Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Grand Pursuit?

Sylvia Nasar

One of the great, often-misunderstood, and complicated questions of our time is “How does the world economy actually work?”

Is the market economy the only game in town?
How does it work?
Is free trade helpful or harmful?
What role should government play in the economy?
Should it regulate?
Should it soften the blow of capitalism’s “creative destruction"?
Should it be able to run a deficit while doing so?
Will capitalism fail?

Citizens who want to vote for good government should be informed about these issues. They are all a part of what might be called “economic intelligence.”

I’ve just finished reading Grand Pursuit by Sylvia Nasar and really enjoyed it. Intrigued by an interview on the now-defunct Allan Gregg Show, I picked up the book thinking that it was going to be a history of economics told through the stories of the great economists. Reaching back to Karl Marx, through Keynes and Schumpeter and up to Amartya Sen, it turned out to be mostly a biographically rich history of the great economic events of the last 150 years, with a smattering of theory. Nasar's book is strongly biased towards the market economy and against Marx, and so I regretted her lack of a more analytical and balanced approach; however, I did love the breadth of her survey. She vividly describes the calamitous economic struggles and the equally vigorous doctrinal debates that ensued. If you are interested in raising your “economic intelligence,” you might want to start here.

- Ken

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