- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (October 28, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300126069
- ISBN-13: 978-0300126068
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Classical Economics Reprint Edition
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Sowell sets forth a series of essays on one of the stages through which economics developed before emerging into today's discipline. He considers classical economics as the period between the 1770s and the 1870s, beginning with Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. We learn about the continuum of thought extending through classical macroeconomics, microeconomics, and methodology. His essay, "Sismondi" (J. C. L. Simonde de Sismondi), highlights the economic concepts and theories of a little-known figure whose historian's approach and lack of intellectual training and rigor relegated him unknown status. Sowell explores the ideas and contributions of John Stuart Mill as well as Karl Marx's systems of thought, which must be studied within the context of his time, those who influenced him, and economic theory in general. This historical review in the form of essays is important and insightful scholarship but is necessarily technical and hence will be a helpful resource to library patrons with a background in economics. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Thomas Sowell has written a detailed, intellectual history of the Classical Economists, putting the various authors into a cohesive framework for the first time. A good solid enjoyable book."-Robert Lawson, Capital University School of Management
"An important, beautifully researched collection. Sowell manages, with great scholarship, to clearly and simply explain both complex questions of economic theory and how they developed."-David C. John, Research Fellow, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, Heritage Foundation
"A very readable introduction to classical economics, aimed at students of economic thought, but also of interest to historians, philosophers and political scientists. Sowell clarifies important misconceptions about classical economics- especially regarding Marx, Malthus, and Sismondi. An impressive read."-Edward Stringham, San Jose State University
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There is much good to be obtained from this work. From reading this book, you will also learn about, amongst many other things, the following:
* The various ideas underwriting the methodology of the classical economics
* How David Ricardo shifted economists away from empirical observation and ideas and towards mathematical models.
* Say's Law. The extensive discussion on Say's Law is particularly helpful.
* The different theories of value amongst Classical Economists.
* Malthusian population "crises" and Marxian economics "crises". Sowell also does a good job of dissecting these ideas and exposing the fallacies contained within.
* A decent amount of insight on Adam Smith. For example, Smith was an abolitionist on both moral and economic grounds, he thought of landlords as "idle rich", disliked collusion, did not see society as merely a sum of individuals and favored regulations to handle externalities in public works and banking.
* John Stuart Mill's key ideas, including the idea that income is inversely proportional to the intensity of work.
* Karl Marx's exploratory method of sequential approximation in Das Kapital. That is, for example, in the second volume of Das Kapital, Marx refutes assumptions made in the prior volume and subsequently introduces new assumptions to correct the previous flaws. Thus, according to Sowell, many critiques of Marx's arguments, such as the famous one by Eugen Bohm-Bawerk, actually refute Marx on the same grounds that he later refuted himself. Nevertheless, Sowell still concludes that Marx's economic ideas are still deeply flawed, especially due to his overemphasis on the importance of labor.
Overall, this is a very good book to add to your reading list if you want a better picture of the history of economic thought. However, to reiterate, I recommend that this not be the first book on your list.
My main complaints are as follows. One, this book does get a little bombastic at times, which makes it a slower read. Second, although the summarizing conclusions at the end of each chapter are very helpful, Sowell sometimes probes deeply into pedantically settling minor points that are surely largely limited to academic interest when he could be spending more time illustrating the essential ideas at hand. For example, consider how Sowell repeatedly contrasts Sismondi's view with the Ricardian interpretation of Say's Law on whether an increase in savings *necessarily* leads to a subsequent growth in production.
Though Sowell does examine many of the `giants' in the field, and you will certainly recognize Keynes, Hayek, von Mises and others, you may also, like me, find some you are not so familiar with such as Engel and Sismondi, whom Sowell so deftly explains why his work was so important and also why it has been so neglected. A rather large portion of the book also focuses on the boy genius, John Stuart Mill, as well as critical insight into Marxian economics and why liberal campuses are to this day, so enamored with Marxian economic theory despite its' total absence from today's economic theater.
Contrary to the book's title, this is not just a history of classical economics, but is also an analysis of the various theories to arise from that era. There is an enormous amount of knowledge to be gleaned here and I would think in the very near future, this book, like several others of Sowell's work, will take its rightful place as a fundamental text among economics students, as well as others simply seeking to broaden their knowledge of economics.
For those of us who are not "in" the field of economics, Sowell lucidly explains such otherwise difficult economic issues such as the law of diminishing returns and why it was so critical to the economic minds of the classical era, the flaws of Malthus' doomsday theories on population growth, why Marx incorrectly thought capitalism would destroy the standard of living of workers, and much more. As always, Sowell's writing style flows extremely well, reducing complex theories and problems into comprehendible solutions.
Here's who this book suits:
You want a way to bring macro/micro and the history of economics into context. You are not scared of academics wrangling over nuances of definition. You have at least a cursory understanding of economic models and the methods used to make sense of data.
Thomas Sowell on Classical Economics does this in spades. His writing style is clear and without condescension.
If you are looking for a book that explains current economic cycles or events, this is not for you. This book will give you the background to understand what is going on, but that is not the purpose of this particular book. This is your adult economic course condensed.
For current insight, try Basic Economics, or Wonder Why, both from Thomas Sowell. Gems. Absolute gems.