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Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us [Kindle Edition]

John Quiggin
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the graveyard of economic ideology, dead ideas still stalk the land.

The recent financial crisis laid bare many of the assumptions behind market liberalism--the theory that market-based solutions are always best, regardless of the problem. For decades, their advocates dominated mainstream economics, and their influence created a system where an unthinking faith in markets led many to view speculative investments as fundamentally safe. The crisis seemed to have killed off these ideas, but they still live on in the minds of many--members of the public, commentators, politicians, economists, and even those charged with cleaning up the mess. In Zombie Economics, John Quiggin explains how these dead ideas still walk among us--and why we must find a way to kill them once and for all if we are to avoid an even bigger financial crisis in the future.

Zombie Economics takes the reader through the origins, consequences, and implosion of a system of ideas whose time has come and gone. These beliefs--that deregulation had conquered the financial cycle, that markets were always the best judge of value, that policies designed to benefit the rich made everyone better off--brought us to the brink of disaster once before, and their persistent hold on many threatens to do so again. Because these ideas will never die unless there is an alternative, Zombie Economics also looks ahead at what could replace market liberalism, arguing that a simple return to traditional Keynesian economics and the politics of the welfare state will not be enough--either to kill dead ideas, or prevent future crises.

In a new chapter, Quiggin brings the book up to date with a discussion of the re-emergence of pre-Keynesian ideas about austerity and balanced budgets as a response to recession.



Editorial Reviews

Review

This book is certainly a good read for anyone eager to know why it is urgent that economists come up with a socially useful body of thought or suggestions. (Shanghai Daily)

Entertaining and thought-provoking. . . . [W]orks as a good summary for non-specialists of how the economics debate has developed. (Philip Coggan Economist)

Quiggin is a writer of great verve who marshals some powerful evidence. (Financial Times)

Lucid, lively and loaded with hard data, passionate, provocative and . . . persuasive. . . . [Zombie Economics] should be required reading, even for those who aren't Keynesians or Krugmaniacs. (Glenn C. Altschuler Barron's)

Apparently some economists have a sense of humor, dismal though it may be. Quiggin uses the 2008 global financial crisis as the focal point for examining five core macroeconomic and financial theories that have been--to use zombie terminology--killed by our current predicament. . . . Economics students and interested lay readers will find this valuable. (Library Journal)

Erroneous economic ideas resemble the living dead, writes John Quiggin in his smart new book Zombie Economics. They are dangerous yet impossible to kill. Even after a financial crisis buries them, they survive in our minds and can rise unbidden from the necropolis of ideology. (James Pressley Bloomberg News)

The financial crisis has disproved many cherished tenets of 'market liberalism', such as the 'Efficient Markets Hypothesis', yet these zombie ideas still shamble through newspapers and journals. Enter economist Quiggin, calmly wielding dual shotguns to blast them relentlessly in the face. . . . As Quiggin explains with elegance, lucidity and deadpan humour, the undead ideas here are interconnected: killing one causes it to knock over another in a sort of zombie-dominoes effect. (Guardian)

Zombie Economics is . . . a highly readable and sobering assessment of the role played by discredited economic ideas in the global financial and economic meltdown of 2008-09. Quiggin delves deeply into the origins and development of all the star culprits so loved by the economic right in recent decades: from the efficient markets hypothesis to privatization and Real Business Cycle Theory. None has stood up to the stern test posed by real markets and economies in crisis. Yet most live on, still featured in many curriculums and advocated by those academics who have staked their careers on them. (Globe & Mail)

It's hard to resist a book called Zombie Economics, and University of Queensland professor John Quiggin makes his tale as compelling as his title. . . . It's the rare read that's both thoughtful and fun. (Biz Ed)

[A]n excellent new book. (Jessica Irvine Sydney Morning Herald)

I haven't done justice to Quiggin's book, so if you're interested in a readable exposition of the exploits of academic economists over the past 35 years I recommend it highly. It's the story of how economists forgot much of what they knew. Please, guys, don't do that again. (Ross Gittins Sydney Morning Herald)

As well as exposing how these flawed ideas brought on the global crisis and how they live on, Quiggin offers his view on a new way forward in economic theory. It's time to bury the zombie. (Fiona Capp The Age)

From the so-called 'great moderation' concept to the implications of the efficient markets hypothesis, Quiggin does an excellent job summarizing each zombie idea and explaining why it is discredited in a simple (but not simplistic) manner. (Choice)

[Cogent] and readable . . . (The Nation)

Cleverly titled, with a wonderful and very un-academic cartoon cover and written without excessive jargon, Zombie Economics provides an elegant critical introduction and analysis of some of the key ideas of modern economic thought. (Satyajit Das Naked Capitalism blog)

Put a bullet through the decaying brain of walking-dead economics by reading Quiggin. (Seth Sandronsky SN&R)

Peppered with humorous quotations, theory and history, Quiggin has assembled a compelling read about the misguided intellectual economic assumptions of the last forty years and also gives possible solutions to our current financial dilemma. (Stamas, Bullfax.com)

I encourage my colleagues in sociology, psychology, and management to read this book and leverage it to lead to a more integrated social science and, perhaps, a more socially aware economic science. (Brent Goldfarb Administrative Science Quarterly)

Review

Entertaining and thought-provoking... [W]orks as a good summary for non-specialists of how the economics debate has developed. -- Philip Coggan, Economist Lucid, lively and loaded with hard data, passionate, provocative and ... persuasive... (Zombie Economics) should be required reading, even for those who aren't Keynesians or Krugmaniacs. -- Glenn C. Altschuler, Barron's The financial crisis has disproved many cherished tenets of 'market liberalism', such as the 'Efficient Markets Hypothesis', yet these zombie ideas still shamble through newspapers and journals. Enter economist Quiggin, calmly wielding dual shotguns to blast them relentlessly in the face... As Quiggin explains with elegance, lucidity and deadpan humour, the undead ideas here are interconnected: killing one causes it to knock over another in a sort of zombie-dominoes effect. -- "Guardian Quiggin is a writer of great verve who marshals some powerful evidence. -- "Financial Times Zombie Economics is ... a highly readable and sobering assessment of the role played by discredited economic ideas in the global financial and economic meltdown of 2008-09. Quiggin delves deeply into the origins and development of all the star culprits so loved by the economic right in recent decades: from the efficient markets hypothesis to privatization and Real Business Cycle Theory. None has stood up to the stern test posed by real markets and economies in crisis. Yet most live on, still featured in many curriculums and advocated by those academics who have staked their careers on them. -- "Globe & Mail It's hard to resist a book called Zombie Economics, and University of Queensland professor John Quiggin makes his tale as compelling as his title... It's the rare read that's both thoughtful and fun. -- "Biz Ed Magazine [C]ogent and readable. -- "Nation Apparently some economists have a sense of humor, dismal though it may be. Quiggin uses the 2008 global financial crisis as the focal point for examining five core macroeconomic and financial theories that have been--to use zombie terminology--killed by our current predicament... Economics students and interested lay readers will find this valuable. -- "Library Journal Erroneous economic ideas resemble the living dead, writes John Quiggin in his smart new book Zombie Economics. They are dangerous yet impossible to kill. Even after a financial crisis buries them, they survive in our minds and can rise unbidden from the necropolis of ideology. -- James Pressley, Bloomberg News I haven't done justice to Quiggin's book, so if you're interested in a readable exposition of the exploits of academic economists over the past 35 years I recommend it highly. It's the story of how economists forgot much of what they knew. Please, guys, don't do that again. -- Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald As well as exposing how these flawed ideas brought on the global crisis and how they live on, Quiggin offers his view on a new way forward in economic theory. It's time to bury the zombie. -- Fiona Capp, The Age From the so-called 'great moderation' concept to the implications of the efficient markets hypothesis, Quiggin does an excellent job summarizing each zombie idea and explaining why it is discredited in a simple (but not simplistic) manner. -- "Choice Cleverly titled, with a wonderful and very un-academic cartoon cover and written without excessive jargon, Zombie Economics provides an elegant critical introduction and analysis of some of the key ideas of modern economic thought. -- Satyajit Das, Naked Capitalism Put a bullet through the decaying brain of walking-dead economics by reading Quiggin. -- Seth Sandronsky, SN&R Peppered with humorous quotations, theory and history, Quiggin has assembled a compelling read about the misguided intellectual economic assumptions of the last forty years and also gives possible solutions to our current financial dilemma. -- Ted Stamas, Bullfax.com This book is certainly a good read for anyone eager to know why it is urgent that economists come up with a socially useful body of thought or suggestions. -- "Shanghai Daily [A]n excellent new book. -- Jessica Irvine, Sydney Morning Herald

Product Details

  • File Size: 702 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (May 21, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007BP3GXA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,567 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
(42)
3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
133 of 145 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
this book offers a very good critique of how the research program of macroeconomics for the last 40 or so years has been, largely, a failure. while it is true that the author is not always careful or complete with respect to some of his definitions (for instance, the efficient market hypothesis has different interpretations/statements in, say, finance versus freshwater economics --- finance folks, by the way, have dismissed the efficient market hypothesis decades ago), most of his points/explanations are clear enough to understand. HOWEVER, it is worth noting that economics can be extremely politicized; the one star reviewers are a cases in point; much of modern macro ends up having policy implications, and thus a lot of work, some of it very technical, was done with an ax to grind. and, if you have an ax to grind, well, evidence that throws a wrench in your machinery is dismissed, discarded, or, in some cases, claimed as stupid. this is a very embarrassing book for the economics profession, and is a very embarrassing book for folks who pedal a particular brand of right-wing economics, which is why it gets some of the negative reviews. but, that is one of the many compelling reasons to read it. moreover, this book is, with a few exceptions, honest, and correct and the author backs up his claims with a hell of a lot of references. in fact, for econ students looking for thesis problems, this book is a gold mine. in any event, to gain clear picture of why economics hasn't had much to say about the world since early 2008, and what is wrong with modern macro, read this book. really.
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66 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evil Dead December 22, 2010
Format:Hardcover
Quiggin is a good writer and by all accounts a very good economist. His problem is that he doesn't understand how you fight zombies, and he seems confused about what zombies are.

Zombies, you see, are ex-people, not ideas. Ideas, both true and false, are the life's blood of a field. Often more is gained from showing that an idea is false than by showing an idea is true. The Zombies (in the sciences at least) are ex-scientists who have had their brains lost, sold or eaten. You can recognize them by the way they promote obvious garbage without a hint of shame. Often while they are speaking at a conference, the audience members will have a contest to see who can find the most egregious blunder. They are generally pitied, but not to the extent that we publish their nonsense (ok sometimes their nonsense does get published, but then there is a big scandal and the offending member of the editorial board of the journal resigns in disgrace) or allow them to propagate.

The economics profession is an example of what happens when the zombies propagate unchecked. The entire fresh water school and many of the top journals have been taken over by zombies. Quiggin does an excellent job of eviscerating most of the false ideas propagated by the zombies, he shows how wrong these ideas were and even shows how most of them where known to be false long before now.

One minor quibble with his treatment of the EMH. While it has always been clear that the strong form was false, he seems to give the weak form a pass. The problem is that the weak form is every bit as false as the strong form. In the presence of massive leverage, a sharp downward drop will cause massive margin calls and this will cause a massive drop in the price.
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78 of 89 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Thoughts! November 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover
A zombie idea, per Quiggin, is one that keeps coming back, despite having already been killed. That seems like an apt description of where we're headed now - eg. resuscitating free market ideology after the 'Great Recession' caused by - free markets. The truly paranoid can be extra worried recalling Milton Friedman's statement that "our (true free-market enthusiasts) basic function is to develop alternatives to existing policies, and to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable." Worst of all, some hold a suspicion that conservatives are committed to bringing about such crises if they don't naturally occur. Zombie economic ideas highlighted in the book include privatization, the 'Efficient Market Hypothesis,' the 'Laffer Curve,' and 'Trickle-Down Economics.'

I was particularly intrigued by the author's pointing out that restrictions on the dismissal of workers or requirements for sizable separation packages are the most vilified supposed obstacle to improved economic performance, yet those protesting the loudest ignore the one-sided bonuses, options, and pay without performance packages for the leaders who usually cause the worker layoffs. In case that isn't rich enough, there's also option repricing and backdating, golden parachutes, and gross overpayment vs. foreign firms, while offshoring millions of American jobs to save money. (In 2008, the world's largest bank - ICBC, market capitalization of $250 billion, paid its CEO $235,000, vs. J.P. Morgan with a capitalization of $158 billion, paying $19,651 million to its CEO. In 2009, all Toyota executives together received less than Ford's CEO.)

The 'Efficient Markets Hypothesis' implies that private enterprise will always outperform government.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Summary of the shortcomings of conventional economics.
As someone trained to view economics as a scientific and empirical discipline, the behavior of many of my colleagues in response to the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing Great... Read more
Published 1 month ago by DrJohnB
5.0 out of 5 stars Is this the most honest review of macroeconomic fads ever written?
While vacationing with an economist friend I happened to pick up his copy of Quiggin's book. I couldn't put it down and have just ordered my own copy. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Newton Fawcett
5.0 out of 5 stars Haiku Review
In a review, the reader tries to create a sense of the book; the task is to boil down the essence of the work and to summarize and give opinion about the quality of the object in a... Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. Edgar Mihelic
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for politicians and voters alike
This book, along with Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, makes clear that economics in the last third of the 20th Century had more in common with religion than science,... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Gerry Conway
4.0 out of 5 stars By an unqualified reader ...
As an educated person with no more that ECON101, and that a long time ago,I found this book an accessible and lucid explanation of the recent recession and of Kensian economic... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Peter McCorison
5.0 out of 5 stars The dead arise
Whether we like it or not, we are all suffering from the poor level of debate within economics which has led to policymakers constantly taking terrible advice. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Philip Davis
1.0 out of 5 stars Thinly Veiled Left-Wing Blog Compilation
In the preface (page vii), the author describes as largely a group project by the left-wing political blog Crooked Timber (i.e. group think). Read more
Published 14 months ago by Isaac Davis
4.0 out of 5 stars An economists take on failed economic theories.
John Quiggin's Zombie Economics makes an entirely creditable critique of the key economic ideas that drove the neo-liberal boom from the 1980's through to 2008 (the Great... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jamie Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent summary of standard theory and its shortcomings
The book starts with an excellent explanation of the conventional thinking on each of the five selected topics. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Rajan Chopara
5.0 out of 5 stars Brains!
This is a great discussion about the global financial crises and the suppositions that lead to it. The book contains a straightforward explanation coupled with a strong... Read more
Published 18 months ago by doug funny
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