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Economics for Real People: An Introduction to the Austrian School [Paperback]

by Gene Callahan
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)


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Book Description

June 2002 0945466358 978-0945466352 1st
At last, a fun and fascinating guide to the main ideas of the Austrian School of economics, written in sparkling prose especially for the non-economist. Gene Callahan shows that good economics isn't about government planning or statistical models. It's about human beings and the choices they make in the real world.

This may be the most important book of its kind since Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. Though written for the beginner, it has been justly praised by scholars too, including Israel Kirzner, Walter Block, and Peter Boettke.

Israel M. Kirzner (New York University): "Even a cursory examination of this book is sufficient to impress the reader that we have here a remarkably well-written exposition for the layman of the highlights of Austrian Economics."

Peter J. Boettke (George Mason University): "Written in a jargon-less and engaging style, Callahan's work provides the most comprehensive introduction to modern Austrian economics currently available to the intelligent layman."

Walter Block (Loyola University, New Orleans): "I don't toss around compliments like this lightly, but the passion, eloquence and sheer witty writing style of this author is also reminiscent of Rothbard. I plan to use it in all of my future intro courses."



Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gene Callahan is a software-technology professional in Connecticut, an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute, and a commentator on economics issues in venues such as Marketplace and The Free Market. This is his first book.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Ludwig von Mises Institute; 1st edition (June 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0945466358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0945466352
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,599,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Economics for You and Me January 27, 2003
Format:Paperback
The Austrian School is the most consistently free enterprise school of economic thought. Its most outstanding representative was Ludwig von Mises and its leading thinker in recent memory was Murray Rothbard. Both von Mises and Rothbard wrote substantial treatises on economics. However, there haven't been many introductory works. (Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson focuses more on government intervention than prices, the evenly rotating economy and capital theory.)
Gene Callahan has remedied that situation with this excellent introductory work. Written in the style of Rothbard, Callahan provides a primer on methodology, economic theory, and a critique of government intervention. The examples are always vivid and at times humorous.
After finishing this book, the reader should tackle Rothbard's Man, Economy and State. Then he should try von Mises's Human Action. Human Action isn't easy, but it will present the reader with the acedmic and theoretical rigor of the Austrian school's greatest exponent. For an introductory work that is more basic that Callahan's, David Gordon's An Introduction to Economic Reasoning is excellent.
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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Accessible Introduction to Economics April 23, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Callahan (and the Austrian school in general) explain economics in terms of human action rather than the abstract and sometimes obtuse models of classical economists. Beginning with the simplest possible scenario, a single human acting in isolation, Callahan builds a hypothetical society and uses it to explain the crucial concepts of economics in a style and language that should be accessible to anyone who has completed high school.
He explains the concept of subjective valuation with his individual on the island, then begins adding people and concepts. He quickly takes us through direct exchange, a refutation of the labor theory of value, the introduction of money (including the explanation of the criteria that make something a good choice to use as money), time preference (and how the interest rate serves as the "price" of a time preference), and so on. In the second half of the book he explains concepts that are a bit more abstract - how do central banking and fiat money work? What causes the business cycle? How does a free market system handle externals (benefits or consequences imposed upon those not party to an exchange -e.g. water pollution).
Throughout it all, Callahan cogently makes the case for a truly free market as the only means of efficiently satisfying the desires of a society's members.
There are things I would have liked Callahan to cover better, for instance, a greater discussion of how the neo-classical economists work, and how their theories influence media reporting of economic issues (think about all the indicators that we are bombarded with in the business section of the paper). However, I don't see how he could have covered that material while keeping the book small and readable.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it! Buy it now! July 4, 2002
Format:Paperback
That's why you're reading this review. You know you want to. Hit that one-click button. Are you tired and confused by what passes for economics these days? Did you sit in class in college and wonder what the heck was going on? Do you believe people can't think in graphs and algebraic equations? Do you believe if you took all the economists in the world and laid them in a line they'd still all point in different directions? If you answered "yes" to these questions then you'd be interested in the Austrian school of economics (the only school, by the way, that predicted the Great Depression). And Gene's book is an excellent introduction to that school. Of course, you can just bypass this book and go straight to Ludwig von Mises, the grandmaster of the Austrian school, and read his magnum opus, the 1000+ pages _Human Action_...nah, don't do that, at least not yet. Read this book first, and once your appetite is whetted then you can move on to the graduate level stuff. You'll like this book. I promise.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Intro to Real Economics July 12, 2002
Format:Paperback
Just finished the book. It is very impressive. Even if you are already familiar with the Austrian School, the book is useful because it puts in one place the latest refutations of objections to the most important, and timely, Austrian insight, the Business Cycle Theory. The rest of the book is also excellent in its consistent application of the theory of subjective value, the foundation of the Austrian School. I personally love the way the author uses quotes right from Austrian masters to reinforce his points.
For the novice, there are few places to gain a firm grasp on real economics so quickly and painlessly, it's a complete first-year course. After reading this, read, Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt and then, What Has Government Done to Our Money by Murray Rothbard. Also read the daily articles on Mises.org to stay up on current events and to reinforce your newly found expertise in economics.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simplify without being simplistic February 20, 2006
Format:Paperback
Gene Callahan accomplishes the monumentally difficult task of taking what seems to be "impossible" to outsiders and makes it accessible through his use of excellent examples and word-pictures. (I'm sure the logical positivist, mathematics-based economists will despise the rationalist approach...but let's save that discussion for a few beers and a cigar...).

He builds his discussion, bit by bit, working with the average reader. You don't need to be a pre-PhD to follow what Gene is saying...the old "crawl-walk-run" idea. The sense I had was this was more of a trip where we would go from stop to stop, discussing the concept, then using that to build to the next concept. The great thing is that Callahan doesn't patronize his readers...he expects you're going to work a bit.

Overall, despite my many years of reading Austrian economics texts & pamphlets, I found this back-to-basics approach to be very helpful in bringing my thinking down the stairs of the ivory tower & back onto the streets, making economics the true "beer-and-pizza" description of reality it is (P=MC doesn't taste as good anyway!).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Great book for someone who doesn't understand intricate Economics and wants a basic overview. I would definitely recommend this book.
Published 16 days ago by NLC
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on explaining Austrian Economic thought in a simple to read...
This is a must book to read if you want to understand simple Austrian Economic ideas. We need more of these kinds of books.
Published 3 months ago by Kae M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Austrian Economics IS Economics!
This book is a MUST read for anyone who wants to understand what economics is all about - the STUDY of HUMAN ACTION! Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bobby33x
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book, but not for beginners
This is a useful book that is pretty good at explaining the Austrian school but then the book loses a bit of it's focus when the author tries to give real life examples. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Robert Kirk
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I have studied economics for many years, but this book still managed to surprise me with a very commonsensical explanation of economic principles. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jose Antonio Pedrosa Garcia
5.0 out of 5 stars Great overview.
The book provides a great overview of the Austrian School of Economics. A great primer for those who can afford the time to read 2-3 books on the topic, and not a dozen books by... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Raymond E. Pinard
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
This book starts from the ground up. The author explains what economics really is, and lays out the case for the theory of subjective value. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Andrew Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This book is a must read for todays politics. Our country is flirting with disaster that is predictable using history as a guide. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Jacdev
5.0 out of 5 stars The Value of Human Choice
This book emphasizes subjective valuation. Objective value, the Austrians contend, is an illusion. Nothing has economic value in and of itself; rather, "things are valuable... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Couts A. Moseley
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
His analysis of the causes of inflation and business cycle, I feel are simplistic and naive. It is, however a somewhat adequate introduction to the Austrian school of economics. Read more
Published on February 14, 2005 by M. Hamilton
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