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The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers

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An introduction to the major economic philosophers since 1775. Beginning with Adam Smith and continuing through to the present day, this work examines the contributions made by each individual to the role of the economist, the science of economics, and economic theory.


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An introduction to the major economic philosophers since 1775. Beginning with Adam Smith and continuing through to the present day, this work examines the contributions made by each individual to the role of the economist, the science of economics, and economic theory.

30 review for The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lucas

    The history of economic thought told via chronological serial biography is a refreshing alternative to other more narrowly scoped economics books. After this book I feel like I have a more all-encompassing understanding of the major personalities and theories of the field, but the weakest aspect is the insistence on including all the tabloid details of the lives of the economists regardless of relevance to their public economic or political positions. The book is slightly more engaging for it bu The history of economic thought told via chronological serial biography is a refreshing alternative to other more narrowly scoped economics books. After this book I feel like I have a more all-encompassing understanding of the major personalities and theories of the field, but the weakest aspect is the insistence on including all the tabloid details of the lives of the economists regardless of relevance to their public economic or political positions. The book is slightly more engaging for it but could have been a third shorter. The economic theory of each subject is rated against the author's conception of economic freedom. A numerical rating could have saved a lot of additional text, or little more credit could have been given to the reader who after being presented with one theory is capable of comparing it to another. Part of that rating is the use of the phrases 'universal affluence' and 'natural liberty' in nearly every biography. 'Universal affluence', the author says, will be achieved after society completely accomplishes the economic system of 'natural liberty' imagined by Adam Smith. This utopian outlook undermines the authors goals- I'd prefer more grounded visions of economic growth percentage points better than current if one or another policy change is accomplished. Although some of the policies the author prefers are clearly defined, tax policy is repeatedly mentioned but without any conceptual backing. I see two sometimes contradictory policy goals at work in any discussion of tax policy- the desire to raise directly funds to accomplish some goal, and the the desire to incentivize or penalize behaviour or accomplishments. Any solution that doesn't address both is going to be lacking. Arguments against dis-incentivizing income growth with progressive taxation have to recognize that there's more money to be had for aircraft carriers or your government spending program of choice with progressive taxation than without. Redistribution of wealth can go two ways (simplistically speaking), in a democracy the public is probably going to want to err on the side of redistribution towards themselves, which means progressive taxation. Problematic use of 'limited' or 'small' government. When it's qualified with the metric of comparing public to private spending I have less of a problem, and it's easy to say that a high public/private ratio is bad for multiple reasons. But here and (in many other places in economic theory) it's easy to mistake correlation for causation, or improperly compare a nation and government in a very mature stage of development to a very immature one. The 'small government' phrase at face value marginalizes all advancements in constitutional government, rule of law, and democracy that many countries today are yet to achieve. Quotes attributed to Adam Smith emphasize freedom of the individual as opposed to collectives- and I'd include corporations and other aggregations of people and capital as collectives. Why then is no attention paid to large capital collectives in the form of corporations or trusts but so much to governments? Within a corporation, how is the central planning exercised there preferable to central planning of a government at least accountable to voters? If every company was small would not personal freedom be greater than one where very small numbers of large employers might dominate the profession of your choosing? I'd much prefer instead of the somewhat arbitrary anti-trust laws we have today that only target the very largest of the large, to structure laws to increasingly disincentivize growth of collectivizes beyond certain numbers of people (say 500) or amount of money/property acquired. A collective that's bigger than the ability of any member to recognize every other member is too large, and there are some amusing laws I can imagine to enforce the restriction. Monopolies and problems associated aren't really discussed in this book. Property exists because of laws protecting it, but in the authors view the government has to 'get out of the way' of property and exchanges of property. The physical body of the individual, and the property the individual lives on, and artifacts carried with an individual outside of the property they live on can be viewed as natural, but the naturalness of extensions beyond that get less justifiable. Intellectual property is especially problematic as viewed as an unlimited license from the government to create monopoly rights over abstract property. The physical property the government has to protect in law internally and from external invaders is fixed and obvious to all, but why should the government subsidize abstract property? Why not de-regulate intellectual property, or at least only grant a limited number of licenses to be auctioned off periodically? And certainly no one should be deprived of real physical property because of violations of abstract property rights. Many socialist/communist communes are mentioned, mostly because they tend to fail quickly or after a generation. But where are the Adam Smith communities? Could it be that nation-building requires values and attitudes at odds with economy-building in an already built country? In other words the costs of establishing a country were socialized by the founding citizens, and the profits of living there later on are then privatized. Prison privatization mentioned is mentioned in passing. It seems bad to make a profit oriented business in the name of economic freedom where the point of the business is to deprive individuals of freedom. Private military contracting isn't mentioned. Freedom of immigration is also mentioned in a list of policy goals of one economist, but the author does not discuss it much less openly support it. I suppose this is what passes for political correctness among the likely receptive audience of other policy goals more enthusiastically promoted in the book. Free immigration is an obvious corollary to free trade, but the political party most strongly agitating for less regulation on business and small government wants to vastly increase regulation and the size of government where immigration is concerned. Immigration restrictions are a form of government intervention into labor markets, and are therefore socialist in intent- that's not an argument for or against, just a statement of fact. Inheritance/estate/death taxes are mentioned negatively several times, but I don't really see what they have to do with economic liberty. If I had to make a choice between paying a tax while I was alive or while I was dead, I'd much rather go with the latter. The historical reasons for inheritance are understandable, but in the modern world why should the government discriminate on behalf of biological or adopted off-spring? Why not get rid of inheritance taxes and instead apply gift taxes uniformly regardless of whether the giver is alive or dead, or related to the recipient? Also if we no longer pass on debts to progeny, why make a special case for passing on assets? There's a strange claim that the government should only exist to uphold law (and provide national defense which I suppose is upholding the law through means of last resort) but then simultaneously business should be regulated less. What's difference between a law and a regulation? There's a vagueness when it comes to the author choosing to be on the side of monetarists like Milton Friedman, or on the side of supply-side economists. Supply-side economics is still government intervention but through non-Keynesian means, only Friedman can claim to truly avoid fine-grained intervention (though intervention in the form of changing the money supply is still advocated). As I understand it Friedman has no problem with tax policy to achieve any goal except economic growth, I say solvency should be the main goal of tax policy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Will

    As a reference, this book has its good points and bad. It is broad, managing at least to touch on nearly every important theorist of the last 200+ years. But in some cases this completist approach produces a shallowness of treatment (particularly with Pareto, Clark, Edgeworth, Knight, and others from that time) that calls into question the value of the breadth. Another point of weakness is that Skousen either cannot or will not provide the strongest and most plausible exposition of theories to w As a reference, this book has its good points and bad. It is broad, managing at least to touch on nearly every important theorist of the last 200+ years. But in some cases this completist approach produces a shallowness of treatment (particularly with Pareto, Clark, Edgeworth, Knight, and others from that time) that calls into question the value of the breadth. Another point of weakness is that Skousen either cannot or will not provide the strongest and most plausible exposition of theories to which he's hostile. Skousen's rigidity is such that even Ricardo, author of the Comparative Advantage argument for trade, appears to him to have been insufficiently enamored of free markets. Hence the work is only fully reliable on those theorists who have Skousen's full approval (broadly speaking, the Chicago and Austrian schools). The preface of the book contains Skousen's touching and humorous account of how he unintentionally killed Murray Rothbard. It goes downhill from there. Skousen's work continues in the long tradition of unjustly setting up Adam Smith as the first economist, and proceeds to engage in a sustained act of necrophilia with the famous Scotsman, carrying his corpse through the succeeding two-hundred years and comparing it favorably to every subsequent thinker who was less optimistic on free markets, while also claiming that the Austrian and Chicago schools advanced the true Adam Smith tradition. Skouson never settles on a single metaphor to pin this conceit to, and so sometimes he tells us we are hearing the story of "Adam Smith" himself, while at other times economic thought is Adam Smith's "house". This framing device is well beyond asinine, and one wonders how the editors allowed it to remain. Skousen acknowledges early on that the historical Adam Smith was no libertarian, in that he espoused a labor theory of value, opposed monopolies, wrote in favor both of land taxes and of progressive income taxes, and made the case for public schools and public works projects, but somehow this isn't the Smith that Skousen takes with him through the remainder of the text. Smith lived long ago so of course he didn't quite get his theory to be the way Skousen wants it. The chapter on John Stuart Mill is called "Milling Around." The chapter on Alfred Marshall is called "Marshaling the Troops." These are representative examples of Skousen's quick wit and devilish way with words. Skousen also thinks he can get us to put on a piece of classical music, chosen by him, whilst we read each chapter. Being a libertarian does not preclude being plenty meddlesome. In the chapter on Max Weber, whom he somewhat implausibly counts among the economists, Skousen asserts the real value of Weber's work to have been that theory must be based on empirical evidence. No theory that shirks this test is worthwhile, Skousen avers. He repeats this a bunch of times since there's not a lot else to say, which is one of the downsides of putting a non-economist in a book on economics. In the chapter on Ludwig von Mises, however, in which Skousen becomes ostentatiously unfaithful to the Smithian corpse, Skousen approvingly repeats Mises's opinion that empirical evidence merely tells us what happened one time in the past, and that the only reliable economic theory is one that builds from first principles and rejects empiricism altogether. Empirical evidence, in short, is for losers (the chapter is devilishly titled "The Missing Mises"). Between Weber's view and Mises' there is a certain tension, but in Skousen's way of seeing things this is apparently no problem. It is really only the ideological end point that matters, and the route to get there is chosen for convenience's sake. Two contradictory stories is not a big deal. Psychologists call this phenomenon "cognitive dissonance." Skousen is no psychologist, so you can't blame him for not recognizing it. Having been written and released at the high point of the "endless privitization and deregulation of everything!!" tendency that culminated ten years ago in rolling blackouts and the presidency of George Bush, this book has an unreal, triumphalist tone. Skousen assumes that his side has won and will continue winning, so he has the smugness of all who have succumbed to hubris. In attributing this tone to the era, I am perhaps being too generous, as I have checked Skousen's present output and he still sounds this way. Skousen has striven to provide a work accessible to the public, so he has larded it liberally with gossip. I trust that some of this is true, but Skousen seems excessively credulous -- his depiction of Pigou as a Soviet spy seemed to me at first to have been pulled directly from his nether regions, but when I researched the claim, I found that it stemmed from a single unreliable source in the mid-70s (and so far totally unsupported by information from the Russian vaults). We also get to see Skousen bombastically reporting on tepid episodes, such as Menger's affair... with a woman to whom he was not married! Skousen acts as though such banalities were quite scandalous indeed, much like a bored tween. We also get to see him musing about the causes of Keynes's homosexuality (he thinks it may have resulted from Keynes's estrangement from his father). Ten years ago it was all good fun to ponder this sort of thing, even for a lover of liberty. The book's treatment of Milton Friedman is of historical interest, given the rift that has since opened between the monetarists and the Austrians. Skousen presents Friedman simply as the knight in shining armor, who burst forth unexpectedly and saved "Adam Smith" (or is it Smith's house?) from the interventionist barbarians of Cambridge, MA and Cambridge, UK. One wonders how much more measured Skousen's assessment might be in future editions, given how much of a flashpoint central bank policy has become between the two schools, now that the business cycle has shown that it still can muster a vicious downside. Skousen says that Joan Robinson's left-wing comments on current events in the late 60s and early 70s were why the Nobel committee snubbed her (this much is certainly true), and that the comments were an embarrassment to her friends and foes alike. I do not see why her foes should have been at all embarrassed. Shouldn't they have been glad that Robinson was giving them fodder for criticism? I could really go on and on saying unfavorable things about this book, but I must acknowledge, again, that as a general survey it is not without utility. It cannot be recommended as a final authority, however.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    A very good survey of economic thought and those thinkers who've contributed to the field. While the author is very Conservative and his prejudices negatively impact his views of all thinkers who do not falling into his preferred category of free marketers, it is still a useful primer, especially for those not intimately aware of economic thought. As might be imagined, Marx comes off badly. But Skousen fails to even give Marx credit as a critic of capitalism, where Marx's thought is very useful. A very good survey of economic thought and those thinkers who've contributed to the field. While the author is very Conservative and his prejudices negatively impact his views of all thinkers who do not falling into his preferred category of free marketers, it is still a useful primer, especially for those not intimately aware of economic thought. As might be imagined, Marx comes off badly. But Skousen fails to even give Marx credit as a critic of capitalism, where Marx's thought is very useful. He does not bother to explore Marx's theory of capitalism ending inevitably in monopoly, he does not explore Marx's insight that capital knows no borders nor owes any loyalty save to profit. We have plenty of evidence of capital seeking to avoid competition, seeking to keep profits private but loses public. It does not speak to capital restricting labor, even employing extra-legal means to protect its hegemony. He speaks to perfect markets and their advantages. Skousen hates regulation and laws restricting trade. While Skousen spends very few words analyzing Marx as critic of capitalism he spends a lot of time showing how wrong Marx's theory of economics was. But he does spend a lot of words seeking to undermine the greatest economic thinker of the 20th century, JM Keynes. As might be imagined, Skousen spends a lot of time attempting to debunk Keynes theory of the business cycle. While Skousen's conclusions are tendentious his book is still a useful précis into economic thought and those who contributed to the field.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robert Jerome

    A knock off of the book "the worldly philosophers." This absurd book tries to find a market by appealing to right wing think tanks by copying a popular work, but altering it to conform to the free market fundamentalist ideology. instead of viewing each economist as a contributor to our understanding, they are interpreted as either keepers of the supposed smithian faith, or apostles of evil. the author even suggests musical pairings to reenforce the religious motif. Ricardo's introduction of the A knock off of the book "the worldly philosophers." This absurd book tries to find a market by appealing to right wing think tanks by copying a popular work, but altering it to conform to the free market fundamentalist ideology. instead of viewing each economist as a contributor to our understanding, they are interpreted as either keepers of the supposed smithian faith, or apostles of evil. the author even suggests musical pairings to reenforce the religious motif. Ricardo's introduction of the labor value theory is to be accompanied by Grieg's "in the hall of the mountain king" as he sneaks toward a subversion of the holy Smith. Marx the "diabolical" is to be read with the accompaniment of Holst's "Mars the bringer of war." Then Friedman is to be read along side the 1812 overture as he heroically battles down the doubter's of the one true Smith. The primary source for this book is one other popular book, not the academic literature. The clown that wrote this includes a few passages that seem to convey a belief that the popular press is a better place to go for knowledge than the academic literature. Clearly one of those geriatric professors who was tenured in a day when there wasn't much to the field and now cannot publish in an academic field for which he is inadequate.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

    I listened to the audiobook. I'll probably listen to it again at some point; I learned a lot but also missed a lot. Skousen is an unabashed Adam Smith fanboy, but he's so up front about it that I didn't mind at all. (Not that I have any particular views on Adam Smith yet but usually I'd prefer a book like this to be a bit less biased.) I was a little irritated that the only section on a woman (Joan Robinson) had maybe a paragraph about her, and then twice that about the dearth of women in economic I listened to the audiobook. I'll probably listen to it again at some point; I learned a lot but also missed a lot. Skousen is an unabashed Adam Smith fanboy, but he's so up front about it that I didn't mind at all. (Not that I have any particular views on Adam Smith yet but usually I'd prefer a book like this to be a bit less biased.) I was a little irritated that the only section on a woman (Joan Robinson) had maybe a paragraph about her, and then twice that about the dearth of women in economics and a quick mention of "feminist economics". It wasn't so much a look at Robinson as a little section that said "There's one woman but she was crazy, not a lot of ladies in this profession." Other than that, though, lots of interesting stuff about all the crazy dude economists. The section on Marx amused me to no end. What a prick. Like so many Marxists.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I was slightly disappointed that Mr. Skousen's book, The Big Three in Economics, which I've already read, consisted of chapters taken wholly from this book. I suppose that the double-reading of those chapters helped refresh my memory, and I can't be too upset. That aside, I really liked the big picture that this book painted. It is not an economics book per se. It is really a historical writing about the lives and interconnectivity of the great economists since Adam Smith. Skousen is clearly a f I was slightly disappointed that Mr. Skousen's book, The Big Three in Economics, which I've already read, consisted of chapters taken wholly from this book. I suppose that the double-reading of those chapters helped refresh my memory, and I can't be too upset. That aside, I really liked the big picture that this book painted. It is not an economics book per se. It is really a historical writing about the lives and interconnectivity of the great economists since Adam Smith. Skousen is clearly a free-market advocate, so Keynesians and Marxists beware, you will probably have plenty to gripe about.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ilinca

    Considering how much I don't know about economics, surprisingly little went over my head. This is, in fact, a ground-level overview. I managed to understand why my former hero Keynes is not exactly worship material, and what Milton Friedman did for modern economics and so on. It's not a definitive history of economics - nor does it try to be; it's more of a compendium of economic ideas since Adam Smith, and why Skousen thinks they are right or wrong. But if you're in the ballpark of his ideology Considering how much I don't know about economics, surprisingly little went over my head. This is, in fact, a ground-level overview. I managed to understand why my former hero Keynes is not exactly worship material, and what Milton Friedman did for modern economics and so on. It's not a definitive history of economics - nor does it try to be; it's more of a compendium of economic ideas since Adam Smith, and why Skousen thinks they are right or wrong. But if you're in the ballpark of his ideology, it's an interesting read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Probably not a book for the general reader, but if you are a student of economics this is a very readable history of the important economists from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman. The author acknowledges that he has a bias towards free market economics so people likes Hayek and Mises are portrayed favorably while Keynes and Samuelson and especial Marx are shown as flawed. Given the dismal results of socialist economic models, I think this book, those biased, is an accurate history.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Spawk Hw

    I support the free market. I love msies, hayek, rothabrd ect. But this book sucked. It was more about their lives then their ideas. And the bias was so bad that he neglected key arguments from opponent. If your looking for an Austrian history of economic thought, but rothabrds. If your looking for shit, find a dog. No one needs this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom Gagne

    What an incredible history! Having read Adam Smith I found this book interesting as the differences between Wealth of Nations were well explained. Especially interesting was the comparison of Keynes' economics to Smith's. That said, I'm anxious to read more about Keynes and Friedman to better appreciate the struggle between these two outlooks on public policy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John Kaufmann

    A good history of economic thought. The author gets beyond the familiar explanations and interpretations. You see the philosophies of Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, John Maynard Keynes, and others in more complexity than is typically conveyed. Doesn't seem to have a major left or right slant, but portrays the philosophies as reactions to consequences of earlier theories and practices.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    A great historical overview. Highly recommended for those interested in acquiring some base knowledge of Economics. I will definitely be adding to the bibliography I provide my students.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Will

    As a reference, this book has its good points and bad. It is broad, managing at least to touch on nearly every important theorist of the last 200+ years. But in some cases this completist approach produces a shallowness of treatment (particularly with Pareto, Clark, Edgeworth, Knight, and others from that time) that calls into question the value of the breadth. Another point of weakness is that Skousen either cannot or will not provide the strongest and most plausible exposition of theories to w As a reference, this book has its good points and bad. It is broad, managing at least to touch on nearly every important theorist of the last 200+ years. But in some cases this completist approach produces a shallowness of treatment (particularly with Pareto, Clark, Edgeworth, Knight, and others from that time) that calls into question the value of the breadth. Another point of weakness is that Skousen either cannot or will not provide the strongest and most plausible exposition of theories to which he's hostile. Skousen's rigidity is such that even Ricardo, author of the Comparative Advantage argument for trade, ardent champion of laissez-faire, appears to him to have been insufficiently enamored of free markets. Hence the work is only fully reliable on those theorists who have Skousen's full approval (broadly speaking, the Chicago and Austrian schools). The preface of the book contains Skousen's touching and humorous account of how he unintentionally killed Murray Rothbard. It goes downhill from there. Skousen's presentation continues in the long tradition of unjustly setting up Adam Smith as the first economist, and proceeds to engage in a sustained act of necrophilia with the famous Scotsman, carrying his corpse through the succeeding two-hundred years and comparing it favorably to every subsequent thinker who was less optimistic on free markets, while also claiming that the Austrian and Chicago schools advanced the true Adam Smith tradition. Skouson never settles on a single metaphor to pin this conceit to, and so sometimes he tells us we are hearing the story of "Adam Smith" himself, while at other times economic thought is Adam Smith's "house". This framing device is well beyond asinine, and one wonders how the editors allowed it to remain. Skousen acknowledges early on that the historical Adam Smith was no libertarian, in that he espoused a labor theory of value, opposed monopolies, wrote in favor both of land taxes and of progressive income taxes, and made the case for public schools and public works projects, but somehow this isn't the Smith that Skousen takes with him through the remainder of the text. Smith lived long ago so of course he didn't quite get his theory to be the way Skousen wants it. The chapter on John Stuart Mill is called "Milling Around." The chapter on Alfred Marshall is called "Marshaling the Troops." These are representative examples of Skousen's quick wit and devilish way with words. Skousen also thinks he can get us to put on a piece of classical music, chosen by him, whilst we read each chapter. Being a libertarian does not preclude being plenty meddlesome. In the chapter on Max Weber, whom he somewhat implausibly counts among the economists, Skousen asserts the real value of Weber's work to have been that theory must be based on empirical evidence. No theory that shirks this test is worthwhile, Skousen avers. He repeats this a bunch of times since there's not a lot else to say, which is one of the downsides of putting a non-economist in a book on economics. In the chapter on Ludwig von Mises, however, in which Skousen becomes ostentatiously unfaithful to the Smithian corpse, Skousen approvingly repeats Mises's opinion that empirical evidence merely tells us what happened one time in the past, and that the only reliable economic theory is one that builds from first principles and rejects empiricism altogether. Empirical evidence, in short, is for losers (the chapter is cleverly titled "The Missing Mises"). Between Weber's view and Mises' there is a certain tension, but in Skousen's way of seeing things this is apparently no problem. It is really only the ideological end point that matters, and the route to get there is chosen for convenience's sake. Two contradictory stories is not a big deal. Psychologists call this phenomenon "cognitive dissonance." Skousen is no psychologist, so you can't blame him for not recognizing it. Having been written and released at the high point of the "endless privitization and deregulation of everything!!" tendency that culminated ten years ago in rolling blackouts and the presidency of George Bush, this book has an unreal, triumphalist tone. Skousen assumes that his side has won and will continue winning, so he has the smugness of all who have succumbed to hubris. In attributing this tone to the era, I am perhaps being too generous, as I have checked Skousen's present output and he still sounds this way. Skousen has striven to provide a work accessible to the public, so he has larded it liberally with gossip. I trust that some of this is true, but Skousen seems excessively credulous -- his depiction of Pigou as a Soviet spy seemed to me at first to have been pulled directly from his nether regions, but when I researched the claim, I found that it stemmed from a single unreliable source in the mid-70s (and so far totally unsupported by information from the Russian vaults). We also get to see Skousen bombastically reporting on tepid episodes, such as Menger's affair... with a woman to whom he was not married! Skousen acts as though such banalities were quite scandalous indeed, much like a bored tween. We also get to see him musing about the causes of Keynes's homosexuality (he thinks it may have resulted from Keynes's estrangement from his father). It's all good fun to treat homosexuality as a failing or a pathology, even for a lover of liberty. The book's treatment of Milton Friedman is of historical interest, given the rift that has since opened between the monetarists and the Austrians. Skousen presents Friedman simply as the knight in shining armor, who burst forth unexpectedly and saved "Adam Smith" (or was it Smith's house?) from the interventionist barbarians of Cambridge, MA and Cambridge, UK. One wonders how much more measured Skousen's assessment might be in future editions, given how much of a flashpoint central bank policy has become between the two schools, now that the business cycle has shown that it still can muster a vicious downside. Skousen says that Joan Robinson's left-wing comments on current events in the late 60s and early 70s were why the Nobel committee snubbed her (this much is certainly true), and that the comments were an embarrassment to her friends and foes alike. I do not believe that her foes were embarrassed. Most foes like it when their enemies say embarrassing things. I certainly take pleasure in the embarrassing things that Skousen says. I could really go on and on saying unfavorable things about this book, but I must acknowledge, again, that as a general survey it is not without utility. It at least does not make a pretense of objectivity: I will give it that.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Steyer

    I very much enjoyed this book. I was never an economics fan in college or graduate school and found it to be quite dull, boring and unmemorable. However, after reading Fed Up: An Insider's Take on Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America, I wanted to know more about the subject. I started reading Wealth of Nations, and then I discovered this book with a good history of economics and economics theories. I cannot comment on whether the author is right, wrong, or indifferent on 99.9% of the book. I very much enjoyed this book. I was never an economics fan in college or graduate school and found it to be quite dull, boring and unmemorable. However, after reading Fed Up: An Insider's Take on Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America, I wanted to know more about the subject. I started reading Wealth of Nations, and then I discovered this book with a good history of economics and economics theories. I cannot comment on whether the author is right, wrong, or indifferent on 99.9% of the book. Its really my first deep dive into the subject and I appreciated the ability to get a concise overview of the topic. I can comment on page 465 that the financial crisis of 2008 explanation is limited. The author fails to look at a simple fact that for thousands of years, banker made loans with the understanding that the borrower had to pad the loan back. The risk to the bank was the borrower would not. However, we created an environment where the bank did not care if the borrower could pay it back because they packaged it up and sold it transferring all risk and allowing all fees and profit. This lack of "skin in the game" and desire to apply prudent risk management to loans would have effected the economy no matter what.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tony Blair

    I had a hard time figuring out how to rate this one. Every chapter prior to the last one was a solid 4 star, maybe even 5 because I love economic history and this one seemed thorough and entertaining. The last chapter is barely a 1 star, though, because the author decides to suddenly make many strong statements in conclusion that are not even remotely backed up by the preceding book. It's like the thoughtful, relatively objective person that wrote the book asked his crazy, right-wing fanatic fri I had a hard time figuring out how to rate this one. Every chapter prior to the last one was a solid 4 star, maybe even 5 because I love economic history and this one seemed thorough and entertaining. The last chapter is barely a 1 star, though, because the author decides to suddenly make many strong statements in conclusion that are not even remotely backed up by the preceding book. It's like the thoughtful, relatively objective person that wrote the book asked his crazy, right-wing fanatic friend to write a blog rant and included it as the concluding chapter.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Neal

    Great book on The Lives and Ideas of The Great Thinkers in the world of economics, all the way from the free market ideas of Adam Smith to the socialistic ,communistic, ideas of Karl Marx to today's leading economists. A great debate between socialism and capitalism. A must read for any one interested in the effects of government policy on our lives.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dwarakanath Reddy

    Effortless read in the economics category.one of the best book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Poynton

    Excellent!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daffa Prayudya

    What an incredible point of view from the great economist that make our world until now

  20. 5 out of 5

    BradMD

    Greatest book on economics I have read in years. Great introductory book and great review of the entire field.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zina

    First, the praise: I'm glad I read this book because I think what Skousen is trying to do is very important; by providing a coherent and engaging narrative about the history of economic thought, students of economics are better able to situate the particular theories they learn about. I personally felt like the book filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge (about second-tier economists, discredited-but-once-popular theories, etc.), so I am happy about that. It was also very accessible and had First, the praise: I'm glad I read this book because I think what Skousen is trying to do is very important; by providing a coherent and engaging narrative about the history of economic thought, students of economics are better able to situate the particular theories they learn about. I personally felt like the book filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge (about second-tier economists, discredited-but-once-popular theories, etc.), so I am happy about that. It was also very accessible and had a good mix of biography and theory given that it was billed as a book about "the lives and ideas of the great thinkers." That being said, there were several times I was so disgusted that I almost gave up on it. First of all, the history Skousen tells is incredibly biased. He says in the introduction that he's not trying to write an impartial book -- which is fair, except that his hero-worship of Smith, Menger, and Friedman combined with his sometimes scathing treatment of Keynes, Marshall, and Samuelson very often gets to be too much to bear. In the introduction, he says that many similar books use a horizontal continuum to visually represent the relative positions of the different economists (from totally free market <--> socialist). This reminds him too much of a pendulum, which seems to imply, he says, that some kind of compromise near the middle is the ideal and eventual resting place. So he replaces it with a VERTICAL totem pole-like visual with Karl Marx at the bottom and Adam Smith at the top. Really, Skousen, a horizontal line was too loaded with value judgment so you replaced it with a horizontal hierarchy instead?! This turned out to be telling. The chapter on Keynes, for example, is called "The Keynes Mutiny: Capitalism Faces its Greatest Challenge." One gets the sense that even his treatment of the economists' personal lives is affected by whether or not he agrees with their theories. All in all, he suggests that there is a degree of consensus about the superiority of Austrian and Free Market economics (and the dangerousness of government intervention) that I feel fairly confident does not exist, which is why his partiality is such a problem. My second main complaint is related to the first, and it has to do with the way he creates an historical arc for the material. I think providing some type of narrative is important, both for the readability and the memorability of a book, but the way Skousen suggests that economics has been "completed" over the last century makes it sound dangerously inflexible. To me, one of the main lessons to come out of the story he tells is that economic theory is never permanent: he makes fun of the confidence conveyed by Mill and Ricardo about their theory of value (which has since been discredited), but he is fully guilty of the exact same overconfidence and hubris in suggesting that the monetarists found the "last piece of the puzzle" and that free market theory is the ultimate and permanent rendition of economic theory. I think, in short, that he could benefit from reading some Kuhn or even Lakatos -- he seems to believe that the "revolutions" which he discusses in every chapter have ended with Friedman. Finally, a more narrow complaint: the book says that it is updated with new information on the financial crisis of 2008. In reality, there is about 3/4 of a page on the subject. More importantly, though, the final few chapters are characterized by an optimism about the future of capitalism that exemplifies the naive pre-crisis attitude within economics that has since been condemned and even partially blamed for the crisis itself. He sings the praises of deregulation and says that socialism is on the retreat. This tone strikes me as totally inappropriate given the events of the last few years (or, if it is defensible, he should at least *defend* it by explaining away the crisis), and suggests that although he added that page on the crisis, he didn't revise anything else.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Johnrh

    I listened to the audiobook version. Audio: 5 star. Excellent. Clear, well-spoken, easily understood. The levels of voice volume and inflection were even throughout with only slight fluctuations occasionally. Content: 5 star. LOADED with biographical information on economists from the 17th century pre-Adam Smith to the present. (I've heard of the "biggies" but I had no idea there were so many others.) It's also loaded with the gems of economic theory and application from those economists. I only I listened to the audiobook version. Audio: 5 star. Excellent. Clear, well-spoken, easily understood. The levels of voice volume and inflection were even throughout with only slight fluctuations occasionally. Content: 5 star. LOADED with biographical information on economists from the 17th century pre-Adam Smith to the present. (I've heard of the "biggies" but I had no idea there were so many others.) It's also loaded with the gems of economic theory and application from those economists. I only read economics for my personal education but it seems to me the author covers the subject(s) quite well. IMO this might be a good textbook for Intro to Economics or Economic History. Context: 3 star. I suspect this fine history and reference book may be better to read than to listen to. First, the subject matter jumps around alot. This is probably due to the numerous sidebars and graphs the author mentions in his introduction. Still, it is disconcerting and somewhat hard to follow in the spoken work. Second, some of the gems of economic theory and practice tend to fly right by. Yes, I rewind from time to time but that gets annoying, and you can't easily, if at all, bookmark those gems for later replay. This is the kind of book in written form I would want to reference often, leaf back and forth, look up things in the Index, etc. I found the list of figures, illustrations, and photos online and there are a LOT of them, which of course you won't have in audio.

  23. 4 out of 5

    J.A.A. Purves

    With the existence and ready availability of clear, concise and modest summaries like this one, it is simply inexcusable for anyone to participate public debate about economic matters without the knowledge this book contains. If you are only going to remain a lay economist, and most of us are, then you need at least a elementary grasp of the foundational thinkers and ideas in economics. Here Mr. Skousen gives consideration thought and discussion to the main ideas of Richard Cantillon, Charles de With the existence and ready availability of clear, concise and modest summaries like this one, it is simply inexcusable for anyone to participate public debate about economic matters without the knowledge this book contains. If you are only going to remain a lay economist, and most of us are, then you need at least a elementary grasp of the foundational thinkers and ideas in economics. Here Mr. Skousen gives consideration thought and discussion to the main ideas of Richard Cantillon, Charles de Montesquieu, Bonnot de Condillac, Jacques Turgot, Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, Frederic Bastiat, Marquis de Condorcet, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Carl Menger, Eugen Bohm-Bawerk, William Stanley Jevons, Alfred Marshall, Leon Walras, Henry George, John Bates Clark, Frank A. Fetter, Wesley C. Mitchell, Thorstein Veblen, Max Weber, Irving Fisher, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich A. Hayek, John Maynard Keynes, Paul A. Samuelson, Murray N. Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, Frank H. Knight, George Stigler, Milton Friedman, Joseph Schumpeter and Arthur B. Laffer (among others). Most public discourse concerning questions of economics is conducted in complete ignorance of the work and history of these thinkers. Mr. Skousen has given us the opportunity to remedy this. This is a book I will re-read and then re-read again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ross Bennett

    If you live outside the mindset of economics and have wondered what the interest could possibly be, or if your experience with it has been an exhausting path between rote drudgery and socio-political propaganda, this book could turn everything around so you see the joy of economic studies and theory. With the accounts of the many prominent economists visited in the book are explorations about why economics has attracted, seduced, and sometimes exalted or damned those who've played with its fires. If you live outside the mindset of economics and have wondered what the interest could possibly be, or if your experience with it has been an exhausting path between rote drudgery and socio-political propaganda, this book could turn everything around so you see the joy of economic studies and theory. With the accounts of the many prominent economists visited in the book are explorations about why economics has attracted, seduced, and sometimes exalted or damned those who've played with its fires. As each subsequent generation of economic thought is added to the mix, it becomes clear that it's not about whether Smith, Marx, Say, Friedman, or Keynes were wholly right or wrong; the astute economist sees it's about where each had their brilliance or had their blindnesses. And—good heavens!—one scarcely realizes that by the time one has finished, Skousen has deftly coached you through the high points of economic theory and you actually understand what the Fed just said in their latest report. I wish I'd had this in college instead of that terrible Principles of Macroeconomics text. I'd have learned much more. Highly recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ivo Fernandes

    This book summarize 200 years of economic theory with special focus on Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and Milton Friedman. I have read Adam Smith and Milton Friedman before, and I think that this "Making of Modern Economics" would be a great introduction to economic theory. This book starts with the discovery of Adam Smith in 1776, that the economic framework of a country greatly influences the wealth of nations, even more than the country natural resources, and then is the history of many e This book summarize 200 years of economic theory with special focus on Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and Milton Friedman. I have read Adam Smith and Milton Friedman before, and I think that this "Making of Modern Economics" would be a great introduction to economic theory. This book starts with the discovery of Adam Smith in 1776, that the economic framework of a country greatly influences the wealth of nations, even more than the country natural resources, and then is the history of many economists who dedicate their lives to try to understand what are the variables that we could change in a economic system, and how they influence our utility and in consequence our well-being. It's type of book that leaves you with more knowledge and less convictions. Because the economic framework is a mean to an end, and the end is how the people react and how people perceive the world that we are living in.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    A history of Economic Thought. However, for a history it is heavy, I mean heavy with the author's biased conservatism. For a book designed as a class room text, I find it a poor use of space to preach opinion on subjects that the economic discipline has yet to come to a consensus. That said, the history is thorough, there is always something new to learn when reading them. Mr. Skousen does a good job at keeping the reader engaged and interested in the topics at hand. That is no small feet for a b A history of Economic Thought. However, for a history it is heavy, I mean heavy with the author's biased conservatism. For a book designed as a class room text, I find it a poor use of space to preach opinion on subjects that the economic discipline has yet to come to a consensus. That said, the history is thorough, there is always something new to learn when reading them. Mr. Skousen does a good job at keeping the reader engaged and interested in the topics at hand. That is no small feet for a book on the history of economic thought.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    The book is missing "A very short introduction to" from its title. There's not a lot about economic theory here, it's mostly biographical summaries of well known economists. Contains attempts at humour, repetitions, repetitions and pretentious suggestions of "music to listen to" while reading a chapter. If you ever thought that to truly understand economics you need to know the sexual proclivities of famous economists this book delivers all the gossip you ever wanted. Honestly, why the author dec The book is missing "A very short introduction to" from its title. There's not a lot about economic theory here, it's mostly biographical summaries of well known economists. Contains attempts at humour, repetitions, repetitions and pretentious suggestions of "music to listen to" while reading a chapter. If you ever thought that to truly understand economics you need to know the sexual proclivities of famous economists this book delivers all the gossip you ever wanted. Honestly, why the author decided to include this is beyond me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rhesa

    This book is a miracle!, let me ask you a question, have you ever read a history of economic ideas that read like a novel? never! well this is an exception. This book is a study of the history of idea at it's best. From Adam Smith to Joseph Schumpeter. The author can bring the complicated to a digestible presentation to the general readers. He coupled the ideas with short snap of each thinker's lives. Simply the best!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rohan

    This book gives you the entire history of how world economics changed over the years and the important people who affected these major changes. In addition, it also talks about the circumstances and the personal life and events that actually affected the thinking of these influential men. As a person who just started reading his first book on economics, this book gave me more than I hoped for. Highly Recommended.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tyson

    Fantastic book about economics and how they affect our everyday lives. Written in a format everyone can understand. Not just about boring numbers, but about the lives and people behind the great economic theories of or time. Covering everything from Adam Smith to Karl Marx, a must read for anyone who wants to know more about economy and how it really works.

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