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Classical Economics Reconsidered Paperback – June 1, 1977
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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"The discussion of Say's Law is one of the best in the literature and on its own would make the book worthwhile.... This is a lively book by a real scholar ... a man who knows his subject and who writes with vigor and with interest."--D. P. O'Brien, Economica
"Clearly presented, lucidly written, and informative."--The Economist
"It is a well-written and well-organized book. Illuminating insights (and some provocative conclusions) are scattered throughout."--Roger M. Troub, Social Science Quarterly
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So, for econ nerds, especially those of you who aren't as well-versed in classical economics as you should be, this is a great book, whose densely-packed insights belie the small number of pages.
He wrote in the Preface to the 1994 reprint of this 1974 book, "For a slim volume of four essays to survive for more than a decade, and then to be re-issued 20 years after its original publication, is not simply a matter of personal gratification for the author but, more importantly, a tribute to the continuing vitality of the enduring questions addressed by the classical founders (Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, and Jean-Baptiste Say) of economics."
Karl Marx was the one who coined the term, "classical economists," but John Maynard Keynes' use of the term (in his The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money) is perhaps the most famous. But Sowell argues that there were "serious questions" raised as to whether ANY economists "had ever believed the things attributed by Keynes to the 'classical economists.'" (Pg. 5)
Sowell observes that although Ricardo and James Mill served briefly in Parliament, "they were essentially anti-politicians in a political institution, and their distaste for it was apparent." (Pg. x) He also notes the participation of these economists in progressive movements of their day: e.g., schools for the poor, birth control, and child labor laws. (Pg. 29)
He states that Malthus, Ricardo, and Mill "all recognized that any specific, empirical measure of value was arbitrary, and ultimately had to be justified by its usefulness rather than its logic alone." (Pg. 102)
Sowell's book (his second; written long before his more famous books of later times) seems more like an "academic" work (e.g., like something written in pursuit of a graduate degree), but it is nevertheless an interesting survey of these thinkers---even if the insights it gives into Sowell's own ideas is rather minimal.