David Throsby reviews 'Good Economics for Hard Times: Better answers to our biggest problems' by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
A survey conducted in the UK in 2017 asked people whether they trusted the opinions of a variety of experts, such as doctors, scientists, and nutritionists. Economists came second last in a big field, beaten to the bottom only by politicians. How can it be that practitioners of an academic discipline that traces its intellectual history back at least 250 years have sunk so low in popular esteem? It seems that the blame rests not with economists themselves, most of whom are honest and well-intentioned individuals whose main handicap, at least among the males of the species, is their legendary boringness and appalling taste in ties.... (read more)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that pride comes before a fall, and ‘Anyone with a historical sense would have realised that the hubristic attempt to make the world into a frontier and culture-free single market would end in tears.’ This opening salvo in Professor Robert Skidelsky’s new book is part of his answer to what is wrong with economics. Besides arrogance, this includes amorality, ahistoricism, sociopathy, over-formalisation, and unscientific dogmatism.... (read more)
As part of his budget speech to the House of Representatives in April, Josh Frydenberg, the federal treasurer, announced that his suite of policy changes would ‘deliver better outcomes for all Australians’. Such talk is par for the course in parliamentary democracies ...... (read more)
Kieran Pender reviews 'Moneyland: Why thieves and crooks now rule the world and how to take it back' by Oliver Bullough
The world, according to writer Oliver Bullough, has a problem. One unexpected consequence of globalisation and the liberalisation of financial policy has been an increasing flow of money across borders. This has given rise to a new global élite. Aided by seemingly respectable lawyers, bankers, and real estate agents ...... (read more)
Recently I solicited impressions of his job from the new head of external affairs at a big financial organisation. What had struck him first was the manpower at his disposal. The total headcount ran into many hundreds – larger than most if not all Australia’s print and electronic newsrooms. There was not merely one department. Each division of the institution had its own well-resourced team ...... (read more)
Richard Walsh reviews 'Fair Share: Competing claims and Australia’s economic future' by Stephen Bell and Michael Keating
This is not a book with immediate appeal for the general reader, who is likely to be deterred by the denseness of its analysis. That is unfortunate, because its message deserves to be widely disseminated. It provides a useful account of economic history since the end of World War II, both internationally and ...... (read more)
Rémy Davison reviews 'The Big Four: The curious past and perilous future of the global accounting monopoly' by Ian D. Gow and Stuart Kells
What’s an accountant’s favourite book? 50 Shades of Grey. But in a world of transfer pricing and Special Purpose Entities, suddenly accounting isn’t funny anymore. A 1976 Congressional report noted that the Big Eight accounting firms controlled ‘virtually all aspects of accounting and auditing in the US’ ...... (read more)
For maybe one century the subject called Economics was monarch of the social sciences. Then the Western world was poorer than it is now, and many economists promised to find a pathway towards the abolition of hunger and unemployment. They also hoped to abolish war: the eager ideologies of free trade were believed by their disciples to be long-term recipes for intern ...
Simon Tormey reviews ‘Adults in the room: My battle with Europe’s deep establishment’ by Yanis Varoufakis
The blurb on the back of the book describes Varoufakis as ‘the most interesting man in the world’. It is a wonderful epithet and might even be true considering the interest that Varoufakis excites in the press and media. On another reading, he is also the luckiest man in the world given the extraordinary nature of his leap from talented if unheralded academic economist to Greek finance minister to international speaker and best-selling author. This is an important as well as an entertaining work: part diary, part critique of European political economy, and part thriller featuring a cast of villains of whom Ian Fleming would be proud. It is a heady concoction and a gripping read.... (read more)
What is money, how do we create it, and how politically significant is its production? In The Production of Money, political economist Ann Pettifor makes the striking claim that the way we currently produce money gives rise to one of the most substantial challenges facing Western democracy. But how could this be so? Money is produced by printing presses and ...