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Why Economies Grow [Hardcover]

by Jeff Madrick
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 15, 2002 0465043119 978-0465043118 First Edition
The forces that shape economic growth:--The size of markets. Large markets make economies of scale possible and thus encourage saving, investing, and the development of new products.--The availability of information and the literacy of the population. The spread of information gives people access to scientific and technical ideas, products, and productive farming, manufacturing, and marketing techniques.--Natural resources. These seem like primary requirements but are not: they depend on markets for their commercial value.--Surplus capital--savings--that can be used as investment.--Basic economic rights such as guarantees of property and contracts.--Entrepreneurialism, creativity, and the human drive for self-improvement.--Technology and invention. While commonly seen as primary (or even the only) requirements for growth, these are strongly dependent on other factors.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

New York Times "Economic Scene" columnist Madrick sets out to debunk the "new economy" rhetoric that ignited the late-1990s stock market, and although his argument may seem belated, it's far from mundane. According to the author, technological innovations aren't just less important to economic expansion than we've been led to believe-they're not even necessary. Henry Ford's advances were much more managerial than technological, Madrick writes; therefore, improvements in marketing and distribution can prompt growth without serious technological developments. In the supply versus demand equation, Madrick tips the balance toward demand: in the last 1,000 years of economic history, desire for product has always been the motivation for expansion. Even the 19th-century invention of the commercial thresher, which vastly improved farms' productivity, was invented to feed a growing population. Much of the book chronicles the decline of American productivity from 1970 to 1995, with Madrick asserting that stagnation inspired people to invent the fiction of a "new economy," which, by the late '90s, was almost exclusively identified with high-tech enterprises. Unfortunately, Madrick, a former Business Week financial editor, here plays the role of essayist, rather than journalist, foregoing specific data for broad assertions. He calls for more progressive taxes to redistribute wealth and greater public spending on education and healthcare, but his last chapter is fatalistically titled "Why We Won't Do It," and is a critique of the laissez-faire orthodoxy that has dominated politics and economic theory since the '80s.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Economists believe that, to make an economy grow, many factors must be in place, such as sufficient capital or abundant natural resources, while most Americans believe that technological innovation is the sine qua non of prosperity. Madrick, a New York Times business columnist and cable TV pundit, devotes over three-quarters of this work to refuting the technological innovation thesis. Rather, he believes that the existence of viable markets is the most important element among a complicated mix of causes. Only in the penultimate chapter does he offer his prescription on how to make the economy grow, which is mostly a list of traditional liberal policies where "government" gives money and/or more services to people. Their spending, in turn, drives the economy. He notes, however, that he doesn't think his recommendations will be implemented; our national character prevents us from relying too heavily on government. Despite many interesting insights and a strong center section on the Industrial Revolution, a weak beginning and unconvincing end sabotage what could have been a very good book. An optional purchase. Patrick J. Brunet, Western Wisconsin Tech. Coll., LaCrosse
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (October 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465043119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465043118
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,585,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adam Smith too tedious for you? Start here. August 25, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There's no book like Wealth of Nations for a nuts and bolts examination of economic markets and how they both grow and falter, but nobody in today's world can read that book, it seems. Too much tedious detail, I suppose.

This fascinating book comes as close as any I've seen, examining how the world's dominant economies, from the Dutch several centuries ago, through the British and then the U.S. rose to achieve their dominant positions. Madrick's analysis is not only insightful but in many ways surprising, because he talks about things that nobody else seems to be talking about, but which are so obvious once they are pointed out. This is especially true when he deals with the economic slowdown of the 70's, and then the brief surge in 90's.

I know about half of the readers in the U.S. will be prejudiced against this book from the start, because they read that the author's own solutions going forward are "liberal"... not to mention that his followup book was titled "The Case for Big Government"!

But in this book he really doesn't go there at all until very late in the book, and then in a very cursory way. The majority of the book doesn't come off as an ideological treatise at all. Unless you are so adverse to the notion that demand leads supply that you break out in hives reading historical evidence that supports it, I suppose...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Timely and Relevant March 22, 2009
A very readable analysis of recent economic history by a professor of economics at Princeton University. A helpful explanation of where we are today, it puts in context why the Obama administration is doing what it is doing.
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6 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Save Your Money February 11, 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A major disappointment. Jeff Madrick is very knowledgeable and well spoken but this book is little more than a sermon supporting big government and social programs.
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10 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Misguided November 17, 2002
By A Customer
This author lacks serious academic credentials. He provides little in the way of facts, but plenty in the way of opinions. His philosohpy of economic growth has been thoroughly discredited among leading economists. His recommendations sound good, but the economy just doesn't work that way.
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