Economics Rules: the rights and wrongs of the dismal science
By Dani Rodrik
HB75 .R5785 2015
New Arrivals Island, 2nd floor
A work on economics hardly seems like one’s first choice for summer reading, but browsing through this little book highlights very readable writing and compelling examples drawn from recent economics history. Rodrik’s central thesis is that econ, with its plethora of mathematical models to explain every possible fluctuation, goes wrong when people – economists, politicians, or your average WSJ-reader – assume that a favored model of the moment is THE model that should be applied in all situations.
For specifics, he points out why some very popular thought-models of economists – including that rent caps generally reduce the quantity and quality of housing, that import tariffs generally are a bad thing, and that the U.S. should not forbid employers from outsourcing jobs – can be true in some circumstances, and false in others.
The talk of mathematical models gone wrong reminds me of another recent read from our collection, Jordan Ellenberg’s How not to be wrong. Among other chapters, he highlights how, when considering a vexing question such as whether the U.S.’s social net should try to be more or less like Sweden’s, politicians can draw very different conclusions depending on what mathematical model one applies to the situation. Preview his entertaining charts in Google Books here.
If you’re of an economics or mathematical mind, either of these might provide a fun read to keep your mind engaged in the break before school starts!