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New Ideas from Dead Economists: An Introduction to Modern Economic Thought Paperback – April 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Review

?Outstanding . . . fun to read.? ?"The Wall Street Journal" ?This wide-ranging survey of economic thought combines a witty and clear exposition with a high degree of accuracy.? ?Milton Friedman ?Precious few books . . . on any academic subject succeed at being witty and amusing. This is one of them. Bravo!? ?William F. Buckley, Jr.

About the Author

Todd G. Buchholz is an internationally acclaimed economist who advises ABC News, as well as some of the world's leading investment funds. He has served as a director of economic policy at the White House and is a contribuiting editor for Worth magazine. Buchholz holds advanced degrees from Cambridge University and Harvard Law School and was awarded the Allyn Young Teaching Prize by Harvard University's Department of Economics.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Rev Upd edition (April 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452288444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452288447
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Donald J. Boudreaux on September 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I enjoyed this book. Todd Buchholz gives his readers a good, well-written introduction to most of the major schools of economics. His portraits of the "dead economists" who launched and powered these various schools are excellent, as are his summaries of each of these schools. (Fortunately, not all of Buchholz's "dead economists" are dead: Ronald Coase, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, and Robert Lucas, among others, are thankfully still alive.)
I will recommend this book to non-economists who ask me for an accessible introduction to economic analysis.
Only a few nits are worth picking. One is that, from time to time, Buchholz mentions an interesting fact without providing a reference. For example, in his chapter on Public Choice economic, he illustrates the reality and size of pork-barrel politics by reporting the finding of an (unnamed) researcher who "calculated that for the price of the $200 billion highway bill [enacted by Congress in 1998], the U.S. could literally pave the streets with gold (gold-plating, that is)." I wanted to check out this study, but could find no citation to it.
Another nit is that, again in his chapter on Public Choice economics, he should have introduced his readers to the term, and concept, of rent-seeking.
A third (and really small) nit is that he mistakenly reports that Thomas Sargent shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in economics with Robert Lucas. Not so. Sargent is not, at least yet, a Nobel laureate.
Especially nice are (1) Buchholz's exploration of Keynes's attitude toward government, (2) his explanation of the deepest problems with Marxian economics, and (3) his very able treatment of rational-expectations economics. But please don't read this paragraph as suggesting that Buchholz performs well only in these areas. Again, from beginning to end, this is a very sound and very useful effort.
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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Caraculiambro on March 11, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Note first of all that there are two editions of this book floating around: the one from 1989 and the one from 1999. Both of them have the same covers, the same author, the same everything: but there is a world of difference between the two.

In short, go with the latter, called (inconspicuously) the "Revised Edition." (Many websites are selling both indiscriminately; Amazon is not -- the one on this page is safe to buy.) The one from 1989 is ridiculously outdated: it still makes many references to the Soviet Union; the dollar is still strong; the Euro has yet to come into existence; the Asian Tigers have yet to rise, etc. It's like watching a TV show from the 70s!

Now, to the book itself: it is amusing and informative, but it is seriously misnamed. A more accurate -- but not as catchy -- title would have been: "A Precis of Modern Economic Thought via the Ideas of the Great Economists." For that is, ultimately, what you're getting. The ideas are certainly not "new," except perhaps from the point of view of someone who was previously ignorant of them.

The book proceeds -- in narrative fashion and without graphs -- to give a chronological history of economics by means of the ideas of the great economists. One strong point in the author's approach is that even when you feel he's ardently at variance with an idea whose discussion is required, he is still very fair to it.

Specialized knowledge of economics, math, or history is not required, and the author does much to keep the book readable.

Alas! the book gets bogged down in the later stages, when discussing the debate between the Keynesians and the monetarists.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Brian Jennings on May 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Those of us who were cranked through government-run schools probably all had similar high school economics classes. I seem to remember spending more time studying the machinations of the Fed and doing words and terms than taking economics seriously as a branch of philosophy.
This book was a welcome surprise. Desperate for some much-needed education on economics, I took a recommendation and read this book. What a treasure! Buchholz entertains with wonderful biographical sketches of the more prominent economists; it is interesting to see how their lives influenced their thinking (John Stuart Mill's remarkable life-change is something I found striking). The analogies used to demonstrate certain principles, including such modern icons as the cast of Gilligan's Island, clarified the author's point while providing a chuckle. Buchholz seems to favor "laissez-faire" government and clearly prefers certain theories over others, but he gives fair treatment to all mentioned: Adam Smith gets significantly more ink than Thorstein Veblen, but Keynes and Marx, although the author is neither Keynesian nor Marxist, are written about in great detail and each have their own chapter.
Obviously, this book is not geared towards folks who already know about economics. But, unlike other introductory texts, this one is not only thorough but effective. After reading it, I felt very confident in my ability to comprehend today's financial headlines; I cannot recommend it enough.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By M. Mcfarland on May 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you're after a rough outline of how economics got where it is today, and who the people behind the subject's founding ideas really were, then the Dead Economists is a great place to start. Buchholz kicks things off with the invisible hands of Smith/Hayek, and then breezes through the lives and ideas of Malthus, Ricardo, Mill, Marx, Marshall, Veblen, Galbraith, Keynes and Friedman. The final two chapters get broader and cover Public Choice and Rational Expectations.

Strange as it may seem, there's nothing really on Schumpeter, Frank Ramsey, Robert Solow, Joan Robinson, Irving Fisher or Robert Mundell to name but a few - although, I suppose, these individuals didn't really lead economics off in truly new directions. But Nobel Prize winner Mundell was largely responsible for starting international economics as we know it. It's odd that he's not even mentioned.

Still for non-specialists, there isn't that much theory and what there is comes in easy to understand sketches of where the big ideas came from and what these mean for the world we live in today.

Overall I liked the Dead Economists, although I can understand why some people might think it a bit light. The author likes a joke. Some readers don't. It reads like pulp history. Some don't like that. My view is that if you already know your dismal science, then this is a nice, easy read and it gives lovely insights into the lives of economics' greatest thinkers. Alternatively, if you're a novice and you like a bit of history, then NIDE should suit your needs just fine.
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