Jun 6, 2008

Economics Light: A Book for Your Spare Time

It does not happen too often that I put my hands on “non-specialist” books that deal with economics in the broadest sense. Three notable exceptions are the following books

The amazing thing is that I bought the last of the three books first (more than a year ago), but I still did not finish reading it, while having finished the second one and being half through the third. The last I had less than a week. This slow advance in reading my first purchase is partly to be blamed on my laziness: I bought the book in French to improve my skills, which makes the reading comparatively harder than if I had bought the book in English. However, it is mainly due to the fact that the book turns out to be a critique of the IMF rather than discussing the points that the “discontents” have in critiquing globalization. Though there is clearly a point in discussing the role of the IMF, it gets rather boring after the 100th page being devoted to this. Furthermore, the author may have wanted to give a more balanced picture of other institutions like the World Bank, which the author puts unsurprisingly in a much better light (at least up to the point that I read). This critique has been formulated recently nearly excessively here by Easterly and generated an interesting debate ranging from comments by Dingle to Martin Wolf.

The Economic Hit Man is a very different book. Though the author claims everything to be true, some of the assertions are for my taste too unfounded to be considered as describing the whole picture. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining book that gives some food for thought.

The third book fell in my hands in our library while searching for a very different book. “The Economist’s Tale” is a somewhat less provocative book than the former and also gives good economic insights into real world policy trade-offs. Describing the food problem in Sierre Leone from the point of view of an “independent” consultant, the author gives a more balanced impression of the various actors in managing the arising crisis.

So if you do not have the right book for you summer vacation yet, here three reasons for my pick between the alternatives:

  • Stiglitz’s comparative advantage is rather in academic contributions
  • Today’s economic situation with respect to food
  • “The Eocnomist’s Tale” strikes the right balance between interesting and light reading without being too shallow on the economic reasoning

Disclaimer: The fact that all of these books criticize either IMF, World Bank or other governmental organizations is pure coincidence. As stated before I expected the book by Stiglitz to talk about very different things, the “Economic Hitman” was close to the only book in an Italian bookstore that was in English, when I was in desperate need for a vacation-book. And the third, well, it just fell in my hands in the library while searching for an economics book by an author from the IMF!


Dany said...

there are more than critique of the IMF in Stiglitz's. I like the description of the russian crisis and the protectionist monopoly of aluminium in the USA.....

cosimo said...

Jee, I never read a book by big Joe, despite having a couple on my shelf, including this one! I am more familiar with "Factor Prize Equalization in a Dynamic Economy" (JPE 1970) and the like...