*** Originally posted in our forum section moved here to the blog. ***
Amongst the erudite economic fellow postee’s here, would anyone mind posting some suggestions for definitive reading to get an overall neutral view on economics please?
I have heard a bit about Galbraith and am currently reading Thorstein Veblens ‘theory of the leisure class’ which is as much a social commentary as a book on economics. I have David Landes ‘ Wealth and Poverty of Nations’ which I haven’t read as yet and may invest in The Economists book on the subject.
Who are the most neutral writers on the subject that people here know of ? Appreciate the help.
Great questions! I went like this when I read your question Laugh
Neutral economics?! Come on! Honestly, there could be some fundamental economic views, however, everyone writes through a particular economic lens and therefore arrives with a certain bias. Your best bet is to investigate the top names in the opposing views. I.E. Classical economics (left wing) vs. Keynesian economics (right wing)…. Maybe throw in marxism for kicks.
What happened to my thread on Money Supply? I will probably give marx’s communist manifesto a read and for keynes I think Galbraith was an advocate of his so I will probably get The Affluent Society.
Hope the site gets swinging as it hasn’t got many decent competitors.
Isn’t anyone interested in how the world is run? Azoy as they say in Israel.
I realize this is rather tardy, but you may also want to try Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers. For a fairly even-handed history of economic thinkers.
Neutrality is only possible in stagnant fields. For instance, if you are interested in Shakespeare, you will find some good professors (knowledgeable and enthusiastic) and some bad ones (ill-prepared and bored), but they are all neutral. Nothing new has been said about the man for a long time.
Economics isn’t like that. No single individual (Marx, von Mises, Keynes, etc.) dominates in the sense that Shakespeare does; that is, in the sense that it goes without saying today that we need only study that one man and can safely ignore his peers. Organizations (such as the Mises Institute, http://www.mises.org) that try to convince you that their guy is the Shakespeare of economics are clearly not what you are looking for. There is no economist like that.
Instead of neutrality, may I suggest that you look for economists who are willing to engage in debate with economists of other schools whom they disagree with?
Look for a “rebuttals” page on an economist’s website to see if he willing to post negative reviews and rebuttals of his work. If he openly solicites reviews from people whom he knows do not agree with him, posts their rebuttals on his own website so you don’t have to search for them on the internet, and answers them politely, then he is clearly confident that his theory can withstand the scrutiny of his peers. But he is not neutral – he is promoting his theory, and his alone.
If an economist’s website has only glowing reviews and never even mentions the existence of people with different viewpoints, then he is not a scientist. He is a cultist.
Victor Aguilar’s website, http://www.axiomaticeconomics.com, contains a rebuttals page and is an example of what I am talking about.
I agree: the Mises Institute is a cult. I was into Austrian Economics when I was in high school, but now I’m an upper division econ major and my previous association with the Austrians is a bit embarrassing.
I read Aguilar’s Critique of Austrian Economics (www.axiomaticeconomics.com/critiques.php) and I thought it was really good. He raises seven serious objections to Hayek’s theory and also discusses Mises’ theory, which he is more charitable to (one of his axioms is similar to Mises’ Regression Theorem) though he finds fault with some of Mises’ other ideas, like originary interest, which Keynes also objected to in his General Theory.
Robert Murphy wrote a rebuttal to Aguilar’s Critique and Aguilar responded at http://www.axiomaticeconomics.com/rebuttals.php. I think Aguilar won hands down.
I’d be interested in hearing from some of the professors on this forum: Did Aguilar or Murphy win?
econ is cool!
Have you read Victor Aguilar’s book, Axiomatic Theory of Economics? What did you think?
Heilbroner’s Worldly Philosophers was written in 1953, long before the stagflation of the 1970s, and is horribly out-of-date today. Anyway, it was never very deep – mostly just gossip about various economists.
“The popularity of The Worldly Philosophers has no doubt been helped by its relatively small dose of actual economics,” writes one reviewer, http://dannyreviews.com/…ly_Philosophers.html
There is an good comparison of Axiomatic, Austrian and Keynesian economics at http://www.axiomaticeconomics.com/rebuttals.php that might be of interest to you.
I’m not sure how you can say a book on history is out-of-date, but it’s still read at top grad schools and is highly regarded by highly regarded economists of all schools I’ve seen. It’s not supposed to have much economics in it, but provides you with a background to much of economic thought. If you’re reading it to learn actual economic theory, you’re reading the wrong book.
For other ‘neutral’ books, I’ve also seen books that explicitly attempt to present two sides of any given issue. Vienna & Chicago: Friends or Foes? is one with an exciting title. I haven’t had a chance to read these sorts of books, but if they complete their stated goals even remotely well, it’s probably quite worth the cover price.
I think for the most part you’re right re: books. However, having said that, only the ‘classics’ remain timeless, and even then, very few at that. Things change, people change, societies change, choices change, and thus economics changes too. Unless we’re talking classics ,of which there are few, I wouldn’t say that all books are timeless 😛
Sure, I can agree with that, but I also think there’s an important difference between “timeless” and “out-of-date.” For example, I think most economists would argue that Wealth of Nations is both timeless and out-of-date.
A book is out-of-date when new facts or trends arise that are contrary to the message of the book, usually making the book’s message worthless or wrong. A 1915 textbook on economic theory might be called out-of-date. An 1880 book on King Tut might be called out-of-date (his tomb was discovered in the 1920s, at which time we learned much more about him). I wouldn’t ever call a history book “out-of-date” unless new facts emerged to show that what we thought about a particular topic was wrong or grossly incomplete.
Whether or not Worldly Philosophers is a classic doesn’t change the fact that the book isn’t out-of-date. There exists very good documentation on the major economic thinkers since Adam Smith, and it’s quite likely any such book won’t be out-of-date for quite a long time.
Again, I think something can be outdated, which puts it on the block to slowly loose its lustre and prominence. Few works are ‘timeless’ but I’m not sure I would classify it outdated. Just because the information is old does not entail ‘outdated’ as the info could be the historical foundation for the systems we understand today, therefore it has a function. The information ins not ‘outdated’ but rather ‘rudimentary’ to what we have built today. Not everything written falls under that category. So I think outdated is a worthy term. Thoughts?
I said out-of-date refers to being wrong or worthless due to new information. That’s different from using old information–old information could mean that there isn’t newer information available. I refer you to the wiktionary defintion.
Out of date:
“Not current, outmoded, out of style, or too old to be used.”
Worldly Philosophers is certainly current, in-mode, and is not too old to be used.
If you don’t agree with the definitions, or if you use the terms in other ways, you never said what you think “out-of-date” refers to.
Regardless, I didn’t really want to get into a semantic discussion. By this sentence, “Just because the information is old does not entail ‘outdated’ as the info could be the historical foundation for the systems we understand today, therefore it has a function.” You also seem to agree that Worldly Philosophers is not an out-of-date book, since the book has a function (and, specifically, you name a good reason to read the book).
To add to the original question:
Galbraith and Veblens certainly would not be considered definitive anything. Though Austrian economics is popular on the internet (where wordy people reign supreme), Austrian economists are certainly a minority of economists. Whether or not you consider economics biased, if you want to learn ‘mainstream’ economics, read up on modern-day Keynesians. It’s quite possible I’ll get a lot of flak for saying so, but that’s the truth. Second most popular school of economic though is probably the classicists. But not the Austrians.
Of course, people may say there’s institutional bias, as this is the sort of economists that universities produce and hire, but that doesn’t detract from the fact.
Nonetheless, if you want to learn about Austrian economics, feel free. But if you’re looking for a definitive tome of economics, that’s not the way to go.