Outstanding Academic Titles 2023: Economics

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2023 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, Outstanding Academic Titles from the past year pertaining to economics. A hearty congratulations to the winning authors, editors and publishers!

1. From capital to commons: exploring the promise of a world beyond capitalism
Gerhardt, Hannes. Bristol University Press, 2023

From Capital to Commons adds to a growing literature in a tradition pioneered by Richard D. Wolff’s Democracy at Work (2012). It offers a comprehensive exploration of a possible shift from capitalism to a more communal economic system. Gerhardt’s writing is straightforward and easily digestible, which allows readers of all backgrounds to grasp the social issues at stake in economic and social theories. This work is more than just a critique of capitalism; it presents a blueprint for a more equitable, sustainable future. Backed by extensive research, references to game theory, and real-world examples, Gerhardt (geography, Univ. of West Georgia) makes compelling arguments for the necessity of this societal transition. He provides a thorough understanding of the concept of the commons and its potential to address socioeconomic disparities and environmental crises. From Capital to Commons caters to a wide audience, from economists and sociologists to anyone interested in understanding and questioning current economic systems. Gerhardt urges readers to reassess their relationships with resources and each other. View on Amazon

2. The retirement challenge: what’s wrong with America’s system and a sensible way to fix it
Baily, Martin Neil. by Martin Neil Baily and Benjamin H. Harris Oxford, 2023

Bailey (emer., Brookings Institution) and Harris, a long-time economic advisor to Joe Biden, address the problems facing the US retirement system and propose solutions for policy makers and consumers. They assert that incremental reforms can preserve the current Social Security and Medicare systems, that retirement savings benefit capital growth and investment, and that retirement is a right. Tapping into their own expertise, they also solicit the advice of lawyers and economists for different perspectives. They acknowledge that many older staff members want to keep working despite ageist practices seeking to prevent that, and they encourage changing attitudes and policies to view seasoned employees as assets rather than liabilities. The disappearance of private pensions in today’s recession-prone economy necessitates heightened dependence on managed retirement structures like 401(k)s. Consumers must learn to supervise their own accounts or pay planners to do it. Although the authors sprinkle definitions of financial planning terms throughout (e.g., rollovers, defined-benefit pensions, wealth drawdowns), a glossary might assist readers, even at the risk of repetition. This book touts an ideal golden mean of spending, a balance between both the hoarding of assets and their profligate use. View on Amazon

3. The tragic science: how economists cause harm (even as they aspire to do good)
DeMartino, George F. Chicago, 2022

In economics, the pressure to create theoretical models and empirical tests that are rigorous yet tractable often leaves a lot to be desired in the actual interpretation of the work. This is a common problem in the social sciences, but it is especially important in economics, DeMartino (Univ. of Denver) argues, because of the field’s influence on individual behavior and public policy. Good research can indeed provide important insight and evidence, but economists can do a lot of harm when models are flawed, data are suspect, and values are skewed in assessing economic outcomes. The author suggests that the latter issue is critical, because it can have consequences that either are unintended or bypass the calibration of the intended, “desirable” outcomes. For instance, today’s ESG debates try to address some of these issues, but they similarly fail to deal with the “bad” outcomes for some that can accompany the “good” objectives assumed to apply to all constituencies. The author starts by defining “econogeneric” damage, and in subsequent chapters, he goes on to discuss key issues: how to align economics with ethical and moral values and how economists should go about achieving this alignment given existing paradigms and discipline-based practices. View on Amazon

4. A world trading system for the twenty-first century
Staiger, Robert W. MIT, 2022

A rules-based international trading system has been a keystone of the global economy since the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was launched in 1947—with the principles of reciprocity, nondiscrimination, and mutual benefit at its core—and was later made more robust in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which improved dispute settlement, automaticity, and implementation. It has survived the creation of bilateral trade deals around the world, regional trade blocs discriminating between participating and nonmember countries, and the transformation of trade to encompass services, components, and parts. Some countries, of course, push the rules; for instance, China ignored key WTO rules after its accession in 2001. Even so, this book reflects full-on support for the rules-based trading system and its base of underlying legal constructs and rigorous applications of trade models. It is an authoritative affirmation that, despite dramatic technological changes and policy shocks, trade theory and policy are as relevant as ever. View on Amazon

5The progress illusion: reclaiming our future from the fairytale of economics
Erickson, Jon D. Island Press, 2022

Erickson (Univ. of Vermont) has written a book for those who went through graduate programs in economics and came out doubting the neoclassical assumptions of the discipline and believing that market failure was not the exception but the norm and those who ever wondered how economics went so far astray of its role as a social science and concentrated instead on reducing humanity to perfectly rational, mathematically tractable agents. Of particular note are chapters 2 through 4, which document the history of economic thought according to ecological economics. Erickson engages the same major players, the same theories, and the same equilibria traditional economic history texts do but focuses instead on their moral and individual implications. Erickson discusses the rise of Keynesianism, Bretton Woods, and the Brundtland Commission with skill and an understanding of their human implications. He ends by considering a “new economics,” drawing from E. O. Wilson’s Consilience (1998) and what Wilson refers to as “borderland” fields in neuroeconomics and behavioral economics, to connect economics to biology, psychology, and anthropology. View on Amazon

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