What I’ve been reading

1. Open Secrets of American Foreign Policy, by Gordon Tullock.  A history of the bloopers and stupidities of American foreign policy, from virtually day one.  If you think Gordon embraces a narrow, reductionist rational choice view of the world, here is the antidote.  Gordon tells me that foreign policy has long been his number one interest, although he has written on the topic only now.

2. One Economics, Many Recipes, by Dani Rodrik.  I agree with much of the substance of this book, namely that we know a lot less about the causes of economic growth than we like to think.  I am less happy with the implied rhetorical choices; in particular I wish Rodrik were more consistently agnostic.  For instance Rodrik defends industrial policy, but at times this just translates into lower (or no) taxes for export zones.  So why frame it as a larger rather than a smaller claim? 

3. The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by CrackpotEconomics , by Jonathan Chait.  I’ve taught Ph.d. macroeconomics to some of the people referred to, either directly or indirectly, in this book.  They didn’t all get A pluses.  So I see the talk of conspiracy as way, way overblown.  This book catalogs many good criticisms of the Bush administration, and in that sense is valuable, but it does not raise the level of debate.

4. Do Economists Make Markets?, an edited collection of essays.  How could they not cite Alex’s Entrepreneurial Economics?  Or pay homage to Robin Hanson and prediction markets?  Still, this is a useful introduction to how economists have tried to shape real world markets, from spectrum auctions to options pricing.


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