Saturday, 4 March 2017

Book Review: Economix

Earlier this week I finished reading Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work) in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin. This book wasn't really what I expected, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I've previously read Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman's The Cartoon Introduction to Economics (both Volume I and Volume II), and was expecting a similar treatment of economic principles, illustrated with some mildly humorous cartoons. Instead, Goodwin takes the reader on a journey through the history of economic thought, from Jean-Baptiste Colbert and mercantilism in France in the 17th Century, through to Occupy Wall Street. The book is ably illustrated by Dan Burr.

One of my criteria for a good pop-economics book is whether or not there is anything in them that I can use in my ECON100 or ECON110 classes, and there were certainly a few bits that will be useful in that sense. I also found the discussion of the physiocrats in France useful for myself, along with the explanation of the centrality of the labour theory of value to Marxism, which I hadn't realised before. I guess that just reflects that I haven't deeply studies the history of economic thought myself.

The general reader will probably find this book interesting, but it is probably a bit America-centric for my tastes. To be fair, Goodwin makes this point early:
...while I tried to cover the whole world, I focused on the economy of the United States because I'm an American and that's the economy I live in.
Fair enough. Some may find the end of the book a little preachy, and if you have strong neoliberal beliefs you'll probably not appreciate many parts of the book. I found it to be a fair treatment, and there is nothing terribly controversial in it apart from perhaps one bit where Goodwin advocates a progressive revenue tax on corporations (which he argues would incentivise the corporations to split into smaller entities, limiting monopoly power).

If you're interested in the history of economic though, but not sure where to start, this is probably a better place than most. There is also a good amount of additional content on Goodwin's website, I especially like this timeline of economists.

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