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Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic EconomicsEconomics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt

My Rating★★★☆☆

 

This is a true ‘Economics or Dummies’ book. It can be useful in case you want something handy to bang over an economic nit-wit’s head on short notice. Only such a dummy would be unable to puncture your simplistic arguments or need them in the first place. Beyond that, it is hard to envisage much use for this volume, whether for serious discussion or for serious reflection. So if the initial bang was not good enough and if you pack no other arsenal, you might as well get out of there, and fast. This failing is primarily for want of breadth of scope and an explicit avoidance of addressing possible arguments.

After all, any book that promises to redue an antire discipline to ‘one lesson’ should not expect to have much more efectiveess than a poorly aimed sledge hammer.

Of course, there is a case for reading a book like this. Firstly, it might have been useful and even an essential book back then. Textbooks lack bite. Sometimes a book needs to come along that takes a point of view and is not shy of an argument, and of drilling in a single pov to the point of exhaustion. Which is probably why this book has lasted 50 odd years and is still only moderately outdated.

But to a modern student, such an unqualified approach can only seem like sophistry. He is too jaded to believe in panaceas.

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Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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Marxism: Philosophy and Economics by Thomas Sowell

Marxism: Philosophy and Economics

Marxism: Philosophy and Economics by Thomas Sowell

My Rating★★★★☆

A subtle paean to Engels. Paints a picture of Engels as the precursor, refiner and ultimately the author of most of what today bears Marx’s name. I exaggerate but it is only because this take amazes me. The book is a great intro to Marxism and takes special care to interpret Marx on his own terms and to stick to all his terminologies and conventions and thus resolve some of the apparent contradictions. This is definitely a work I will keep in mind during my soon-to-begin exploration of Marx’s works and later interpretations.

When the conclusion has a passage like this, it makes the book so worth it! –

The Marxist constituency has remained as narrow as the conception behind it. The Communist Manifesto, written by two bright and articulate young men without responsibility even for their own livelihoods—much less for the social consequences of their vision—has had a special appeal for successive generations of the same kinds of people.

Not to Mention:

Despite the massive intellectual feat that Marx’s Capital represents, the Marxian contribution to economics can be readily summarized as virtually zero. Professional economics as it exists today reflects no indication that Karl Marx ever existed. This neither denies nor denigrates Capital as an intellectual achievement, and perhaps in its way the culmination of classical economics. But the development of modern economics had simply ignored Marx. Even economists who are Marxists typically utilize a set of analytical tools to which Marx contributed nothing, and have recourse to Marx only for ideological, political, or historical purposes.

In professional economics, Capital was a detour into a blind alley, however historic it may be as the centerpiece of a worldwide political movement. What is said and done in its name is said and done largely by people who have never read through it, much less followed its labyrinthine reasoning from its arbitrary postulates to its empirically false conclusions. Instead, the massive volumes of Capital have become a quasi-magic touchstone—a source of assurance that somewhere and somehow a genius “proved” capitalism to be wrong and doomed, even if the specifics of this proof are unknown to those who take their certitude from it.

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Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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