- Paperback: 348 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (May 31, 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521317649
- ISBN-13: 978-0521317641
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,139,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Economist's View of the World 1st Edition
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"Steven Rhoads draws from a wide range of sources to survey the views of mainstream economists on how the world works...a wide-ranging and cogent exposition of the state of economics and its relationship to public policy...the author is objective, making his book thought-provoking for both expert and non-expert alike." Cato Policy Report |x x "This is a wise and judicious book. Steven Rhoads is a political scientist who has profited a great deal from learning some economics and seeing how economists apply micro theory to substantive public policy issues." Journal of Economic Literature |x x "Definitely a book that a person who tries seriously to undertake multidisciplinary work between economics and political science ought to confront, for it usefully indicates the many ways one can display narrowness or overlook important causal forces in such endeavors." Roger C. Noll, American Political Science Review
This book explains and assesses the ways in which micro, welfare and benefit-cost economists view the world of public policy. The central focus of this book is the 'cross-over' from economic modelling to policy implementation. The author outlines the importance of a wider knowledge of microeconomics for improving the effects and orientation of public policy.
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First, the text was originally written in 1983 with no further editions or updates. Not only are the political references severely dated, the economic prospectus are lagging as well. This however, is not the major shortfall of this book. I find the author's writing style to be very difficult to comprehend. I find myself reading an re-reading the same material in order to properly digest his concepts. Perhaps it is me that is at fault and not the author as my undergraduate work is unrelated to the field of economics.
I will admit once you can understand the author's intent, the subject matter is relevant although dated. Rhoads spends far too much time quoting others than giving his own opinion. Furthermore, his style of writing is riddled with fragments, run-ons, and words only fellow Ph.D. candidates would possibly understand. I found myself spending half of my time looking up the words he chose to fully understand his intentions.
Getting back to the content of the book; Rhoads does provide for an eye opening interpretation of the economy or better stated the economist's viewpoint of policy issues both private and public. Simply stated, if you can stomach the writing style and comprehend the content, this is a valuable read. However, I must state that there has to be a more up to date simplistic approach to the world of economics, especially as it pertains to non-economists majors.
The book clealry describes the traditional justifications for government in a market economy, market failure; but also delves into government failure, and the limitations of democratic processes in shaping rational policy.
The book describes other economic concepts; marginalism, opportunity costs, welfare economics, pareto optimality in such a manner as to make their policy relevance very clear.
Underlying this non-technical and jargon free discussion is a well intended (and on-target) critique of the academic discipline of economics. Juxtaposing early economic thinkers with today's calculus driven analysts, Rhoades sees a dearth of span of vision. Technical expertise has overwhelmed broad understanding and mathematical brilliance has driven out a wide breadth of learning.
This is an great book for the serious reader and a must for graduate students in policy, PA or politics.
There is a huge weakness, though--It is very outdated. Too many references mention economists no longer active, like Charles Schultze (Carter's chief adviser), so I wouldn't recommend buying it, but it's worth a quick read.
Rhoads raises an issue about how the lack of microeconomic knowledge among politicians adversely affects the orientation and impact of public policy. He uses a number of meaningful examples to demonstrate his assertions. For example, politicians have established rent control to help the poor afford housing; but we ended up with the unintended consequence of slums, as the rent was not enough for landlords to maintain their property. It is clear that the public would benefit if politicians had a greater knowledge of economic theory when setting public policy. Rhoads, however, does not just single out politicians for their lack of economic knowledge. He also addresses the limits of economics and economic models in guiding public policy decisions. The concept of consumer sovereignty is largely a myth in the face of advertising and other producer influences. The ability to deal with the economics of externalities is not simple when attempting to identify and allocate public costs. Rhoads points out through his discussion that economists could learn more about public policy perspectives to temper their economic models, thinking, and prescriptions. Rhoads is credible in writing about public policy because he is a political scientist by training who is also knowledgeable about economics and objectively critical about its weaknesses.
Rhoads's work is significant because it shines a light on the need to integrate economic theory, sociology, and political science into the understanding and development of public policy. Would politicians make the same public policy decisions if they had at least a basic understanding of marginalism and opportunity costs? Would economists make the same recommendations if they had an appreciation for sociology, political science, and the myth of consumer sovereignty? Many issues that public administrators deal with today are economic issues wrapped up in a political debate. If politicians really understood externalities, would the nature of the political debate change from what actions to regulate to what material incentives would create the desired outcomes? If you assume that one role of a public administrator is to develop good public policy, then you have to agree that politicians need an economic base combined with their social and political experience to write good policy. Rhoads is uniquely qualified to argue this position and does so effectively.