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Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us Hardcover – October 3, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


One of Bloomberg News's ( Top Thirty Business Books of the Year for 2010

Co-Winner of the 2012 Gold Medal Book Award in Economics, Axiom Business

One of Financial Times ('s Books of the Year in Nonfiction Round-Up in the Science & Environment list for 2010

One of Naked Capitalism blog's , "Must Read" Economics Books, Yves Smith for 2011

"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 (FT Critics Pick 2010)

"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."--Ted Stamas,

"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

From the Inside Flap

"Killing vampires and werewolves is easy enough. But how does one slay economic zombies--ideas that should have died long ago but still shamble forward? Armed with nothing but the truth, John Quiggin sets about dispatching these dead ideas once and for all in this engaging book. Zombie Economics should be required reading for those who would dare reanimate the economic theories that brought us to the edge of ruin."--Brad DeLong, University of California, Berkeley

"Tempted to tangle with your libertarian uncle or your Wall Street Journal bromide-spouting coworkers? If so, this book will arm you to rebut the clever phrasemaking and slippery reasoning that has allowed dead constructs like 'trickle down economics' to soldier onward. Quiggin's clear, elegant dissection of wrongheaded notions will appeal to both lay readers and academic economists."--Yves Smith, author of ECONned: How Unenlightened Self-Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism

"Zombie Economics provides a unique and comprehensive discussion of the ideas that failed during the recent financial crisis. But the book contributes much more. Its discussion of how macroeconomics developed, and the ideology that has grown up around it, is every bit as important and interesting."--Mark Thoma, University of Oregon

"This is a terrific book. Quiggin is an engaging writer, and the combination of quotations, history, theory, and hard evidence makes the book quite a page-turner."--Andrew Leigh, Australian National University

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Hardcover Edition edition (October 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691145822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691145822
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #387,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

143 of 157 people found the following review helpful By D. J. Albers on December 11, 2010
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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68 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 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 By George Bush HALL OF FAME on 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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