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Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 30, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 30, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307961184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307961181
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Jeff Madrick argues that the professional failures since 2008 didn’t come out of the blue but were rooted in decades of intellectual malfeasance…As Madrick makes clear, many economists have, consciously or unconsciously, engaged in a game of bait and switch….Seven Bad Ideas tells an important and broadly accurate story about what went wrong.”
—Paul Krugman, The New York Times

“Must-read….In this brisk and accessible volume, which should be on Econ 101 syllabi, Madrick outlines the wrong-headed propositions, fictitious models, shoddy research, and partisan agendas that have made a reexamination of the entire field long overdue, especially in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.”

“An important and eloquent voice…Madrick’s wonderful chapter on efficient markets should be required reading for everyone in the financial world.”
The New York Review of Books

“Fascinating and provocative….Madrick makes a strong, persuasively argued case, offering a refreshing take on the political and fiscal policies that have defined our era, and the questionable foundations on which they uncomfortably rest.”

“Bankers and economists who failed to avert the [2008] crisis aren’t evil, according to Madrick, just misguided, particularly in oversimplifying major economic shifts. This book is an attempt to inject the complexity back in…well worth the effort.”
Publishers Weekly

“If there were an eighth bad idea, it would be ignoring this book.”
Shelf Awareness

“A readable, useful economic text. Somewhere, John Maynard Keynes is smiling.”
“‘Zombie ideas,’ it’s been said, are those that should have been killed by evidence, but refuse to die. Even more obdurate are the axioms of orthodox economics, upon which pernicious policies are erected. Mythbuster Madrick, in clear and compelling prose, demolishes seven of the biggest of these. May they (hopefully) rest in peace.”
—Mike Wallace, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and coauthor of Gotham 

“In his incisive new book Jeff Madrick shows in rigorous and compelling detail how mainstream economic theory not only failed to anticipate the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed, but actively contributed to the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. If you suspect there is something radically wrong with mainstream economic theory, you must read Seven Bad Ideas.”
—John Gray, emeritus professor, London School of Economics

“In the venerable Mark Twain tradition, Jeff Madrick explains that what makes some economists so dangerous isn’t what they don’t know, it’s what they know that just ain’t so.”
—Robert H. Frank, author of The Economic Naturalist

“Thanks to Jeff Madrick, the Seven Deadly Sins now have serious competitors from seven ideas economists have spread to our detriment. Jeff is an economist, too, but he is an icon buster who writes with verve, clarity and a fierce sense of justice. May he encourage his colleagues to second thoughts—and may some even consider repentance.”
—E.J. Dionne, Jr., author of Our Divided Political Heart

“The economics of ‘free market’ doctrines is not underpinned with valid knowledge. Its bogus scientific authority provides a cover for finance and big business to squeeze the rest of society. Jeff Madrick is an excellent guide to the whole range of finance-friendly policies in recent decades, in the U.S. and globally, and is especially good on ‘efficient markets theory,’ whose assumption that money can do no wrong is the bitter root of the current economic crisis.”
—Avner Offer, professor emeritus, University of Oxford
“Influenced on the one side by broad, somewhat ideological belief in the efficacy of markets, and on the other side by strong belief in the value of what can be learned by building and analyzing simple formal models, in recent years the economics discipline has lost much of its ability and interest in studying pragmatically and empirically how the economy actually operates. Madrick’s Seven Bad Ideas is one of the best discussions of this problem that I have seen.”   
—Richard Nelson, professor emeritus, Columbia University
“Invigorating…Jeff Madrick is so inventive a writer that, for each of the bad ideas he analyzes, Madrick also makes you think about a good idea. This is a real contribution to making economics a more responsible discipline.”
—Richard Sennett, author of The Fall of Public Man


About the Author

Jeff Madrick, a former economics columnist for Harper’s and The New York Times, is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and the editor of Challenge magazine. He is visiting professor of humanities at The Cooper Union and director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative at the Century Foundation. His books include Age of Greed, The End of Affluence, and Taking America. He has also written for The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Institutional Investor, The Nation, The American Prospect, The Boston Globe, and Newsday. He lives in New York City.


Customer Reviews

The verdict on the role of derivatives, if any, is not yet in.
Lenny Breau
I read Madrick's Age of Greed and found it not only understandable, but interesting.
Traci Medford-Rosow
I don't think this book sheds much light on the failures of the economic profession.
J. Davis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Trent Vaughn on December 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Economist Alan Blinder provides an excellent review of Madrick's book in the New York Review of Books. Blinder offers three major criticisms of the book: (1) it overstates the impact economists have on the world, in that their analyses and studies are primarily used to provide support for pre-existing opinions, not make opinions and policies, (2) what it calls "mainstream economics" is really "conservative economics", and (3) its bad ideas are either good ideas (adam smith's invisible hand, with the caveat that it applies to a "frictionless" world and that all economists see limitations and problems with free markets in the real world, such as externalities), straw men ("low inflation is all that matters" -- blinder asks "does any economist really espouse this view?"), discarded doctrines (say's law that supply creates its own demand and there will never be any long term unemployment), or limited to extreme conservative economists ("free market fundamentalism", the idea that governments should only interfere in free markets in the event of extreme "market failures"). Blinder does concede that there is one legitimate "bad idea" in the book -- the strong form EFT, which gave rationale for the under-regulation of derivatives issues and may have contributed to '08 financial meltdown, and he calls that chapter of the book "required reading for everyone in the financial world".Read more ›
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26 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Peter Richardson on October 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The global economic meltdown beginning in 2007 should have chastened the free-market fundamentalists who have controlled economic policy since the 1980s. Their failure is still very much with us. Last year, U.S. median household income was 8 percent lower than it was in 2007, and the poverty rate was 2 percentage points higher.

Yet as Jeff Madrick points out, remorse is in short supply, and his new book targets that collective stolidity. It begins with a stark claim: "Economists' most fundamental ideas contributed centrally to the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed -- the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression." Policymakers didn't simply fall asleep at the switch or misapply worthy ideas. Rather, an entire generation of economists embraced bad ideas and lost the capacity to criticize them. It is a measure of their insularity, Madrick argues, that the socially corrosive misery they helped create didn't prompt a fresh review of their most cherished ideas.

"Seven Bad Ideas" isn't an exhaustively argued treatise but rather a set of snappy essays in the pamphleteering tradition. Several themes emerge from them: an indifference to history, the drive for purity, and a nostalgic attachment to rationality, the great Enlightenment virtue that most modern thinkers view skeptically. Although mainstream economists rarely discuss power and privilege, neither is irrelevant to their professional practices. American economists enjoy outsized prestige compared to their counterparts elsewhere, and they're remarkably attuned to incentives, including their own. Until those change, Madrick's calls for greater intellectual range, depth, and humility are likely to fall on deaf ears.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Clair Brown on November 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jeff Madrick is a natural teacher. He takes difficult economic concepts and brings them to life, as he integrates the ideology of economists and orthodox economic principles into seven important topics. You don’t have to be a graduate student in economics to understand and question the mainstream principles of free markets, budget deficits, government spending, inflation and unemployment, speculative bubbles and recessions, and globalization. Madrick shows us how the widespread orthodox approach has repeatedly resulted in disastrous outcomes, paid for by ordinary people around the world. As an econ prof (UC Berkeley), who has taught Econ 1 to hundreds of students, I appreciate Madrick’s ability to teach complex concepts in an engaging, insightful way that the reader can understand, ruminate, and remember. To vote and participate in civic life, we need to understand why economists didn’t know the great recession was on its way, and why fiscal austerity worsens a recession, and why free markets are an illusion and why government plays a critical role in determining economic performance. Also we need to understand how economists in the U.S. get away with touting economics as a science, and are exempt from having to make serious changes to their approach when proven wrong by economic outcomes. As the reviews indicate, Madrick’s book is a great way to learn about seven widely taught economic concepts that need to be retired before they cause more harm. Madrick is a terrific writer and knows economics and how to make it understandable. However as a couple of reviews demonstrate, don’t bother to read this book if you already “know” that free markets produce optimal outcomes, or that politicians cause all the problems. Read this book to expand your thinking about how our economy works.
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More About the Author

JEFF MADRICK is a former economics columnist for The New York Times and has been a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books for many years. He is editor of Challenge Magazine, visiting professor of humanities at The Cooper Union, and senior fellow at The Roosevelt Institute and the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, The New School. He is the author of a half dozen books, including Taking America (Bantam), and The End of Affluence (Random House), both of which were New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Taking America was also chosen by Business Week as one of the ten best books of the year. His most recent books are Why Economies Grow (Basic Books) and The Case for Big Government, which won a general non-fiction award from Pen America. His new book, published in mid-2011 by Alfred A. Knopf, is Age of Greed, The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present.

He has written for many other publications, including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Institutional Investor, The Nation, American Prospect, The Boston Globe, Newsday, Dissent, and the business, op-ed, and magazine sections of The New York Times. He has appeared on Charlie Rose, The Lehrer News Hour, Now With Bill Moyers, Frontline, CNN, CNBC, CBS, BBC,and NPR. He was formerly finance editor of Business Week Magazine, a columnist for Money Magazine, and an NBC News reporter and commentator. His awards also include an Emmy and a Page One Award. He was educated at New York University and Harvard University, and was a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard.