Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

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MrMojoRisin
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Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by MrMojoRisin » Mon Nov 18, 2019 11:42 am

A bit of a success story here in which this forum played a part.

A bit of background.

My son did poorly in college due to a general lack of maturity. He dropped out and got a job at large company that rebuilds automotive components under contract for the auto industry. As he was no longer in school he was encouraged to move out of the house and provide for himself. At first he worked on the floor but was accepted into a lower management position as part of a LEAN program they adopted. He took the classes they required and found he enjoyed the challenge of implementing changes in a production environment. He decided to do additional LEAN focus study and the engineer in charge of the LEAN effort was supportive and offered him some mentoring. He seemed to do pretty well at this and was exposed to all the politics and game playing that takes place in a company involved in a competitive industry. He saw how good and not so good management styles directly affected the work force and production numbers.

During this time he enrolled at a community college and really applied himself, his company helped with his tuition. He sought academic forgiveness on his previous course work and managed to bring his grade point average up to a respectable level.

I asked the members of this board on how to approach him about investing in the 401K the company offered and received some good advice. He enrolled and was soon telling me regularly how his portfolio was doing. I gave him copies of books recommended by this forum.

After the second or third change of ownership the LEAN program was to be abandoned. He knew he didn't want to go back on the floor.

He came to us and asked if he could move back in and work part time while going to school full time. We visited about this and came up with a game plan. He completed his associates degree at the community college and enrolled again at the university he had previously dropped out of.

We witnessed a total change in our son. In a spare bedroom we set up a study area for him in which he would spend much of his time. Suddenly his study habits became his priority and was declining social engagements so he could hit the books. He pushed his GPA up to the 3.6 area which considering the deficit he started from was amazing.

He is getting a Bachelor in Economics but what has really amazed us is his focus on math. The math gene died out in my family a generation or so back. He came home upset one time because his test that he had studied so hard for only netted an 82. Later the professor announced the class average was 70.

He is now in his senior year and working on a research project that one of his professors has asked him to join which will result in a published paper. The professor is pretty well know in the academia of economics so this should be good for our son.
He was offered a tutoring position at the university which paid better than the part time gig he had, when not tutoring he is free to study.

He lives in the math lab and is now taking Calculus. His plan is to graduate with the Bachelor degree with a minor in math.

We are so happy and proud of our son. There was a time when I feared his future would be pretty bleak. Not so much anymore.

Ok, so after all this reading you are probably ready for the question, correct?

For Christmas he would like a book on Economics. I don't really know if he wants the practice of it, the theory of it or the history. I suspect he would like the history and theory of economics...case studies...what worked...what didn't.


Any suggestions?

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Phineas J. Whoopee
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Mon Nov 18, 2019 2:06 pm

I'm happy your son is doing better.

The only way I know of to choose an economics book is to decide in advance the conclusion you want it to reach. There will be many for each outcome.

What do you want your son to believe?

More importantly, what does your son want to believe?

Answer those questions and there may only be dozens, rather than hundreds, of books to choose from.

I'm sorry if my response sounds cynical. However it sounds, I'm stating a true fact about the world. Economics is tightly bound up with politics. For perspective, maybe it would be best to read an economics book that disagrees with one's chosen worldview.

PJW

ShaunSCO
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by ShaunSCO » Mon Nov 18, 2019 2:24 pm

My bachelor's is also in Econ, but with a minor in history.

A few recommendations, for what they're worth:

1. Economics in One Lesson - Henry Hazlitt
2. Basic Economics - Thomas Sowell
3. Economics Explained - Robert Heilbroner

rjbraun
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by rjbraun » Mon Nov 18, 2019 2:27 pm

Congratulations on your son's success!

As an economics major who asked for an economics book for Christmas, I would think that he has a book or two in mind. If not, perhaps he should consult one of his economics professors for input. There are a huge number of possible books you could get him, and it would seem a pity for him to get one that didn't interest him or that wasn't a quality selection.

Edit: or to select a book that he already owns (or that may overlap to a large extent).

OnceARunner
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by OnceARunner » Mon Nov 18, 2019 2:36 pm

Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action by Robert Murphy for something very readable.

If he wants something dryer with more meat:
Human Action - Ludwig von Mises
The Fatal Conceit - Friedrich Hayak

NotTooDeepLearning
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by NotTooDeepLearning » Mon Nov 18, 2019 2:51 pm

A very unconventional book I liked was Big Debt Crisis by Ray Dalio. It's actually free online, but I enjoy having a hard copy.

almostretired1965
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by almostretired1965 » Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:43 pm

This is from the point of view of someone who wants to study and/or understand economics at a level above what you might get exposed to in a typical undergraduate program. Most of the stuff folks have recommended thus far, are, in my opinion, either not rigorous or too basic for someone who is already studying it.

1. Economic History:
Here I have two recommendations; both are classics. If you son in interested in macroeconomics, Friedman and Schwartz's Monetary History of the United States, though dated, forms the foundation for understanding how money works in a modern economy. No one who has never read chapter 7 should consider him/herself a serious student of monetary economics. The second is the Visible Hand by Alfred Chandler that describes the rise of the great American business enterprises in the late 1800s.

2. Political Economy:
Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy by Acemoglu and Robinson. It's a bit early, but I think this is destined to be a classic and represents a strand of research that I think will turn out to be the most important contribution from the profession to human knowledge in the past 30 years. A more difficult read and less elegant than Guns, Germs, and Steel, it nonetheless provides a unifying framework for analyzing some of the most critical problems/issues in social science.

3. Game Theory:
The Art of Strategy by Dixit and Nalebuff. This is a layman's intro to game theory and its applications. When I was an undergrad, game theory was not really taught until grad school, with the exception of some simple applied models used to analyze oligopolies. Particularly for those whose affinity for economics is in large part due to its use of mathematical models, game theory is basically catnip. If your son has already been exposed to it in a fairly substantive way, then something more technical might be a better choice, but I'm a bit out of date on the more recent literature.

A

Topic Author
MrMojoRisin
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by MrMojoRisin » Mon Nov 18, 2019 6:07 pm

Once again I find myself in debt to the collective wisdom of this hive.

I do appreciate the thought and effort taken by all of you in your suggestions.

lazerhead
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by lazerhead » Tue Nov 19, 2019 12:01 pm

Given his professional experience, he may be interested in learning more about Behavioral Economics, especially if it isn’t a focus in his department (or his teachers so far).

As an outsider with an interest in economics I found these two books that discuss the intermixing of traditional economics with other disciplines (psychology, sociology) to create more realistic models of human behavior that account for all the flaws and inconsistencies of real people absolutely fascinating:

* Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: long and somewhat challenging at times, but full of stories and concrete examples from the birth of Behavioral Economics

* Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler: a much lighter read with more storytelling by another person that helped create a space in academia for the discipline. He helped shape some real behavior change, like the study of opt-out versus opt-in 401k signups by companies (of interest to this community).

Both are by Nobel prize winners.

sreynard
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by sreynard » Tue Nov 19, 2019 12:19 pm

Just got done reading and enjoying Murray Rothbard's, "Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market".

Mr. Rumples
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by Mr. Rumples » Tue Nov 19, 2019 1:06 pm

If he likes history:

Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye

Jefferson's Treasure: How Albert Gallatin Saved the New Nation from Debt by Gregory May

The Founders and Finance: How Hamilton, Gallatin, and Other Immigrants Forged a New Economy by Thomas McCraw

Dontridetheindexdown
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by Dontridetheindexdown » Tue Nov 19, 2019 1:14 pm

The accessible economics book I have ever read is The Worldly Philosophers, by Robert L. Heilbroner.

I first read this book more than 50 years ago, it continues to influence my life and inform my work.

Jeff Albertson
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by Jeff Albertson » Mon Nov 25, 2019 3:45 pm

Martin Wolf's best economics books from 2019 (15 minutes):
audio: https://www.ft.com/news-in-focus (FT News in Focus, Nov 21)
video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rBAtrYP4Pk

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patrick013
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by patrick013 » Mon Nov 25, 2019 3:56 pm

Economics for Financial Markets by Brian Kettel takes economics and presents it as it pertains to finance and investments rather than the usual micro-macro textbook approach. Explains what is going on a little further.
Last edited by patrick013 on Mon Nov 25, 2019 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
age in bonds, buy-and-hold, 10 year business cycle

Seasonal
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by Seasonal » Mon Nov 25, 2019 4:00 pm

ShaunSCO wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 2:24 pm
1. Economics in One Lesson - Henry Hazlitt
https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/04/ ... in_on.html

peter_s
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by peter_s » Mon Nov 25, 2019 7:18 pm

As a gentle counter to the prevailing ideology of many of the recommendations above:

Economics in Two Lessons, John Quiggin.
Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics, Robert Sidelsky

Good luck.

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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:25 pm

glad to hear your son's doing well. give him our best. great suggestions from everyone. the one I haven't seen mentioned (and maybe because it's a textbook and maybe he already read it?) but I believe the definitive book (if there is one) on economics is from Greg Mankiw titled "Principles of Economics".

https://www.google.com/search?client=fi ... +economics

of course there's microeconomics and macroeconomics so perhaps it depends on what your son is more interested in. But I think Mankiw has one for each as well!
"May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live" -- Irish Blessing | "Invest we must" -- Jack Bogle

RandalThor
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by RandalThor » Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:38 pm

Maybe not some "heavy" economics materials, but here a a couple interesting items:

- "A Random Walk Down Wallstreet" by Burton G. Malkiel - a bit of theory about diversifying your risk in the market

Next one is a video / short-series from PBS I watched years ago:

- The Commanding Heights Storyline. I believe you can view/stream the show online here. The program gives a run down of some significant events around the world that effected the world economy starting in 1914. Looks like the PBS store isn't selling the DVD or associated book any longer, but you can probably find them online somewhere.

middistancerunner
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by middistancerunner » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:38 pm

The quality of the above books is pretty variable, but they are all general and some of them are quite dated. Few of them give insight into modern economics *research.* I think you should consider books written by economists who are currently research-active and pushing the field forward.

For example, from this year's Nobel Prize winners:

https://www.amazon.com/Good-Economics-T ... 1610399501

If your son is thinking about further study, understanding the work economists do right now will help him a lot in figuring out whether it's for him.

Congrats to your son on his trajectory; I really enjoy having students like him. The fact that his professor is involving him in research means she may think he is a good prospect for grad school.

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WoodSpinner
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by WoodSpinner » Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:08 pm

OP,

Here is a great one...
Thinking, Fast and Slow https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00555X8OA/re ... 3Db9855TSF

Gets into the behavioral side of economics.

WoodSpinner

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bottlecap
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by bottlecap » Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:14 pm

Your best bet might be to get something by the professor or in the particular school of thought in which the professor earns his keep. If the professor is well-known, it shouldn't be that hard to figure out.

Academia doesn't have much use for the history of economic thought, so it might not be of much use to your son. But it is interesting. The trick is finding a history that fairly and adequately explains the ideas of past economic thinkers. Current "economists" that write to influence the general public will typically only present a caricature of the ideas of any thinker not in their "school."

I'm interested in the history and did find this tome on the internet: http://aberkane.yolasite.com/resources/ ... hought.pdf

You can buy the book, but it's free on the web, presumably because it was published 16 years ago.

I can't vouch for what's in it because I haven't gotten around to reading it in earnest, but it does seem to cover many of the influential economic figures over the last few centuries. It at least gives an overview and he could use it or something like it as a guide to take him wherever he is most interested.

I'm so glad that things are working out for your son. As a well-known member/founder of this forum often says, there are many road to Dublin. Sounds like your son may have found his. Thanks for sharing.

JT

wije
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by wije » Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:38 pm

lazerhead wrote:
Tue Nov 19, 2019 12:01 pm
Given his professional experience, he may be interested in learning more about Behavioral Economics, especially if it isn’t a focus in his department (or his teachers so far).

As an outsider with an interest in economics I found these two books that discuss the intermixing of traditional economics with other disciplines (psychology, sociology) to create more realistic models of human behavior that account for all the flaws and inconsistencies of real people absolutely fascinating:

* Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: long and somewhat challenging at times, but full of stories and concrete examples from the birth of Behavioral Economics

* Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler: a much lighter read with more storytelling by another person that helped create a space in academia for the discipline. He helped shape some real behavior change, like the study of opt-out versus opt-in 401k signups by companies (of interest to this community).

Both are by Nobel prize winners.
+1. These books show how a lot of assumptions employed by classical economics (i.e. how we're rational) are flawed.

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bottlecap
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by bottlecap » Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:22 am

wije wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:38 pm
+1. These books show how a lot of assumptions employed by classical economics (i.e. how we're rational) are flawed.
This is why a good history in economic theory is important. Classical economists and pre-classical economists were well aware of "behavioral" economics and drew from many other disciplines. Most of it would be common sense to them.

It’s a canard that classical economists thought people made rational decisions all the time. Many new schools, including the "behavioral" economists, would have you believe otherwise because it gives reason for their existence, garners public funds for research, and sells books to the public.

JT

Seasonal
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by Seasonal » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:38 am

bottlecap wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:22 am
wije wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:38 pm
+1. These books show how a lot of assumptions employed by classical economics (i.e. how we're rational) are flawed.
This is why a good history in economic theory is important. Classical economists and pre-classical economists were well aware of "behavioral" economics and drew from many other disciplines. Most of it would be common sense to them.

It’s a canard that classical economists thought people made rational decisions all the time. Many new schools, including the "behavioral" economists, would have you believe otherwise because it gives reason for their existence, garners public funds for research, and sells books to the public.

JT
If people generally behave as if they were rational, then the behavioral economics issues wouldn't be a problem.

The real problem I see with classical economics is the often unstated assumptions, such as those about externalities, competition and macro problems best being left to market mechanisms.

The test of models is how well they work and how useful they are rather than how realistic their assumptions might be.

Strummer
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by Strummer » Wed Nov 27, 2019 12:09 pm

middistancerunner wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:38 pm
The quality of the above books is pretty variable, but they are all general and some of them are quite dated. Few of them give insight into modern economics *research.* I think you should consider books written by economists who are currently research-active and pushing the field forward.

For example, from this year's Nobel Prize winners:

https://www.amazon.com/Good-Economics-T ... 1610399501

If your son is thinking about further study, understanding the work economists do right now will help him a lot in figuring out whether it's for him.
I second this recommendation, although I confess I haven't read it yet. It's on my list, though.

Another modern book — this one provides a historical overview of how we have arrived where we are — is Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works--and How It Fails, by Yanis Varoufakis. It's very accessible, as he originally wrote it as a way of introducing his daughter to the concepts of economics and their roots. I found it insightful.

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bottlecap
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by bottlecap » Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:08 pm

Seasonal wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:38 am
bottlecap wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:22 am
wije wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:38 pm
+1. These books show how a lot of assumptions employed by classical economics (i.e. how we're rational) are flawed.
This is why a good history in economic theory is important. Classical economists and pre-classical economists were well aware of "behavioral" economics and drew from many other disciplines. Most of it would be common sense to them.

It’s a canard that classical economists thought people made rational decisions all the time. Many new schools, including the "behavioral" economists, would have you believe otherwise because it gives reason for their existence, garners public funds for research, and sells books to the public.

JT
If people generally behave as if they were rational, then the behavioral economics issues wouldn't be a problem.

The real problem I see with classical economics is the often unstated assumptions, such as those about externalities, competition and macro problems best being left to market mechanisms.

The test of models is how well they work and how useful they are rather than how realistic their assumptions might be.
My problem is that people don't know anything classical economists or any assumptions they made. What they do know is often wrong. They simply assume descriptions given by modern economists are accurate, which are in fact often caricatures. Rest assured those economists now deemed "classical" we're quite intelligent, quite cognizant of the difference between real life and models, and wrestled with many of the issues we still wrestle with today. They weren't blind or dumb.

JT

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Horton
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by Horton » Wed Nov 27, 2019 9:01 pm

Taleb's Antifragile so that he can learn about the dark side of economics - the fragilista. :P

Also, you must introduce him to Russ Roberts' podcast, EconTalk.

averagedude
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by averagedude » Wed Nov 27, 2019 9:35 pm

If you want a book that is recent, Robert Shiller has a new book out called "Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events". The author is a Nobel Prize economist and is well respected in the investment and economist community.

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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:02 pm

Horton wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 9:01 pm
Also, you must introduce him to Russ Roberts' podcast, EconTalk.
I second this recommendation about Russ Robert's podcast econtalk.
"May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live" -- Irish Blessing | "Invest we must" -- Jack Bogle

wije
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Re: Theory of Economics book recommendation desired

Post by wije » Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:33 am

bottlecap wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:22 am
This is why a good history in economic theory is important. Classical economists and pre-classical economists were well aware of "behavioral" economics and drew from many other disciplines. Most of it would be common sense to them.
Thank you, but as you yourself pointed out these things aren't taught in classrooms. I'm interested in the work of James Steuart, but economists don't consider "political economy" to be economics. They call what they teach "classical" or "neoclassical" economics to distinguish themselves as a school of thought.

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