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Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality
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Here is a bracing deconstruction of the framework for understanding the world that is learned as gospel in Economics 101, regardless of its imaginary assumptions and misleading half-truths.
Economism: an ideology that distorts the valid principles and tools of introductory college economics, propagated by self-styled experts, zealous lobbyists, clueless politicians, and ignorant pundits.
In order to illuminate the fallacies of economism, James Kwak first offers a primer on supply and demand, market equilibrium, and social welfare: the underpinnings of most popular economic arguments. Then he provides a historical account of how economism became a prevalent mode of thought in the United States—focusing on the people who packaged Econ 101 into sound bites that were then repeated until they took on the aura of truth. He shows us how issues of moment in contemporary American society—labor markets, taxes, finance, health care, and international trade, among others—are shaped by economism, demonstrating in each case with clarity and élan how, because of its failure to reflect the complexities of our world, economism has had a deleterious influence on policies that affect hundreds of millions of Americans.
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Street Date:
01/10/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781101871201
ASIN:
B01EE0FBKA
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APA Citation (style guide)

James Kwak. (2017). Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

James Kwak. 2017. Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

James Kwak, Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2017.

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James Kwak. Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2017. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: JAMES KWAK is a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law and the co-author, with Simon Johnson, of 13 Bankers and White House Burning. He has a Ph.D. in intellectual history from UC Berkeley and a J.D. from the Yale Law School. Before going to law school, he worked in the business world as a management consultant and a software entrepreneur.
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title
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fullDescription
Here is a bracing deconstruction of the framework for understanding the world that is learned as gospel in Economics 101, regardless of its imaginary assumptions and misleading half-truths.
Economism: an ideology that distorts the valid principles and tools of introductory college economics, propagated by self-styled experts, zealous lobbyists, clueless politicians, and ignorant pundits.
In order to illuminate the fallacies of economism, James Kwak first offers a primer on supply and demand, market equilibrium, and social welfare: the underpinnings of most popular economic arguments. Then he provides a historical account of how economism became a prevalent mode of thought in the United States—focusing on the people who packaged Econ 101 into sound bites that were then repeated until they took on the aura of truth. He shows us how issues of moment in contemporary American society—labor markets, taxes, finance, health care, and international trade, among others—are shaped by economism, demonstrating in each case with clarity and élan how, because of its failure to reflect the complexities of our world, economism has had a deleterious influence on policies that affect hundreds of millions of Americans.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist, Washington Center for Equitable Growth
      • content: "For generations, we've been told that there's a simple framework that can explain the mysteries of how the economy can create optimal outcomes for us all. What James Kwak shows us is that this set of ideas--what he calls 'economism'--is magical thinking; it's certainly not grounded in science and evidence. In this pithy book of accessible prose, Kwak begs us to contend with the messiness of the real world--and the inequality our economic system has spawned--before it's too late."
      • premium: False
      • source: Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School
      • content: "In this beautiful and accessible book, James Kwak shows us how a simplistic idea about economics has captured policy-making to the detriment of sensible policy. No book better frames this pathology or better supplies the resources for resisting it."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jared Bernstein, senior fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
      • content: "For years, I've encountered people with a strong sense that many economic arguments in support of the status quo are not just inequitable, but wrong. With Economism, they've got the proof they've been waiting for, presented in language non-economists can understand."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science, Yale University
      • content: "The next time some smug friend insists that a higher minimum wage guarantees higher unemployment or that American medical care costs so much because government is so involved, give them the gift of Economism. Better yet, convince them the book will increase their utility, not to mention their knowledge of how markets really work. Kwak has written the myth-buster that our distorted economic debate needs. And he's made it fun--er, welfare-enhancing--to read."
      • premium: False
      • source: Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend Professor of Law, Yale Law School
      • content: "In crisp prose, Kwak time and again debunks froshmoric economics platitudes to show why the minimum wage might decrease unemployment, why taxing profits might not reduce investment, and even why (gasp) free socialized medicine might not lead to overconsumption of health care."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jedediah Purdy, Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law, Duke Law School
      • content: "Makes an important case that the fetish of 'efficient markets' has distorted American politics. Kwak shows that it is bad economics but potent ideology, and it has distorted debates about labor law, international trade, and financial regulation. This clearly written book is an excellent dissection of some bad ideas that have been allowed to masquerade as common sense for too long."
      • premium: False
      • source: Brad Miller, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the House Committee on Financial Services
      • content: "Politicians and pundits proclaim with the pomposity that many in Washington take to be gravitas that any tinkering with market forces will have unhappy results. But as Kwak shows, the dogma is often a self-serving pretext for policies that have led to extreme and growing concentration of income and wealth, and requires disregarding observable real-world experience."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from October 24, 2016
        A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, asserts this treatise from business law professor Kwak (coauthor, with Simon Johnson, of White House Burning), which observes how simplistic and misleading economic models migrate directly from undergraduate economics to Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. This is a book that has begged to be written for some time, although perhaps only today—now that the Great Recession has cast doubt on the free market’s infallibility—will it find a receptive audience even among economists. Kwak brings a refreshing irreverence to this upstart challenge to dogmatic ideas. He first sketches the supply-and-demand curves familiar to students of Economics 101, then goes beyond the “frictionless world” of the charts to explain how taxes, minimum wage laws, and international trade work in the real world. (Kwak, cofounder of a software company, has substantial business experience beyond the ivory tower, something all too rare among professional economists.) He also rightly questions modern economics’ moral underpinnings, arguing that material prosperity should not be society’s overriding goal. He has written a thoughtful counterargument to the classical economic ideas frequently encountered in public life. It should be companion reading to every introductory economics text. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn, ICM.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        November 1, 2016
        A spry manifesto that dismantles the many suppositions of modern economic theory.The fundamental duty of a corporation is to increase the wealth of its shareholders, is it not? It's in all the economics textbooks, and it rolls off the tongue of financial journalists and talking heads, all defended by the supply curve and the ineluctable laws of elasticity of demand. As Kwak (Business Law and Corporate Finance/Univ. of Connecticut School of Law; co-author: White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You, 2012, etc.) writes, "this is why Economics 101 has become the preferred conceptual vocabulary for people who defend and even celebrate the high levels of inequality in the rich world today." Economics as it is now taught, Kwak charges, is not really economics at all but economism, a near-religious, certainly ideological belief system on par with communism and other -isms in providing all the answers a believer would ever need. Some of the author's criticisms are aimed at the larger greedhead culture that thrives due to economism; some of them, too, are aimed at the discipline of economics itself, which uses such things as the demand curve to justify things as reprehensible as price gouging in times of emergency. The author excoriates economics for its mathematical soullessness and its lack of attention to "historical context, critical thinking or real-world applications," as a survey of undergraduate programs put it. He even manages to do a nice takedown, along the way, of the Leibnizian notion that this is the best of all possible worlds; for surely, he asks, there must be something better than "consumer surplus plus producer surplus." Indeed, as he argues, the world cannot turn on economics alone, and the notion of economism that the aim of all life is to increase wealth carries the prospect of social harm. Do the better angels of our nature demand double-digit profit? For a soft-path, smart refutation, Kwak's book is just the ticket.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from December 1, 2016

        Kwak (law, Univ. of Connecticut Sch. of Law; cofounder, Guidewire Software; coauthor, 13 Bankers) scrutinizes economism, which he describes as the misuse of basic economics to explain income and wealth inequality in the United States. After giving a nutshell tutorial on supply and demand principles, he explains how economism developed with the support of wealthy donors and corporations in the second half of the 20th century as a counter to the New Deal consensus and socialism. Kwak traces how its tenets of free enterprise and smaller government were spread by think tanks and the media to influence new generations of academics, politicians, and, ultimately, the electorate. Kwak dissects how such simplistic economic thinking fails to work in a complicated real world consisting of imperfect markets, unequal participants, asymmetrical incentives, and broad societal needs. In a series of chapters, he focuses on how economism has distorted discussion on the minimum wage, taxes, health care, financial market regulation, and trade policy. VERDICT Kwak's work strikes a major blow for economic literacy and complements Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. All readers, despite preexisting leanings, will find it both provocative and enlightening. [See Prepub Alert, 7/11/16.]--Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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shortDescription
Here is a bracing deconstruction of the framework for understanding the world that is learned as gospel in Economics 101, regardless of its imaginary assumptions and misleading half-truths.
Economism: an ideology that distorts the valid principles and tools of introductory college economics, propagated by self-styled experts, zealous lobbyists, clueless politicians, and ignorant pundits.
In order to illuminate the fallacies of economism, James Kwak first offers a primer on supply and demand, market equilibrium, and social welfare: the underpinnings of most popular economic arguments. Then he provides a historical account of how economism became a prevalent mode of thought in the United States—focusing on the people who packaged Econ 101 into sound bites that were then repeated until they took on the aura of truth. He shows us how issues of moment in contemporary American society—labor markets, taxes, finance, health care, and international trade, among...
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