Thursday, December 30, 2010

Zombie Economics

One of the pleasures of writing a book is that you get to stuff into it all your favourite bits from others' writing that you figure other people should read. One that I put into The Economics Anti-Textbook (p.246) was Deepak Lal's "ideas -- good or bad -- never die in economics". I was reminded of this recently when, in Left Bank Books in St. Louis, I stumbled upon Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (Princeton University Press, 2010), written by Australian economist John Quiggin (whose blog can be found here). He's also a contributor to the economics blog, Crooked Timber.

It would have been tempting to buy the book just for the brilliantly-designed cover, but (having read a third of the book so far) the contents are good too.
  The zombies that Quiggin attempts to put to rest once and for all are inter-related: the idea of 'The Great Moderation' (the alleged taming of the business cycle after the 1980s), the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and its implications, the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium approach to macroeconomic modelling, apologies for growing economic inequality ('Trickle-Down Economics'), and the alleged benefits of privatization of public enterprises and services.
  Each chapter is structured so as to chronicle the birth, life, and (what should have been the) death of the idea and its later re-animation in zombie form by those who refuse to admit defeat. A final 'After the Zombies" section recaps the lessons that should be learned from the experience and points a sensible way forward. A 'further reading' section points the way to the relevant academic literature.
  The book is written in a lucid and non-technical way and should be intelligible to upper-level undergraduates who have had the standard intermediate theory courses. Highly recommended!


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