A few weeks ago, in a bookstore a couple of hundred miles away from here, I skimmed Moshe Adler's Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science that Makes Life Dismal. I did not purchase it because I am already too far behind in my reading. It is targeted for those outside the economics profession.
It is a short and approachable book that, as I recall, falls into two main parts.
The first part is about the mainstream economist's concept of (Pareto) efficiency. I hopped over this section fairly quickly, since I see no need to be strongly guided by this criterion in making policy decisions. I gather Adler agrees.
The second part is about income distribution, the theory of marginal productivity, and wages. Adler compares and contrasts neoclassical theory and the more empirically applicable classical theory. If I read this book in more depth, I would probably have some caveats about Adler's interpretation of the classical economists and his assignment to them of one (non-Malthusian) theory of wages. Adler recognizes that in a theory in which wages are determined by well-behaved supply and demand functions for labor, the imposition of higher wages results in less employment. Less security and less employment is a bad thing for many members of that vast majority in capitalist societies who depend on income from labor to live. On the other hand, when wages are the result of class struggle, as in Adam Smith, for example, the theory does not predict that unions, minimum wages, less "flexible" labor markets will result in less employment. And, despite the poppycock mainstream economists teach, that is the world we live in.
I agree with the author. Economics took a mostly wrong turning more than a century ago. I don't think that this book will convince many mainstream economists. If Adler wanted to convince mainstream economists, he would have had to written a more impenetrable book. I think Adler does address some of the questions raised by the current global economic crisis.
(I realize I am behind in responding to comments on previous posts.)
6 months ago