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Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality

por James Kwak

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Business. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML: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
… (mais)
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    Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy por Thomas Sowell (themulhern)
    themulhern: An early chapter of "Economism" is a masterly exposition of economists' ideas of supply and demand curves. The first chapter of "Basic Economics" uses supply and demand curves,without ever mentioning them. Without "Economism"'s explanation I would not have been able to construct a sensible understanding of Sowell's dairy products example. With it, it all made sense. Funny thing is that I think the authors of these two books are in vehement disagreement about economics itself; but they both happen to be excellent writeres.… (mais)
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Econ 101 has ruled America and much of the rest of the world for half a century. I appreciate that Kwak examined the ways that economism ignores the real world in favor of economic theory; I appreciate that he explains in simplistic terms the troubles that arise from great economic inequality; I appreciate his detailed examination of the faults of the American health system. That said, he repeatedly described Bernie Sanders as an "avowed Socialist", a blatant untruth. Bernie Sanders described himself as a democratic socialist, though a more appropriate description of his political views may be social democracy. This simple untruth, repeated several times in the book, reminded me that, in America, even economists willing to question the tyranny of economism are unwilling to look beyond the constraints of the current capitalist system and seriously examine other possible economic structures. Also, when such a glaring mistake (or lie) is made, it makes me question what else the author may be mistaking (or lying about). ( )
  jtdancer | Jun 30, 2018 |
The title is meant to capture the notion that a simplistic understanding of an intellectual domain can become an unquestioned worldview, in the same way the pejorative "scientism" implies a zombie grasp of physics becoming the source of all truth.

The term is apt as the book explains. There is nothing jaw-dropping here for those who wander away from received wisdom, but it's clearly written and carefully presented. Worth a read, even if you read it fast. ( )
  steve.clason | Dec 10, 2017 |
This got off to a promising start. Unfortunately I didn't get much past the chapter that reintroduces Economics 101. Even that was useful though, as it tries to explain why economists draw the graphs they do and as it made me realize that I had either forgotten or never really understood the basic premise of a class in which I think I got an A.

Kwak's basic premise is that Economism is a defense of the social order that makes the rich richer, and lets the rest suffer. It's more effective than "God wills it", which wouldn't fly with everybody these days, because it is presented as science and inescapable consequences of mathematics.
  themulhern | Oct 14, 2017 |
A really interesting premise. Economics has been hijacked and used to argue for things are really just thinly veiled (but brilliantly veiled) actions of self-interested parties. The start is really strong, the middle is less creative and the finale is redundant. If I only read the first 75 pages this would have been 5 stars. ( )
  kallai7 | Sep 10, 2017 |
There is a basic theory taught in introductory economics classes that goes something like this:

Maximum economic efficiency is achieved through market forces of supply and demand.

Extending this premise, the following conclusions may be (and have been) derived.

-Government intervention in free markets is detrimental.
-Regulations on business activities stifle production and innovation.
-Restrictions on the financial sector lead to misallocation of capital.
-Lowering taxes on wages incentivizes work.
-Lowering taxes on the wealthy incentivizes investment.
-A person’s earnings reflect the value of the work he or she performs.
-Raising the minimum wage makes labor more expensive and increases unemployment.
-Universal health care encourages overuse and makes it more expensive.
-Free trade unleashes market forces and therefore benefits everyone.


It all seems incredibly logical, doesn’t it? If you accept the premise of Economics 101, then the resulting conclusions must also be true. In Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality, James Kwak, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, tells us why they’re not. His goal, as he says on page 17, is “to demonstrate that an unwavering adherence to simplistic models has had a pernicious impact on debates and policies that affect hundreds of millions of people.”

Unquestioned belief in the sanctity of market forces is the foundation of an ideology, which the author calls economism.* Adherents of this belief system view real world economics through the distorting lens of the simplistic theoretical models of Economics 101. For believers, the theory remains true despite its failures when applied to complex real world situations. “Because economism’s arguments are rooted in pure theory, they can never be disproven by mere facts.” (page 152)

To me, the idea of basing national economic policies on simplified models of supply and demand is rather like basing building codes on The Three Little Pigs. Even in a hard science like physics, simple models based on established theories don’t necessarily work when applied in a real world setting. Take gravity, for example. We know that objects fall at the same rate regardless of their mass. Galileo proved this, and in a textbook situation, in a vacuum, with no other influencing forces, it holds true. But if you go outside right now and drop a feather and a bowling ball at the same time, the ball will hit the ground first. The basic physical law doesn’t yield the result the model says it should because of other factors. And this is in a case in which we are fairly sure the law is valid. This is far from true with economics.

I don’t know how many professional economists actually hold Professor Kwak’s concept of economism, but it seems as though a good many politicians do. When they argue against raising the minimum wage, or on raising taxes on the wealthy, or when opposing regulations to protect employees, consumers, or the environment, they may be basing their opinions not on fact or on history but on an unquestioned belief in the simplified models of supply and demand that they remember from Economics 101.

This book is an excellent summary of basic economic theories as well as a good explanation of when the may not apply outside a freshman classroom. I highly recommend it, especially for politicians and anyone else responsible for shaping public policy.

———————————
*I probably would have called it “faith-based economics.”
This review is also posted on the Avery Slom Philosophical Laboratory https://philosophylaboratory.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/economism-bad-economics-an... ( )
  DLMorrese | Aug 23, 2017 |
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Business. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML: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

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