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The Clash of Economic Ideas: The Great Policy Debates and Experiments of the Last Hundred Years Paperback – April 9, 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
To take just one example, Hayek long advocated privatization of money, i.e. government should get out of the business of printing (or minting) money and let competing private sector issuers do it. Sounds absurd, but White shows the logic in terms that can be understood by a lay reader, and that might be informative to a professional economist.
While White covers a great many issues, the common thread is the scope of government versus the scope of private enterprise and market forces. Thus at one extreme Oskar Lange claimed that, now that we had computers (written around 1950), bureaucrats could calculate a proper price for everything and there is no need for free markets to set prices (or for any other reason). At the other extreme, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock argue that governments usually act to please special interests, including bureaucrats and certain producers, at the expense of the general taxpayer.
The centerpiece of the book, however, is the argument between Keynes and Hayek, as to whether government should massively intervene when the ec0onomy turns down, or whether market forces should be allowed to play out.Read more ›
The book is much broader than the Great Depression covering everything from the debate over the proper role of government in the great Socialist Calculation debate to free trade to the debates behind what White entitles "The Growth of Government" (though this chapter was much too short).
I still have my criticisms. For example, I would have included a lot more economists in some of these debates, and I think that it is arbitrary who is given credit for making some arguments. For example, Donald Wittman's discussions about the efficiency of Democracies ignores the fact that Gary Becker had already made the central argument in 1976 in the JLE (of course, there were other less well known economists such as Earl Thompson who made a whole career making these arguments and published some of them in the JPE). And the book has a strong GMU bias in terms of which arguments it considers. And I disagree with some of the arguments.
But despite those minor quibbles, it is a strong book that is well worth the read.
The economic explanations are not very complicated and you do not need any background in economics to understand the book (except probably when it comes to discussions about interest rates). This is both a strength (large potential audience) and a weakness (only scratches the surface). Actually, I think the book would be ideal for readers interested in social/intellectual history. A good overview is achieved by digesting this book. There are also loads of useful references to the seminal works in the history of economic thought. It is also not bad for people with economic training who what a historical perspective - and that really should include all macroeconomists. Then it will serve as a great first reader (and you can subsequently follow the numerous references to find the original sources).
- This book compares favourable to Blaug's Economic Theory in Retrospect. Blaug's book is much more detailed when it comes to economic theory, but does not have the somewhat broader economic history focus. Blaug's book is originally written decades ago and some of the details are no longer that relevant.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was the book assigned for my Political economy core class. Was a very interesting and enlightening read. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
I got this book as a part of an economics course I am taking, and I have really enjoyed reading it. White helps the reader navigate the changes in economic ideas in a very clear... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Thomas Hall
Very useful reference to remind me of the distinguishing featuresPublished 14 months ago by Max Rawnsley
This book reads very easily. It describes a lot of debates about economic ideas, mostly about the role of the state and the markets. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Hendrik Bright
This is an extraordinary book that organizes nicely the most relevant discussions in the recent history of economics. And is also entertainingPublished on January 31, 2014 by Victor T. Olivo
White makes the overstated claim that his book is laid out like a Quentin Tarantino movie. Key facts are missing, and the presented information is chosen with bias, vital... Read morePublished on November 25, 2013 by BeeLess
If you want to understand the debates that are raging in Washington today over economic policy you really do need to read this book. Read morePublished on November 23, 2013 by Gregory J. Casteel