Saturday, September 25, 2010

For A New Robinson And Eatwell

Michael Hirsh recently ("Our Best Minds Are Failing Us", Newsweek, September 16, 2010) lamented how unwilling mainstream economists are to change their thinking in light of the events of the last few years. Brian Milner, a columnist for The Globe and Mail has added to the chorus of complaints.

Perhaps an opportunity now exists for a new introductory textbook in economics that differs fairly comprehensively from mainstream textbooks. Never mind Colander’s approach of modifying his textbooks at most 15% from the previous editions so that mainstream economists will not reject it. Maybe some enterprising heterdox economist should write an uncompromising introduction to economics that is also up-to-date on current events. Years ago, I listed some textbooks. More textbooks have become available since then, for example, G. C. Harcourt’s The Structure of Post-Keynesian Economics: The Core Contributions of the Pioneers. I am not sure that Luigi L. Pasinetti’s Keynes and the Cambridge Keynesians: A ‘Revolution in Economics’ to be Accomplished counts as a textbook. I’m sure I’m leaving much out.

But I’m not sure the packaging on most of these is what I’d like to see tried. The textbook I have in mind should be fairly thick, have various boxed asides, and have problem sets after every chapter. (The problem sets could include essays questions and have less numerical examples than is common.)

7 comments:

john said...

Maybe Godley and Lavoie's Macro textbook.

Robert Vienneau said...

I haven't read that textbook. I know about stock-flow consistent modeling from one of Godley's papers. Hugh Stretton's textbook, which I also haven't read, might meet my conditions if it were updated to treat recent events. I don't think I'm being parochial to want it to be for the USA market. The USA is the source of many bad textbooks. Another book I haven't read is Fred Lee's Post Keynesian Microeconomic Theory, which sounds like it is less elementary.

Emil Bakkum said...

Hello,
I would welcome such a textbook, although I fear that the demand will be limited. If you understand the German language, then the books "Grundz├╝ge der neoricardianischen Preis- und Verteilungstheorie" and "Die Redundanz der Mehrwerttheorie" may be of interest to you. They are written by Eberhard Feess-Doerr, and available from Metropolis Verlag. The first one discusses Sraffian economics by means of simple examples, similar to Woods. The second one is critique on Marxian economics, using the transformation problem.
Sincerely yours, Emil Bakkum (Netherlands)

Emil Bakkum said...

Hello again,
In fact the book of Robinson and Eatwell is unique in its quality. Perhaps the only other one that reaches a similar level is the book of Hunt and Sherman about radical economics. Note that both were written in the 70s, when our societies had developed an open ear for their alternative message. In addition the books aimed to reach a large public. In the trade-off between scientific quality and simplicity the authors chose in favor of the latter. This is rarely encountered, and may also reflect the contemporary attitude of left-wing scientists. Of course is is more satisfying to discuss matters with professionals, than trying to reach the public, which is unwilling to listen - and often rejects academic attitudes. In fact, the challenge in writing books like that is in being an educator, and not in showing your scientific qualities. There is little reward in that.
Sincerely yours, Emil Bakkum

Emil Bakkum said...

@ all
Here is another recommendation: "Verteilung und Wachstum" (=Distribution and Growth, cf. "the moon is waxing"; distribution has roman origins), by Eckhard Hein (2004, Metropolis Verlag). It requires an understanding of the German language, but then you get: (1) a concise and modern account of the Marxian, Sraffian and neoclassical theory; (2) a description of the original works of Domar and Harrod; (3) the postkeynesian theories, i.e. (3a) the models of Kaldor and Robinson, (3b) the distribution and growth theory of Kalecki, (3c) the developments in the recent decades, in particular the Rowthorn-Dutt-Amadeo model and the Bhaduri-Marglin model. Hein ends with his own thoughts about monetary parameters in the Kaleckian models. The book lay-out is somewhat poor, but the explanations are accesible and easy to comprehend. For me it was just what I needed. Maybe a similar exposition is available in the English language, but if so, I have not found her yet.

Emil Bakkum said...

It may be useful to add the book "The Business Cycle" of H.J. Sherman to this list, since it reports on real life facts. This work elaborates on the cycle model of Wesley Mitchel, and includes an abundance of empirical data for the period 1947-1982. The cycle model shows the relations between the various economic parameters, and seems trustworthy, in view of the diversity of included data. For instance, the velocity of money fluctuates during the cycle, which refutes the simple relation Y/M=constant of the monetarists. Another point: the interest rate falls in the contraction, which makes crowding out due to deficit spending unlikely.

Emil Bakkum said...

Hello again,
I have discovered an interesting introductory text, which describes macro-economics from a Robinson- Eatwell perspective. It is "Volkswirtschafslehre" of M. Heine and H. Herr (2003).
Sincerely yours, Emil Bakkum