Krugman is laughable.

The fact is that if you read Samuelson without reading Rothbard (or for that matter Krugman without reading Limbaugh), you will find yourself with a partial story and be overly influenced in that direction.

Good luck!

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Re: Chris is right

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Aug 06, 2011 1:56 pm

Rob't wrote:
Sadly, it does not exist. Yet.

Chris


Unfortunately, and probably unavoidably due to its basic nature as a social science, all economics textbooks are biased by the political, social, and philosophical views of their authors. ...



But there is a science of economics and a common body of knowledge and theory.

Making an equivalence between popular commentators & cranks and Nobel Prize Winning economists.

If you think Krugman and Wright is too slanted for you, then Greg Mankiw also has a good textbook, and was an economic adviser to President GW Bush.

The fact is that if you read Samuelson without reading Rothbard (or for that matter Krugman without reading Limbaugh), you will find yourself with a partial story and be overly influenced in that direction.

Good luck!


You are reasoning by false equivalence.

Rothbard was at best a marginal, and at worst a crank. Austrian economics has no traction in the profession.

Samuelson is one of the most honoured names in the history of economics.

Rush Limbaugh is a radio columnist. Paul Krugman is a Nobel prize winning economist.

Even if we say that Krugman has nothing to say about politics than is better that what Limbaugh says, we would say that Krugman is an expert in economics, and Limbaugh is not.

Anyway Rush Limbaugh has not written an economics textbook AFAIK.

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Post by Valuethinker » Sat Aug 06, 2011 1:58 pm

GammaPoint wrote:
I looked up Sowell after some of you recommended his book. A quick Google search reveals that he's compared Obama to Hitler before. That doesn't necessarily mean his book is political, but it does make me question his outlook on things.


It would blow his credibility for me. Because it's so evidently not true, which anyone with 10 seconds of history of the Third Reich would tell you.

(just go and read Paul Mazower's 'Hitlers Europe' the chapter on the Final Solution, and tell me that reminds you of modern America). Salient factoid (also in Tim Snyder's Bloodlands)-- by the time Auschwitz was in operation, over half the Jews in Occupied Europe were already dead, killed retail (by bullets, strangulation etc. etc.). Who knew? I am still pondering the implications of that one.
Last edited by Valuethinker on Sat Aug 06, 2011 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Are there any good books on economics out there?

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Aug 06, 2011 2:05 pm

FafnerMorell wrote:
GammaPoint wrote:I'My question is, is economics enough of a science, with good enough data, such that there are well-established understandings out there of how the economy works?

Personally, I've been wondering this a lot - although I don't expect to find a conclusive proof in a book. BTW, for an argument that economics, as currently understood, is not a science, "The Origin of Wealth" makes some real interesting arguments while covering the basics of economics. But I haven't come across a book that makes a good case for economics as a science that has theories with "predictive" data to it up.


On the Paul Krugman blog, there is a list of his posts and articles about the doing of economics (down the right hand side). he had a paper in 1998 which summarizes it really nicely.

That would give you a fairly good feel for the 'MIT View', and it's also in 'Peddling Prosperity' and 'The Return of Depression Era Economics' and some of his other earlier books.

The MIT way is you build a simplified model of a situation, and accept that it is an abstraction. This is not so very far from what scientists in really complex areas like ecology, meteorology or biology do.

That's also called the 'Saltwater approach': Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Princeton perhaps. It stems from all those who graduated from MIT as Phd students during its 30 year heyday as the only place to do economics (Samuelson, Solow, Dornbush, Tirole etc.). The graduate seminars with Paul Samuelson must have been extraordinary experiences.

The 'freshwater approach' (Carnegie Mellon, Rochester, Chicago (used to be), Minnesota) is to build a more complex and mathematically rigorous model of the microfoundations of macro behaviour, and follow that through.

If you google 'Angry Bear freshwater vs. saltwater' you should probably get a key article on who is where, and believing what, and practising macro how.

The 2 approaches have converged over the last 20 years or so: you find neo Keynesians with models of menu costs that would dignify the best Sunspot Theory paper.

Note on micro there are not really any differences: microeconomists the world over believe the same things, pretty much. Freshwater v. Saltwater is a macro debate.

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popular commentators, cranks, or Nobel prize winners

Post by Rob't » Sat Aug 06, 2011 2:37 pm

But there is a science of economics and a common body of knowledge and theory.

Making an equivalence between popular commentators & cranks and Nobel Prize Winning economists.


There is a science of economics. It has been applied in such endeavors as Value-at-Risk and the by the directors of Long Term Capital Management. Help me recall which of your three categories they would fit into.

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Post by relentless » Sat Aug 06, 2011 3:54 pm

I enjoyed the Undercover Economist. If looking for a lighter read would recommend.

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Post by john94549 » Sat Aug 06, 2011 5:23 pm

All I remember from Econ 101 was the professor being able to draw absolutely straight lines on the blackboard (he was a wizard) and Paul Samuelson's coursebook. Oh, I think I also remember something about spending more than you take in, but we know where that got us.

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Post by shmidds » Sat Aug 06, 2011 6:03 pm

As Larry Swedroe recently recommended and Leonidas just mentioned, "Economics in One Lesson", by Henry Hazlitt, written in 1946 and just as relevant today.

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Re: Are there any good books on economics out there?

Post by FafnerMorell » Sat Aug 06, 2011 6:24 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
FafnerMorell wrote:
GammaPoint wrote:I'My question is, is economics enough of a science, with good enough data, such that there are well-established understandings out there of how the economy works?

Personally, I've been wondering this a lot - although I don't expect to find a conclusive proof in a book. BTW, for an argument that economics, as currently understood, is not a science, "The Origin of Wealth" makes some real interesting arguments while covering the basics of economics. But I haven't come across a book that makes a good case for economics as a science that has theories with "predictive" data to it up.


On the Paul Krugman blog, there is a list of his posts and articles about the doing of economics (down the right hand side). he had a paper in 1998 which summarizes it really nicely.

That would give you a fairly good feel for the 'MIT View', and it's also in 'Peddling Prosperity' and 'The Return of Depression Era Economics' and some of his other earlier books.

The MIT way is you build a simplified model of a situation, and accept that it is an abstraction. This is not so very far from what scientists in really complex areas like ecology, meteorology or biology do.

That's also called the 'Saltwater approach': Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Princeton perhaps. It stems from all those who graduated from MIT as Phd students during its 30 year heyday as the only place to do economics (Samuelson, Solow, Dornbush, Tirole etc.). The graduate seminars with Paul Samuelson must have been extraordinary experiences.

The 'freshwater approach' (Carnegie Mellon, Rochester, Chicago (used to be), Minnesota) is to build a more complex and mathematically rigorous model of the microfoundations of macro behaviour, and follow that through.

If you google 'Angry Bear freshwater vs. saltwater' you should probably get a key article on who is where, and believing what, and practising macro how.

The 2 approaches have converged over the last 20 years or so: you find neo Keynesians with models of menu costs that would dignify the best Sunspot Theory paper.

Note on micro there are not really any differences: microeconomists the world over believe the same things, pretty much. Freshwater v. Saltwater is a macro debate.

Thanks for the info - it looks interesting, although the part at the beginning, which is posed as point to be refuted "What arises in my mind is the strong suspicion that economic theory, as it is practiced and taught at the world’s leading institutions, is so far from consensus on certain fundamental questions that it is basically useless for adjudicating many profoundly important debates about economic policy. One implication of this is that it is wrong to extend to economists who advise policymakers, or become policymakers themselves, the respect we rightly extend to the practitioners of mature sciences." strikes me as being the most dead-on insightful bit.

While this criticism of economics, not as the "Dismal Science", but rather "No Science at all" can (and is) criticized, the author tends to torpedo his own points with observations like "Fresh water macroeconomists do not claim that their models have not been refuted by the data. Rather they note that all models are, by definition, false. They do test hypotheses from time to time, but don’t explain what the point is. As far as I can understand, they claim that a model *can* be both false and useful and, therefore, their models *are* useful."

And for those of us who define science as "knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions", this pretty much kills the fish in both the fresh & salt ponds. If economics are unwilling to aggressively reform their own theories based on predictions followed up by measurements against actual data - then it's not really a science.

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Post by avalpert » Sat Aug 06, 2011 6:35 pm

shmidds wrote:As Larry Swedroe recently recommended and Leonidas just mentioned, "Economics in One Lesson", by Henry Hazlitt, written in 1946 and just as relevant today.


That is not an introduction to the mainstream science of economics nor does it provide any of the background foundation in economics that would allow you to evaluate it or alternatives extrapolations of economic theory.

It is a good way, once you have the foundations down, to understand libertarian economics, how it deviates from economic orthodoxy and what it may be missing in its theoretical underpinnings that would overturn some of its conclusions.

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Post by bottlecap » Sat Aug 06, 2011 9:32 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
GammaPoint wrote:I looked up Sowell after some of you recommended his book. A quick Google search reveals that he's compared Obama to Hitler before. That doesn't necessarily mean his book is political, but it does make me question his outlook on things.


It would blow his credibility for me. Because it's so evidently not true, which anyone with 10 seconds of history of the Third Reich would tell you.


Sowell did not compare Obama to Hitler. Please read more than the first thing that comes up on Google (a media matters hit piece). Actually, if you even read that, it links you to the original article. I guess they correctly presume that most folks won't bother to go to the source and check the actual facts.

Valuethinker, Krugman, in the "The Great Unraveling" compares Bush to the "revolutionaries" that Media Matters suggests Sowell maligned Obama with, suggesting that Bush rejected the very system he "sought to control". This is an actual comparison.

Does this "blow" Krugman's credibility with you? Somehow I bet not.

Gamma Point, read whatever you want, but those that seek to limit the breadth of your studies aren't doing you any favors.

Good luck,

JT

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Post by allsop » Sun Aug 07, 2011 5:00 am

bottlecap wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
GammaPoint wrote:I looked up Sowell after some of you recommended his book. A quick Google search reveals that he's compared Obama to Hitler before. That doesn't necessarily mean his book is political, but it does make me question his outlook on things.


It would blow his credibility for me. Because it's so evidently not true, which anyone with 10 seconds of history of the Third Reich would tell you.


Sowell did not compare Obama to Hitler. Please read more than the first thing that comes up on Google (a media matters hit piece). Actually, if you even read that, it links you to the original article. I guess they correctly presume that most folks won't bother to go to the source and check the actual facts.


You mean this article Thomas Sowell: Degeneration of Democracy, an article starring Adolf Hitler, the German Reichtag, V.I. Lenin, "useful idiots", President Obama and Franklin D. Roosevelt?

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Post by richard » Sun Aug 07, 2011 6:38 am

If you want to learn economics, get one of the popular college level introductory texts. They are very expensive new, but often can be bought used for low prices or borrowed from your library.

Many of the popular books mentioned in this thread, especially Hazlitt and Sowell, are intensely political and not very good economics.

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Post by john94549 » Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:00 am

I don't remember much from my Econ courses at Stanford, but I think I remembered the basics. Spend less than you make. Honor supply and demand curves, as it is better to be a "supplier" than a "demander."

I still wish my wife hadn't thrown Samuelson's text in the re-cycle bin.

PS: Stanford class of '69. I actually used to walk around with a slide rule on my belt. It was considered "date bait".

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Post by bottlecap » Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:35 am

allsop wrote:You mean this article Thomas Sowell: Degeneration of Democracy, an article starring Adolf Hitler, the German Reichtag, V.I. Lenin, "useful idiots", President Obama and Franklin D. Roosevelt?


No, there was another article linked. Once again, however, this article does not compare Obama to Hitler if you read it. The fact that it uses these terms to make a point (and not a point about Obama) does not warrant censorship of his material.

Notice that the well-respected economists that people dont want you to read are just dismissed, but their ideas arent actually criticized. Once again, you can read one side of the story - the economic theory half-practiced by politicians, or you can expose yourself to the entire subject.

JT

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Post by avalpert » Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:53 am

bottlecap wrote:
allsop wrote:You mean this article Thomas Sowell: Degeneration of Democracy, an article starring Adolf Hitler, the German Reichtag, V.I. Lenin, "useful idiots", President Obama and Franklin D. Roosevelt?


No, there was another article linked. Once again, however, this article does not compare Obama to Hitler if you read it. The fact that it uses these terms to make a point (and not a point about Obama) does not warrant censorship of his material.

Notice that the well-respected economists that people dont want you to read are just dismissed, but their ideas arent actually criticized. Once again, you can read one side of the story - the economic theory half-practiced by politicians, or you can expose yourself to the entire subject.

JT


With all due respect, Sowell's books are one sides stories and nowhere near exposure to the entire subject. If you want to compare the texts of different sides of the political aisle get Krugman's and Mankiw's texts - you will find they are in near 100% agreement.

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Post by bandaidman » Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:59 am

The Sowell books are interesting. His writings about how politicians (of all ideologies) view/address economic matters is especially relevant today.

Naked Economics is a breezy but well done primer. THis might be my first choice

Hazlitts "economics in one lesson", while 70 years old demonstrates several key concepts in easy to understand chunks

FA Hayeks "Road to Surfdom" is worth a read as well

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Post by richard » Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:20 am

avalpert wrote:With all due respect, Sowell's books are one sides stories and nowhere near exposure to the entire subject. If you want to compare the texts of different sides of the political aisle get Krugman's and Mankiw's texts - you will find they are in near 100% agreement.

I believe Mankiw is the best selling college intro econ text and is highly recommended. He was the chairman of Bush's council of economic advisors. His blog is very politically slanted, but his textbook is great. It's expensive though, if that's a concern.

Hazlitt, Hayek and Sowell are only useful if you want to reinforce an intensely ideological view, not if you want to learn economics.

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Post by bottlecap » Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:38 am

richard wrote:Hazlitt, Hayek and Sowell are only useful if you want to reinforce an intensely ideological view, not if you want to learn economics.


Can you back up this claim? I know Sowell has a fairly conservative column, but Krugman has a fairly liberal one. Neither Hayek nor Hazlitt was a politician or had a blog.

JT

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Post by richard » Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:09 am

bottlecap wrote:
richard wrote:Hazlitt, Hayek and Sowell are only useful if you want to reinforce an intensely ideological view, not if you want to learn economics.


Can you back up this claim? I know Sowell has a fairly conservative column, but Krugman has a fairly liberal one. Neither Hayek nor Hazlitt was a politician or had a blog.

Hayek's book is entitled "The Road to Serfdom." He essentially equates government with serfdom.

Hazlitt's book is a good summary of classical economics which devotes substantial energy to attacking Keynes mainly by misunderstanding Keynes. http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/04/e ... in_on.html is a good review by a Keynesian.

They are political in that they promote a very libertarian view rather than a good grounding in basic micro and macro economics.

I typically recommend Mankiw because it eliminates the response that I'm recommending him because he agrees with my politics. Mankiw is very partisan in his blog and public statements, but has produced a well written and balanced set of textbooks. So has Krugman, so far as I can tell, but he's a polarizing figure these days. On the other hand, Sowell, Hazlitt and Hayek are promoters of an anti-government ideology who have written books to further than ideology.

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Post by bottlecap » Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:32 am

richard wrote:Hayek's book is entitled "The Road to Serfdom." He essentially equates government with serfdom.


That is not what his premise is, were you to only read the book. [substantive edit: the more I think of it, this has to be a joke. Hayek also wrote "The Constitution of Liberty", did he not? Because a Constitution is a government document, Hayek must also have been pro-government. Shall we declare him clinically insane before reading either book?]

richard wrote:Hazlitt's book is a good summary of classical economics which devotes substantial energy to attacking Keynes mainly by misunderstanding Keynes. http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/04/e ... in_on.html is a good review by a Keynesian.


Brad Delong is a political liberal himself. Anyone who disagrees with him will be accused of "misunderstanding" Keynes by Delong. Believe it or not, someone can disagree with Keynes without being "intensely political" or misunderstanding him. Keynes ideas are theory, not fact. If the converse is true then Keynes must have been political himself. By your theory, he, then, cant be trusted, either. Once again, it helps to have actual read Hazlitt before accepting someone else's regurgitation of it.

richard wrote: They are political in that they promote a very libertarian view rather than a good grounding in basic micro and macro economics.


This begs the question doesn't it? You presume that Keynesian theory is the only legitimate theory, so anything that questions it must be of some political bent. The irony of it all is the Keynes' ideas became mainstream largely because they were so readily adopted by the political class. Now questioning them can never be considered good economics, because it is first dismissed whole cloth as political. That is rich!

Once again, read for yourself, don't accept only those thoughts that please you.

I have not read Mankiw because I haven't dropped the money to read a textbook. However, Bush generally followed Keynesian ideas (although followed only part of it because of politics, like many democrats do) so between that and the fact that you only read Keynesian thought, I presume Mankiw is a Keynesian. That doesn't make him political, but it doesn't automatically make him right, either. His ideas can be challenged just as everyone else's.

JT
Last edited by bottlecap on Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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shallow reading?

Post by Rob't » Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:43 am

Richard wrote:
Hayek's book is entitled "The Road to Serfdom." He essentially equates government with serfdom.


I hope you got a little past the title to inform your opinion on this important (but not Hayek's most important or best) work.

Hazlitt doesn't misunderstand Keynes (and probably read past the title of his book).


Sowell, Hazlitt and Hayek are promoters of an anti-government ideology
sounds like
Anarchism has been variously defined by sources. Most often, the term describes the political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy,
Sounds like you are defining your opponent in negative terms; sort of a "pick the target, freeze it, and polarize it" thingy.

Brad DeLong....Really?

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Post by richard » Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:53 am

Hayek's book was written as an attack on the government control of the economy. It was not written as a general introduction to economics.

Hazlitt devotes substantial energy to attacking Keynes. Whatever you think of the merits, that's not what should be the major subject of a general introduction to economics

There's a lot to economics other than Keynes and whether or not he's right.

bottlecap wrote:Once again, read for yourself, don't accept only those thoughts that please you.

I have not read Mankiw because I haven't dropped the money to read a textbook.

I've actually read a fair amount of Hayek and Hazlitt. Hayek is a much better economist than Hazlitt or Sowell. His book was not meant as a general intro.

You haven't read Mankiw.

Hayek, Sowell and Hazlitt, whatever their merits, were written on a rather narrow subject and have a decided political viewpoint. The popular college intro texts tend to be much broader and more balanced. That's why they are better at conveying an understanding of economics.

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Post by newport1 » Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:02 am

In addition to Freedman, Hayek, and Von Mises, I highly recommend this:

http://www.google.com/products/catalog? ... ps-sellers

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Post by RJB » Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:58 am

Angst wrote:Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One, by Thomas Sowell

http://www.amazon.com/Applied-Economics ... MDB34U19EE


I learned from this book and also enjoyed it. It is easy to read.

Currently I am reading Fault Lines, by Raghuram G. Rajan.

Both books were recommended by Larry Swedroe. Thank you Larry.

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Post by bond50 » Sun Aug 07, 2011 12:10 pm

free to choose by Milton Friedman

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Post by bottlecap » Sun Aug 07, 2011 2:12 pm

richard wrote:Hayek's book was written as an attack on the government control of the economy. It was not written as a general introduction to economics.

Hazlitt devotes substantial energy to attacking Keynes. Whatever you think of the merits, that's not what should be the major subject of a general introduction to economics

There's a lot to economics other than Keynes and whether or not he's right.


Keynes was against government control of the economy as well.

Although you've modified your original statements quite a bit, these statements still aren't true. Hayek and Hazlitt disagreed with a bit of what Keynes postulated, but they were economists in their own right. It's not as if they became economists simply because they saw a political threat from Keynes' ideas and hated FDR.

I have not read Mankiw, but I earned a degree from reading textbooks like his. It not exactly like I'm unfamiliar with Keynesian economics.

JT

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