A couple of reviews of Economics in Two Lessons have come out, from opposite ends of the political spectrum. The more interesting is Max Sawicky’s in Jacobin.
Sawicky does a great job in summarising the key ideas in the book. His is probably the best review so far for non-economists to get an understanding of the main themes.
Given the Jacobin audience, the key question is “Why should a socialist read a book about markets?” As Sawicky observes, the answer is easy for socialists in the Bernie Sanders mould – I share their views, a fact that is obvious to readers of this blog.
Quiggin’s deconstruction of Hazlitt’s “Lesson One” provides a lesson in “know your enemy” for anyone left of center. If your only instruction in economics was a principles course, this book provides an essential completion of the basic story.
More generally, Sawicky says
If your hostility to markets runs more deeply, then the mainstream theory elaborated by Quiggin provides a useful challenge. What becomes deemphasized, when it is not glossed over entirely, is, on the one hand, the proliferation of “externalities” that bind together the interests of ostensibly disparate individuals, and on the other, our capacity (historically demonstrated) to respond effectively on a cooperative, collective level. Economics as practiced by progressives pursues these insights, but, as I think Quiggin would agree, it has further to go. His “second lesson” is a crucial step in this journey.
I’m very grateful for this review, which gives me food for thought as I think about my next big project.
Last week, I did a couple of events in Melbourne for Economics in Two Lessons. One was at Readings in Hawthorn, where my old friend and colleague Al Watson kindly introduced me. The other was at the University of Melbourne, organized by the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, of which I’ve been a member for 40 years now.
Max Corden, Australia’s greatest living economist, was going to give the talk there, but was unfortunately taken ill. Another old friend and occasional collaborator, Nicholas Gruen stepped in and, among many other reminiscences, mentioned by (long ago now) resemblance to Captain Haddock, friend of the cartoon hero Tintin.
I’ll be doing the Sydney launch of my new book, Economics in Two Lessons at Gleebooks tomorrow (Thursday 27 June). I’ll be talking to the always insightful Peter Martin, so it should be a great event. Details here.
Last night’s Brisbane launch, at Avid Reader with Paul Barclay (ABC Radio, Big Ideas) was very successful