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The Mystery of Economic Growth Paperback – May 31, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (May 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674046056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674046054
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Professor Helpman's analytic powers and extraordinary grasp of the subject make his book, The Mystery of Economic Growth, the most comprehensive analysis of economic growth to date. The wide variety of relevant issues, from technological development through price and income causes and consequences to institutional changes are made available to the scholar and the interested general reader. The evaluations of different strands are judicious and wise, as well as highly representative of the literature. (Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics)

Want to understand the latest and best thinking on economic growth? Then read this little book. Professor Helpman has provided an enormously useful reader's guide to what is known (and what is not known) about this complex, fascinating, and all-important subject. (Martin L. Weitzman, author of Income, Wealth, and the Maximum Principle)

Elhanan Helpman has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of economic growth. Here he steps back and assesses what we have learned. Each page shines with profound knowledge, erudition, and wisdom. (Andrei Shleifer, co-author of The Grabbing Hand: Government Pathologies and Their Cures)

In this book, Elhanan Helpman reviews and analyzes economic growth, by pointing out the importance of input accumulation, trade, inequality, innovation, productivity, and institutions. He uses the most basic concept to outline what we know, what we do not know, and what we ought to know about the subject on a comprehensive and understandable manner. Such an approach should enable even noneconomists to become involved in the "growth mystery" without resorting to complex mathematical formulations...Overall, the book is well written, and the author is indeed highly knowledgeable on the issue at hand and his views are quite insightful and helpful in our understanding of economic growth, along with providing encouragement to developing countries. (Masiiwa Rusare Developing Economies)

The Mystery of Economic Growth is the book to read if you want to learn about what we know about "economic growth" and what the remaining mysteries are. The book deserves to be read by a wide range of economists, policy makers and researchers who are interested in this subject. It is a must reading for undergraduate and graduate students who would like to do research in the field of economic growth and international development...It is short, relatively non-technical, but still provides an extensive coverage of the topic. Helpman tells an exciting story focusing on the most important research in the last 20 years. (Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan Journal of International Economics 2006-06-01)

This is an engaging book and it should be read by anyone interested in bridging the divide between economics and social policy...Helpman provides an interesting account of the most important contemporary theories of economic growth, and his book will be a useful resource for those who would like to know more on the subject. (Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 2005-06-01)

Those interested in the topic of growth economics will find this discussion both fascinating and provocative. (Michael Wald Monthly Labor Review 2005-04-01)

Helpman is himself a master of the art of economics and his master's hand is evident on each page. In making his point, he takes the reader on a fast, yet detailed tour of some of the most important writing on economic growth in the last twenty years. He reviews the emergence of endogenous growth theory, the interaction of international trade and economic growth, the relationship between inequality and growth, and the role of the institutions that provide the fundamental groundwork for economic growth. (George K. Davis EH.Net 2005-04-01)

A fine survey of what is known and unknown in economics, and how to improve an understanding of global economic influences. Here the story of growth economics is organized around themes of technological and institutional influencers, total productivity, and interdependent growth rates of different countries. (James A Cox and Diane C. Donovan Bookwatch 2005-04-01)

About the Author

Elhanan Helpman is Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade at Harvard University and the author of many research articles and books.

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Customer Reviews

It too simple and unrevolutionary for the economist and too esoteric for the layman.
J. D Morrow
The author seems to hold views that are very mainstream for an economist, and is mostly reporting consensus opinions rather than new insights.
Peter McCluskey
I am a quantitatively trained derivatives trader who wanted to self-educate himself on economics, but not with hardcore econ textbooks.
PokerStar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David Evans VINE VOICE on November 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Helpman here offers a survey of many important aspects of economic growth theory. He gives some general background and then deals with accumulation, productivity, innovation, interdependence between countries, inequality, and institutions. Be warned, however, that although he claims that his book "provides a nontechnical description of growth economics," the word "nontechnical" here simply means non-mathematical. Much of the book is peppered with economics jargon, and although the glossary at the back is helpful, a reader without some advanced undergraduate or basic graduate background in macroeconomics will struggle.

Some chapters are definitely more approachable than others, and you generally don't need to have read an earlier chapter to understand a later one. The chapters on inequality and on institutions, for example, could be understood by most readers, whereas the chapter on innovation is much more challenging.

Having some advanced training in economics, I found the book a helpful refresher course on the latest research in many areas of growth economics. A better book for someone interested in a truly nontechnical (but definitely not dumbed-down) exploration of how growth theory has been applied to economic development policy is Easterly's The Elusive Quest for Growth. A non-technical (and slim) volume focusing on the empirical aspects of growth research is Barro's Determinants of Economic Growth.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Brian J. Peterson on August 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was expecting - hoping - for something a little different. Helpman runs through the Solow growth model and does little else. I ended up putting it down. Nothing about competing theories, why economic growth models work some places and not in others, or anything beyond the mainstream model. If that's what you're looking for, that's great, but otherwise, take a look at The Elusive Quest for Growth by Bill Easterly, or The Mystery of Capital, by Hernando de Soto. Those offer a departure from the norm of development theory.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on April 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
What factors influence and drive economic growth? Numerous titles have studied the sources of economic growth, but mysteries remain, especially for novice readers without a solid background in economics. Enter The Mystery Of Economic Growth, presenting a fine survey of what is known and unknown in economics, and how to improve an understanding of global economic influences. Here the story of growth economics is organized around themes of technological and institutional influencers, total productivity, and interdependent growth rates of different countries.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. D Morrow on April 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is simply a summation of my international economics class from five years ago. Factors of production effect growth. We don't know what inequality does. It has been found that countries with good institutions have higher growth.

If you were expecting a book like Sen's or Sach's (or even de Soto) meant for the lay person to unerstand: you got the wrong book. If you can keep up with all of the references and know some of the unexplained uses of accepted models, then you probably don't need to read it. Meanwhile if you haven't taken at least six semesters of economics, this book might as well be in Sanskrit. It's kinda like the movie Catch-22 (if you haven't read the book, don't bother; and if you have read the book, you don't need the movie).

The references to the literature are at times machine gun paced. I cannot imagine who is the target audience for this. It too simple and unrevolutionary for the economist and too esoteric for the layman. Just a waste of paper resources!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Alessandro Palmero on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Helpman, his name notwithstanding, doesn't help much in understanding "the mystery". Maybe the title is far too ambitious, maybe it's because of his often convoluted writing, maybe because the most important recent evolutions in growth theory seem not to have been thoroughly digested by the author, maybe because there's little about the politics of economic growth. In fact, the part on governance and institutions in particular is less than clear. The first chapters are better, though: clear and comprehensive. But that is not enough to make of this book a classic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By PokerStar on January 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Well meant summary of the author's ideas on econ growth. However, I guess he tried deliberately to exclude any mathematical equations. But then he covers econometric models. How is that going to work? Some sentences sound like this: "The XYZ factor is the coefficient of the product of the sums of the logarithms of the ABC inputs." It forces the reader to try to decipher the language and to write down the equation himself. I put the book down after 4 chapters and will look for alternatives. I am a quantitatively trained derivatives trader who wanted to self-educate himself on economics, but not with hardcore econ textbooks. Obviously, this book was the wrong choice, and I will now look for a more technical version. It is a book for graduate economics students who know the equations already, and who want a (biased) summary of the current literature regarding these growth models.
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