Apparently, a reader wrote in to Princeton University Press asking for a poster of the cover, which isn’t standard issue for university press books. But thanks to the Internet, all things are possible these days, and within hours, they have been made available.
In discussions about markets and innovation, I’ve repeatedly made the point that the biggest single innovation of recent decades, the Internet, was not produced by markets at all. It started in the university sector (aided by a little seed money from the US Defense Department) and was developed by amateurs and volunteers for a couple of decades before it was handed over to the dotcommers, who proceeded to waste a trillion dollars or so on silly get-rich-quick schemes.
I’ve never had the time to go much beyond that, but a recent book, State of Innovation, edited by Fred Block and Matthew Keller takes a close look at the process of innovation in the US and the role of government funding. The key conclusion
over the last four decades, government programs and policies have quietly become ever more central to the American economy. From “basic research” to commercialization, the fingerprints of government can be found in virtually every major industrial success story of the late 20th and early 21st century.
At least in part, this reflects the disappearance of big corporate R&D outfits like Bell Labs, and the conversion of General Electric into a finance company. But there are lots more interesting details about the relationship between startups, venture capital and public funding. Well worth reading.
Slightly anachronistically, here’s what I wrote for the LSE blog in advance of my lecture last night. The blog as a whole is well worth reading.
I’m speaking at the London School of Economics tonight, basically recapping my Zombie Economics book. It’s a bit late notice, but in case any London-based readers are interested, I thought I would give the event a plug here.
I’ve done a podcast discussion with Russ Roberts for EconTalk. There’s also a transcript of the highlights, great for people who lack the time/ to listen to a long podcast.
Although we are pretty much at opposite ends of the spectrum as conventionally viewed (Roberts is a George Mason prof and Chicago PhD and EconTalk is published at the EconLib site) we found quite a few areas of agreement, and had a constructive discussion on the points of disagreement. That’s partly because Russ is a good host, but also because, as Matt Yglesias noted in a tweet not so long ago, my critique of ideas like the EMH is very similar to that of Austrian-inclined critics like Amar Bhide. I plan to have more to say about this.
fn1. I also got a review from Arnold Kling on the same site, which began “I agree with some of it, which might be considered a rave review.”
fn2. I’ve retweeted this, but I don’t know how to hyperlink to it
Zombie Economics gets its official Halloween launch at the Irish Club, 6:30 tonight, courtesy of Birsbane Young Economists
I wasn’t quite sure whether I was presenting my own dangerous ideas, or talking about the dangerous ideas of the zombie economists, but either way it was a fun event. I’ve attached the presentation in various formats PPT and PDF (v large) formats, and a font you may need to read it.
I’ve been living with the text of Zombie Economics for a long time and the cover art came out a while back. But now I finally have my hands on a physical copy of the book, and it’s surprising what a difference the real object makes. My immediate reaction was to open it with dread, sure that some terrible error would jump out at me, but that didn’t happen (no doubt the reviewers will find them, but that’s their job).
With that out of the road, I’ve been filled with irrational confidence. “Surely”, I think, “even the most jaded traveller, passing this book on the airport bookstall, will feel impelled to buy it”. No doubt, this optimistic glow won’t survive the arrival of actual sales figures, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
That’s the title of Daniel Drezner’s review Zombie Economics along with several other post-crisis books. I’m glad he likes the title, but he offers what seems to me to be a rather unfair representation of my argument. As the author, I’m not exactly unbiased, so see what you think.
Although Zombie Economics isn’t due out until Halloween (end of October), you can pre-order from the Australian distributor (Footprint Books, form attached) or from the main US outlets (Powells, Borders, Amazon).
… for the first book review to come in, and happily, it’s a good one, from Buttonwood, who has long been my favorite columnist/blogger at The Economist.
Get more news as it happens on
The final proofs of Zombie Economics went off to the typesetter this morning, and you’ve all seen this evening’s news. So, I guess it’s time for me to end my hiatus, and make whatever contribution I can to the marvel of democracy. Not to keep anyone in suspense, I’ll be advocating a vote for the Greens.
Both here and at Crooked Timber, libertarianism is getting a bit of a run. So, can anyone find me a copy of Hayek’s prescient 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom, which predicted that the policies of the British Labour Party (policies that were implemented after the 1945 election) would result in relatively poor economic performance, and would eventually be modified or abandoned, a claim vindicated by the triumph of Thatcherism in the 1980s? This book, and its predictive success, seem to play an important role in libertarian thinking.
Despite a diligent search, the only thing I can find is a book of the same title, also written by an FA von Hayek in 1944. This Road to Serfdom predicts that the policies of the British Labour Party, implemented after the 1945 election, would lead to the emergence of a totalitarian state similar to Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, or at least to a massive reduction in political and personal freedom (as distinct from economic freedom). Obviously this prediction was totally wrong. Democracy survived Labor’s nationalizations, and personal freedom expanded substantially. Even a defensible version of the argument (say, a claim that, Labor’s ultimate program included elements that could not be realised without anti-democratic forms of coercion, and that would have to be dropped if these bad outcomes were to be avoided) could only be regarded as raising a hypothetical, but unrealised, cause for concern.. Presumably, this isn’t the book the libertarians have read, so I assume there must exist another of the same title.
I sent the manuscript of Zombie Economics off to Princeton University Press last night. There’s still plenty of work (figures, index, copyediting, some last-minute changes, galleys) to be done for a planned release at Halloween. But this is the official submission. In writing the preface I checked over the comments I’d received, here and at Crooked Timber. Several thousand in total, from more than a hundred different commenters. Thanks to everyone who took part. It was a huge help and encouragement to me.
My publisher just told me the publication date for my book has been moved forward, and the due date for the manuscript is “…well, now”. Lots needing to be done, and zero time to do it, but I’m sure I’ll manage somehow.
I’ve finally completed a near-final draft of my book, although some bits, such as the following ‘Reanimation’ section of the chapter on privatisation are still a bit rough.
I’m getting some good comments from readers here, and through more conventional academic channels, which should help me sand down the rough spots a bit. Anyway, thanks to all for the comments I’ve received. It’s made a huge difference to me, and made the production of this book a much less daunting undertaking than laboring alone.
Remember, before pointing out stuff that is missing, that an earlier draft is online here and may be worth reading to see where I’m coming from.
The deadline for the manuscript of Zombie Economics (last complete draft here) is only a few weeks away, and the zombies are popping up faster than I can knock them down. I’m adding a section on reanimated zombies to each chapter. Over the fold is the social mobility defense of trickle down economics, as animated by Thomas Sowell. There’s still time for me to benefit from your comments.
My book is due for publication in the US Fall, so work on my added sections on reanimation is starting to feel like one of those games where you have to kill all the zombies to get to the antidote before you fall victim yourself. Here’s another one – more on the way
I’m adding a little section to each of the chapters in my Zombie Economics book called “Reanimation”, about the attempts that are already under way to revive economic ideas killed (at least according to the standard rules of hypothesis refutation) by the global crisis. I wasn’t surprised to find plenty of examples for the efficient markets hypothesis (easy to render immune from any kind of refutation by an appropriate formulation) or for policy ideas that yield big benefits to the rich and powerful, such as privatisation and trickle-down economics. But I was surprised a little while ago to see the crisis described as a transitory blip in the continuing Great Moderation. Still that pales into insignificance compared to this piece by Casey Mulligan of Chicago (h/t commenter Daniel ), in which (I swear this is true!) the crisis is the result of financial markets correctly anticipating the adverse labour market impacts of possible legislation under Obama, such as a health plan that might include means tests.
A glutton for punishment, I’ve decided the Zombie Economics book manuscript I submitted a month ago (mostly online here) is in urgent need of more zombies. I’ve been struck, even in that short space of time by the extent to which, with undeniable “green shoots” now appearing, the zombie ideas I’ve written about are clawing their way through the softening soil and walking among us again. The most amazing example is that of the Great Moderation – surely you would think no one could believe in this anymore, but they do.
So, I’m planning to add a bit to each chapter, pointing to examples of these ideas being revived. I’d appreciate good examples for the rest: Trickle Down, Micro-based Macro the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and Privatisation (of course, the Queensland government gives an example v close to home).
Over the fold, the conclusion of my book, with Release Candidate title “Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us”. I plan a proper post on the whole bookblogging experience, but until then, I’ll thank everyone who’s commented, or just read this exercise with interest and make one (maybe) last request for help. Can anyone recommend a book on Thatcher’s economic reforms that would be a good suggestion for further reading? I’m currently suggesting Anderew Glyn’s Capitalism Unleashed, but I’d like to add something from a centrist or Thatcherite perspective, as long as it’s readable and not too objectionable for words.
I sent off the draft MS of my Zombie Economics book to the publisher last week, but there is still time for improvement. Over the fold is the second, and final part of the privatization chapter.
You can read most of the book (not always the final draft) at my wikidot site.
As always, comments and criticism much appreciated.
Talking of books, it’s been nearly a month since it was announced that Volume 3 of Keith Windschuttle’s fabrications would be released “next week”. Such vaporous promises are typical of KW, but I would have thought that if a book was promised for next week it would have already been printed. Could it be that, with his lead story about Rabbit Proof Fence totally demolished, Keith has decided to pulp the book and try again?
Update Commenter Charlie, who obviously has a stronger stomach than I do, visited the Quadrant website, and found an extract and cover art for the book, with publication details as follows: The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Three, The Stolen Generations 1881–2008, Macleay Press, $59.95, 656 pages, published in December 2009. But MacLeay Press itself has nothing.
Update While I’m on the topic, the latest outpouring from American Enterprise Institute Fellow Charles Murray as he complains about the number of black and brown faces on the streets of Paris has drawn attention to his past as a youthful cross-burner. In between his KKK wannabe youth and his current channelling of Pauline Hanson, Murray wrote a bunch of books, such as The Bell Curve and Losing Ground, which put a scholarly gloss on the same ugly stuff, and were therefore treated with more respect than they deserve.
Since he has already commented in defence of Windschuttle, I expect Jack Strocchi will have something to say here and I’m going to let him. However, that’s the end. From this post on, any comment from Strocchi touching on the issues of race, ethnicity, religion or immigration, directly or indirectly, will be deleted and repetition will be cause for an immediate and permanent ban. No correspondence will be entered into, and any attempt to dispute the policy in comments (here or elsewhere) will trigger the same ban. Strocchi is, however, welcome to continue commenting on other topics.
Further update The book has now appeared (11/1/09). I guess Windy was just trying to put some time between the Rabbit Proof Fence debacle and the release. Interestingly, he’s still promising Vol 2 and Vol 4.
I just sent a draft manuscript of my Zombie Economics book off to the publisher at Princeton UP. It’s pretty much in beta stage now.The aim is to have it come out in the Fall List.
Thanks heaps for all the praise and criticism. The praise has kept me motivated, and the criticism has been at least as valuable.
I’ve got some more sections of the privatisation chapter and the afterword to post here for comments, and I’m now going to circulate the draft in the older version of the same process. I’m also updating the draft at wikidot (lagging a little on this).
I’m on the final chapter of my long-promised Zombie Economics, dealing with ideas refuted by the Global Financial Crisis. My target this time is privatisation – more precisely, the idea that privatisation will always yield an improvement over public ownership, and, therefore that market liberalism is an advance on the mixed economy that developed in the during the post-1945 long boom.
As always, comments, criticism and suggestions much appreciated.
Updated In response to comments, I’ve added a bit more material on the 1970s and the background to privatisation.
In the course of an interesting piece by Richard Dorment in the NY Review of Books on the authenticity or otherwise of works by Andy Warhol, I came across a striking passage
The single most important thing you can say about a work of art is that it is real, that the artist to whom it is attributed made it. Until you are certain that a work of art is authentic, it is impossible to say much else that is meaningful about it.
Is this a reasonable claim about art in general? How important is authentic attribution in, say, literature or music?
Another section of my book-in-progress, looking at the failure of the trickle-down hypothesis. Comments and criticism welcome as always.
Keith Windschuttle has been in the news again lately, making claims of inaccuracy against the film ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ which were then roundly refuted by the filmmakers, pointing to documentary evidence apparently undiscovered by the ace historian. When even the Oz describes Windy as having been ‘dispatched to the fence’ he clearly has a problem. Having claimed that the girls in the film were removed from their families because they were having sex with white men, he now says his case is unaffected by the discovery that they were actually removed because they were promised as brides for black men. WIndschuttle describes this as “standing by” his statements, a locution I also heard recently from the Queensland government after the economists statement demolishing their case for asset sales. Apparently it means “while I have no credible response to make, I’m not going to retract, let alone change my mind”.
What’s really interesting to me is that all this publicity is in aid of the forthcoming Volume 3 of Windschuttle’s Fabrication of Australian History which caused such a stir when Volume 1 was released in 2002. Three volumes in nearly a decade looks like slow, but steady work, the kind of history Windschuttle supports.
That is, of course, except for the minor detail that there is no Volume 2. Originally Volume 2, due in 2003, was supposed to be the big one, which would refute Henry Reynolds claims about violence on the Queensland frontier, while volume 3, promised for 2004, was going to be about WA. Although promises kept being made, Vol 2 never came out, and in 2008, the “stolen generations” book was announce as Volume 2. It seemed that the Queensland and WA projects had been abandoned.
The new numbering scheme, eccentric as it is, at least implies a promise of a Volume 2 in which Windschuttle will finally put up or be morally obliged to shut up (not that he will of course).
Another section of my book-in-progress, this time on the implications of trickle-down. I’m getting lots out of the comments, even if I don’t respond to everything, so please keep them coming.
One thing that would be really useful to me is references to publications (probably popular, rather than journal articles) by prominent academic economists that clearly espouse some of the implications of trickle-down discussed here. More than most of the ideas I’m criticising, trickle-down economics tends to be a background assumption rather than something which comes out into the open, and I want to avoid the suggestion that I’m attacking a straw zombie here.