Think economics is the “dismal science” with abstract formulas that have no impact on life as it is actually lived? Think again. In The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society (Little Brown, 2019), Binyamin Appelbaum–former correspondent and now an editorial board member of the New York Times–brings to life how academic economists rose “from the basement” of banks and universities in the post-war period to have a direct impact on almost every aspect of our lives. The end of the draft, unemployment levels, inflation, deregulation, air transport, phone service, patent law, monopolies and anti-trust activity, even the value of human lives–all of these have been directly affected by the activity of economists who emerged on the scene after World War II. Appelbaum traces the transition from the first school of these economists–the Keynesians who advocated a bigger role for government in addressing economic and social problems–to the second school, the Chicago “market” crowd that held sway from the 1970s until the financial crisis or 2008-9. The latter school held that the market had the answer to problems in the economy and society and that government should stay out of the way. Regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself on, you will want to be familiar with the lives and ideas of the individuals who have had such an impact on your life.
Listen to the interview here