From Publishers Weekly
Consciously written as an alternative to Robert Heilbroner's classic The Worldly Philosophers, this book sets out to explore and critique the lives and ideas of the great economists. Both books begin with Adam Smith, though Foley discusses only eight of Heilbroner's 16 economists and gives less detail on each. Where Heilbroner celebrates the overlap between economics and other human activities, Foley criticizes "Adam's Fallacy," the artificial division between the economic sphere, in which pursuit of self-interest leads to social good, and the social sphere, in which good results from unselfish actions. Uncritical acceptance of the fallacy, which the author labels "economic theology," leads to the belief that short-term economic gain necessarily favors vague, long-term social gains. Unemployment and cultural destruction caused by free trade, for example, are ignored from a naïve faith that unrestrained trade leads to a greater good for a greater number. Foley finds some brilliance and rigor in the works of all his subjects, while also accusing them of sloppy thinking unsupported by data, which has led to heartless, misguided policies. However, his specific criticisms are mild and technical. Readers who want an abridged version of Heilbroner will like this better than readers who want to understand the fundamental errors of economics. (Sept.)
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Foley gets deep into the analytical content of major schools of thought, ranking Adam's Fallacy up there with Heilbroner's classic. (Robert Solow New York Review of Books 2006-11-16)
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So what is 'Adam's Fallacy?'...It is the idea that the economic sphere of life constitutes a separate realm 'in which the pursuit of self-interest is guided by objective laws to a socially beneficent outcome'...Professor Foley's book is simultaneously an introduction to economic theory and a critique of it. It is his version of the classic introduction for the economically challenged by Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers, now in its seventh edition. Adam's Fallacy concentrates more on the worldly philosophies rather than on the philosophers, on economic theory rather than on the characters and events that along with Mr. Heilbroner's masterly storytelling gave The Worldly Philosophers so much color and verve...By questioning economic theory's cordoning off of an economic spheres of life ruled by its own laws and expertise, Professor Foley is implicitly proposing limits to the secularization that is an underlying characteristic of modernity. Secularization has meant that in a cultural transformation, major areas of human activity set themselves up as quasi-autonomous, with their own standards, authorities, and guiding principles. (Peter Steinfels New York Times 2006-11-25)
[A] passionate book, to be welcomed in a discipline notably devoid of passion. [Adam's Fallacy] can be read for pleasure and enlightenment by economists and non-economists alike. (David Throsby Times Literary Supplement 2007-03-23)