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Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 10, 2017
"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. Pre-order today
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“For generations, we’ve been told that there’s a simple framework that can explain the mysteries of how the economy can create optimal outcomes for us all. What James Kwak shows us is that this set of ideas—what he calls ‘economism’—is magical thinking; it’s certainly not grounded in science and evidence. In this pithy book of accessible prose, Kwak begs us to contend with the messiness of the real world—and the inequality our economic system has spawned—before it’s too late.”
—Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist, Washington Center for Equitable Growth
“In this beautiful and accessible book, James Kwak shows us how a simplistic idea about economics has captured policy-making to the detriment of sensible policy. No book better frames this pathology or better supplies the resources for resisting it.”
—Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School
“For years, I’ve encountered people with a strong sense that many economic arguments in support of the status quo are not just inequitable, but wrong. With Economism, they’ve got the proof they’ve been waiting for, presented in language non-economists can understand.”
—Jared Bernstein, senior fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
“The next time some smug friend insists that a higher minimum wage guarantees higher unemployment or that American medical care costs so much because government is so involved, give them the gift of Economism. Better yet, convince them the book will increase their utility, not to mention their knowledge of how markets really work. Kwak has written the myth-buster that our distorted economic debate needs. And he’s made it fun—er, welfare-enhancing—to read.”
—Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science, Yale University
“In crisp prose, Kwak time and again debunks froshmoric economics platitudes to show why the minimum wage might decrease unemployment, why taxing profits might not reduce investment, and even why (gasp) free socialized medicine might not lead to overconsumption of health care.”
—Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend Professor of Law, Yale Law School
“Makes an important case that the fetish of ‘efficient markets’ has distorted American politics. Kwak shows that it is bad economics but potent ideology, and it has distorted debates about labor law, international trade, and financial regulation. This clearly written book is an excellent dissection of some bad ideas that have been allowed to masquerade as common sense for too long.”
—Jedediah Purdy, Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law, Duke Law School
“Politicians and pundits proclaim with the pomposity that many in Washington take to be gravitas that any tinkering with market forces will have unhappy results. But as Kwak shows, the dogma is often a self-serving pretext for policies that have led to extreme and growing concentration of income and wealth, and requires disregarding observable real-world experience.”
—Brad Miller, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the House Committee on Financial Services
About the Author
JAMES KWAK is a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law and the co-author, with Simon Johnson, of 13 Bankers and White House Burning. He has a Ph.D. in intellectual history from UC Berkeley and a J.D. from the Yale Law School. Before going to law school, he worked in the business world as a management consultant and a software entrepreneur.
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Kwak has nothing against economics, but he wants to see economics used as a tool, based on hard evidence, rather than as a profession of faith to justify policies that favor the 0.1%. As a professional economist, I think he has got it right.
I really appreciated that Mr. Kwak carefully and thoroughly explains the (neo)classical positions on the above mentioned subjects before explaining why and how the actual results don't match the predicted (neo)classical results. Many authors will provide incomplete or inaccurate descriptions of opposing viewpoints so that it will provide them better "leverage" to argue against their opponents. Mr. Kwak, however, rises above that temptation and provides fair and full explanations of (neo)classical economics that match up with the descriptions that I've read by proponents (and professors) of economics that I've read.
What I most appreciated was his chapter titled, "The Long March of Economism" that describes the rise of (neo)classical economics after the Great Depression and World War II. He carefully documents how certain economists (Hayek, Friedman, etc) were aided by a variety of conservative think tanks (funded by the rich) whose collective repetition of the over-simplified unrealistic models of (neo)classical economics eventually affected how economics is taught, changing popular beliefs and idealizing economics into a few simplified ideas, easy to understand. Sort of like choosing a calculator that shows that 2 + 2 = 5 but is easy to use and gives you the answer that you want.
This book should be required reading in all Economics 101 course taught in colleges and universities.