on October 17, 1999
I have heard a lot of good things about Thomas Sowell. I have no doubt that he is a brilliant man. And I admire his conservative/libertarian principles. But this book was so difficult to understand, I wondered what use is an abundance of knowledge if one is unable to dispense it to others? Since I have read other Sowell books, I have concluded that it is the subject matter and not the author, which contributes to its lack of readability. If you're an experienced economist, you'll probably enjoy this book. If you're a novice in economics, don't bother. Instead, I would recommend Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" to get an understanding and appreciation for classical economics.
on December 31, 2009
This is not a long book. In fact, I believe you can buy this with "On Classical Economics" as it forms the first four chapters of that book. But it's a good one. It definitely requires a grounding in economics or you will quickly be in over your head with all of the jargon and concepts, and the more you are acquainted with classical economics the better. It helps to read Todd Bucholz' New Ideas From Dead Economists, which is a history of economic thought from Smith to Rational Expectations theory, and it doesn't hurt to read some classical economics. What makes this book important is how many myths it dispels about the classical economists and classical economics, and how it concisely lays out their differences. I gained a newfound respect for Malthus from this book, and my respect for Ricardo actually shrunk a tad. I was introduced to economists I'd never heard of but who made important contributions, I learned that the "labor theory of value" doesn't really mean what I thought it did (Sowell helped me out by pointing out Smith's inconsistencies, which are numerous in Wealth of Nations), and frankly I saw how many of the concepts in economics which I thought of as being marginalist, neoclassical, or otherwise post-classical, can indeed be found in the classical economists.
So, for econ nerds, especially those of you who aren't as well-versed in classical economics as you should be, this is a great book, whose densely-packed insights belie the small number of pages.
This man's depth of knowledge is amazing and this book does a great job of diving even deeper into the thoughts of the Classical Economists. I found that he seemed to focus more on Ricardo and Marx than Adam Smith but Sowell's ability to make difficult concepts understandable is his real strength. Not that he "dumbs down" concepts, but it's the way he circles around and completes the relationship between economists that is impressive. This book isn't for the novice reader but if you are seriously interested in the "wisdom" of the classics, this is a book for you.