Jun

10

 Joseph SchumpeterA common complaint is that investors run in herds, throwing new money at whatever seemed to work yesterday. The huge success of the movie Gladiator led Hollywood studios to fund a series of genre knock-offs.

The unexpected success of Steven Levitt's Freakonomics, a popular introduction to innovative (mostly market-failure) economics, led book publishers hoping for another hit to sign book contracts with many articulate economists. So we have: John Lott's Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't; Tyler Cowen's, Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist; and Steven Landsburg's unfortunately-titled, More Sex is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economists.

I haven't purchased or read any of these so don't yet know the secrets promised in the titles. I think it is worth noting in regard to the Landsburg's More Sex title, that more sex for an economist is still not very much (with the possible exception of Joseph Schumpeter).

Sex aside, I highly recommend the short article by Landsburg linked at the end of Stefan Jovanovich's post, titled A Brief History of Economic Time. If those who teach history in our high schools and colleges were less ignorant about economics and economic growth, these straight-forward facts about progress over the last century would be less unconventional and less completely unknown to the public.

A more detailed look at economic progress in America can be found in the excellent annual report essays from the Dallas Fed by W. Michael Cox. The 1993 essay "These are the Good Old Days" is a classic.

We will see if sex and weird titles help new economic titles sell. (I wonder if Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science sold better than The Undercover Economist: Why the Rich are Rich, the Poor are Poor–and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Car?

A recommended alternative is Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Economics and Prosperity. And most highly recommended is Paul Heyne's textbook, The Economic Way of Thinking. The new edition is expensive, but the earlier editions are great and cheap.


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