NPR’s “Must Read”, As in Orthodoxy-Promoting, Economics Books

Reader Gary P sent me an e-mail about a Planet Money list of “must read” economics books. I had toyed with posting on it, held off because I have a wee conflict of interest as an an author of a book decidedly critical of mainstream economics, but the biases evident in the NPR piece have been nagging at me.

If nothing else, this tally should dispel any idea that NPR is left-leaning:

Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera’s All the Devils Are Here.

Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money.

Michael Lewis’ The Big Short.

Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

Greg Ip’s The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World.

Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance.

Todd G. Buchholz’ New Ideas from Dead Economists.

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx.

John McMillan’s Reinventing the Bazaar.

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail.

Gary Stern and Ron Feldman’s Too Big To Fail.

Pietra Rivoli’s The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy.

Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist.

Aside from the list being overweight crisis books (including ones that give pride of place to simple, crowd-pleasing conventions over getting to the bottom of things, see our debunking of The Big Short as an example), the books that are hard core economics books are decidedly neoclassical in their bent, and that framework was shown to be fatally flawed in the financial crisis. But I don’t think the list’s author was striving for balance in mixing financial crisis books with ones that hew to the orthodoxy; in fact, I suspect the irony was completely lost on him.

Reader Gary specifically asked for a recommendation on modern monetary theory. The classic there is Randall Wray’s Understanding Modern Money. His query led me to ponder what books belong on a list of economics “must reads”.

I’ve deliberately excluded crisis books from my quick and dirty list (except for one sleeper that discusses general crisis dynamics) and have focused on good heterodox books as well as instructive historical accounts:

The Predator State Jamie Galbraith

Once in Golconda John Brooks

Secrets of the Temple William Greider

Fiasco Frank Partnoy

Traders, Guns and Money Satyajit Das

The Economics of Global Turbulence Robert Brenner

Debunking Economics Steve Keen

The Origin of Financial Crises George Cooper

Treasure Islands NIcholas Shaxson (out now in the UK, out in the US soon)

Zombie Economics John Quiggin

Needless to say, reader input encouraged.

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  1. Jay

    I recommend The Volatility Machine by Michael Pettis. It reviews all major emerging market financial crises dating back to the 1800s (including the U.S. in 1870s) and explains how a country’s capital structure and liability management can exacerbate financial meltdowns. Really interesting for people who want to understand mechanically the process that leads to crisis and the after effects.

  2. Tao Jonesing

    “the books that are hard core economics books are decidedly neoclassical in their bent”

    No. Neoclassical economics died a LONG time ago. The books you complain about are NEOLIBERAL. I love Steve Keen, but his naming of the problem is wrong. Chicago School Ponzinomics is a neoliberal phenomenon, not a neoclassical one.

    1. Deus-DJ

      it is simply neoclassical economics taken to the extreme… given that neoclassical economics(except for a few of the rogue neoclassical economists) generally validates and supports it’s more extreme versions does not support your assertion

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, but the label used IS neoclassical economics. For instance, Bill Black attacks it by calling it “theoclassical”.

      Neoclassical economics goes back to the work of Jevons, Walras, and Menger. There is some fuzziness in the literature as to where “classical” economics ends and “neoclassical” economics begins, but the nomenclature is “neoclassical”, not “neoliberal”.

      1. solo

        Ives is correct concerning “neoclassical.” The dividing line between classical and neoclassical is the abandonment of the labor theory of value–Ricardo being the last bourgeois economist of note to employ same, Marx being the most noted socialist purveyor of same. As Ives could confirm, the neoclassical “theory” of value had as its cynosure “utility,” (pleasure, satisfaction), while the apologetics assured all concerned that capitalism was a most pleasurable way to expend one’s existence. Utility theory did not stand cursory scrutiny; so the neoclassicals poured the old utility wine into new bottles labeled “indifference curves,” declaring that now all was well. Neoclassical economics represents the triumph of empty mathematical virtuosity over theoretical insight; which is why such is purveyed by the usual peddlers of the conventional unwisdom.

        1. Tom Hickey

          It’s pretty well agreed among economic historians that the neoclassical economics begins with the marginal revolution. Veblen was the first (1900) to use the term “neo-classical.”

      2. Bev

        Bill Black’s description is so much better. I always thought that neocon’s named predatory economics “neoliberal” to again misdirect blame onto victims of their crimewave.

        If I might suggest further “authoritarian theoclassical” or “bullies’ ideas of economics” as even more correctly descriptive.

        For an additional economics book, I would add:

        Fleeing Vesuvius

        This hefty tome was recently published by Féasta, Ireland’s Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability.


        Fleeing Vesuvius draws together many of the ideas our members have developed over the years and applies them to a single question—how can we bring the world out of the mess in which it finds itself?

        Fleeing Vesuvius confronts this mess squarely, analyzing its many aspects: the looming scarcity of essential resources such as fossil fuels—the lifeblood of the world economy; the financial crisis in Ireland and elsewhere; the collapse of the housing bubble; the urgent need for food security; and the enormous challenge of dealing with climate change.

        The solutions it puts forward involve changes to our economy and financial system, but they go much further: this substantial, wide-ranging book also looks at the changes needed in how we think, how we use the land and how we relate to others, particularly those where we live. While it doesn’t discount the complexity of the problems we face, Fleeing Vesuvius is practical and fundamentally optimistic. It will arm readers with the confidence and knowledge they need to develop new, workable alternatives to the old-style expanding economy and its supporting systems. It’s a book that can be read all the way through or used as a resource to dip in and out of.

  3. Dave

    One of my favorites is Money and Man a survey of monetary experience by elgin groseclose. not sure where it fits on the scale of the above though.

  4. Deus-DJ

    The predator state was by far the most important book I have ever read…it’s impact on me was beyond measure…and that’s even disregarding the fact that I heavily disagreed with certain parts of the book(regarding inflation and the FED, and setting up Veblen as an alternative ideology in predation, which I thought was misleading until I read Niebuhr). As heterodox as I was attending an orthodox school at the time, it never occurred to me just how much the ideology of price dictating events was controlling my thought(even though I was opposed to it on some grounds). Now I operate from the opposite spectrum, assuming the opposite unless I can see the merit of price dictating events. Yeah I had to say that.

    Though I generally dislike most of Joseph Stiglitz’s books, it was his book “globalization and it’s discontents” that ultimately got me into economics, and given his utter contempt for neoliberal economics at a time when it was at it’s peak gives it enough weight to be included in the top 10.

    1. Deus-DJ

      BTW, I disagree with you going after The Big Short in your original post. You can say that it’s unfortunate that he didn’t mention the irony of the heroes in his book actually being the villains, but to say that his book was misleading doesn’t take into account his ultimate message of how certain people made their money…which is a topic the majority of people are fascinated in(hence why business is so interesting to many…including yourself)…and given his penchant for storytelling I think you were overreaching a bit.

      It should however be opposed on grounds that it’s not really an economics book.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Greg Zuckerman’s The Greatest Trade Ever does a much better job (in terms of reporting, who did what to whom, much bigger net in terms of how the subprime short trade started and who the prime movers were, how the economics of the trades worked) than Lewis did. But he didn’t tell a crowd pleasing Manichean tale. So Lewis falls short by the standards you prefer to apply.

        1. sgt_doom

          Thank you, and exactly so!

          All of NPR’s books are simply pathetic by a thinking person’s standards, but to be expected given the propagandistic posturing of those NPR shows with Planet Money input (This American Life etc.).

          I would humbly add to your much-improved list:

          Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans (plus his other books)

          Nomi Prins’ It Takes a Pillage (plus her classic Other People’s Money)

          Susan and Martin Tolchin’s classic, Dismantling America: The Rush to Deregulate (a number of years old, but quite prescient to the present)

          Michael Hudson’s (who has been consistently right over the past 40 years or so) Trade, Development and Foreign Debt and his classic, Super Imperialism

          R. T. Naylor’s (the Canadian social economist) Hot Money and the Politics of Debt (and his Satanic Purses)

          And of course, Yves Smith’s ECONned

  5. GaryD

    I’d consider the following books :

    Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay

    Manias, Panics and Crashes by Charles Kindleberger


    The Financial Instability Hypothesis by Hyman Minsky. Minsky is cited repeatedly by Keen.


    1. Pembquist

      Extraordinary Delusions is the only bubble book anyone needs to read. I recommended this book before the last bubble assuring people that it would “ proof you from the seduction of financial bubbles..” Sadly this was not so and only goes to prove that once again things are never as “different” as they are the same.

  6. Crocodile Chuck

    “How Rich Countries Get Rich, Why Poor Countries Stay Poor”, Eric Reinert. The best book I’ve read on how countries develop. Exhaustively footnoted, with a grand sweep of history. Like Michael Hudson – who also studies the history of economics – an enemy of the Academy. Worth checking out NB punch line: How rich countries get rich: the exact opposite of the IMF recommendations/conditions to ‘client nations’

  7. mannfm11

    Yves, you have listed a lot of authors I have been trying to learn something from over the past couple of years. You would find stuff around the net I have written over the last 10 years that has been right on, but I have learned a lot through the years reading Doug Noland, amongst others. I am going to read some of Michael Hudson’s books like Super Imperialism and Global Fracture, which appear to deal with the methods in which the US banking system has over-extended credit, run massive trade deficits and at the same time strangled who they loaned to around the world and at the same time the US has avoided the same fate. These were books written years ago that apply today and would bare the establishment in the US to be what they really are, evil. NPR isn’t liberal or conservative, but establishment. The Best Way to Rob a Bank is To Own One might should be on the list, by William Black, though not a real economics book. It might dispel the Chicago neo-classical nonsense the bankers have crammed down the throats of college students for the last half century.

    1. mannfm11

      I might add another book I bought due to the author, Louis Brandeis, the former Supreme Court Justice called Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use it. Having never read it, I recently bought The Wealth of Nations, as I see it brought up by the free thinkers in the economics world today. Seems the ideas about freemen and free economies were developed in the 18th century and no much of use has been added since.

      1. Justicia

        A great deal has been added since The Wealth of Nations and Adam Smith (a moral philosopher) would be simply appalled at the turn market theory has taken.

      2. sgt_doom

        Adam Smith’s book has questionable value — he would never have attacked the land monopolists of his day, whom he was writing for (his target audience).

        Read Ha-Joon Chang’s book, Bad Samaritans.

  8. attempter

    I’ll add:

    Monopoly Capital by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy

    Specifically on more current events:

    The Great Financial Crisis by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff.

    These best describe the terminal plight of capitalism entering the 70s, and why it had to embark upon the neoliberal onslaught.

    Also Shock Doctrine – everything about the Bailout and “austerity” is simply the most monumental of all disaster capitalist gambits.

  9. Ian

    Wow, FIASCO rates as one my all time least favourite Econ/Fin books. I got literally nothing from it that wasn’t better written, and more insightfully discussed in ‘Liars’ Poker’, which for me rates alongside Wall Street as still _the_ expositions of the modern wall street/city phenomenon (I don’t get the love for Bonfire of the Vanities at all…)

    For textbook theory, the best book i’ve read was called ‘Financial Economics’ by Brian Kettell, but that’s the boring stuff for the more interesting:

    Philip Augar’s ‘Death of gentlemanly capitalism’ is a great account of the 80s in the UK, and his followup ‘Greed Merchants’ is very interesting, too.

    I’m a huge fan of Aaron Brown, and ‘The poker face of
    wall street’ is a fun read and, i think, insightful, too.

    I’ve not read ‘The ascent of money’, but really enjoyed ‘The rise and fall of the great powers’, by Paul Kennedy, which is a historian arguing that the ability to finance itself is the key behind the success of an imperial power.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      He does a very good job of explaining complex derivatives trades in a reader-friendly fashion, and also the predatory culture in that business that soon became the norm on Wall Street. It’s seminal in explaining the shift in values in the financial services industry.

      Perhaps you lacked patience for his discussion of tradecraft, something notably lacking in Liar’s Poker, despite its other merits.

    2. sgt_doom

      Far better (than to read Ferguson) to read the highly enlightening critique of Ascent of Money:

      (And thoroughly more educational. Ferguson is a member of the Bretton Woods Committee, the lobbyist group for the international ultra-rich which long ago seed American academia with any number of faux econs who support their agenda.)

      Best short article to read (4 pp. total):

  10. Jesse Frederik

    How Rich Countries got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor by Erik S. Reinert
    Kicking Away the Ladder by Ha-Joon Chang
    Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital by Carlota Perez
    The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One by William K. Black

    And of course:

    ECONNED by Yves Smith

  11. Kurt

    Reader input encouraged? Good. I have spent the past year reading the works of Alexander del Mar, a 19th century monetary historian. Del Mar didn’t have much use for economics, per se, but he explained the money mechanism quite well in such works as “The Science of Money”, “The History of Precious Metals”, “Money & Civilization”, “The History of Monetary Systems”, “The History of Money in America”, “A History of Monetary Crimes”, and “Middle Ages Revisited”. Del Mar makes Niall Ferguson look like a boy scout, by comparison.

    Also, I enjoyed Econned very much.

  12. Superduperdave

    John K. Galbraith’s “The Great Crash.” Probably the most lucid writer in the history of economics on what went wrong back then, with obvious relevance today. The dry wit makes it a joy to read, too.

    Also, Robert Heilbroner’s “The Worldly Philosophers,” tracing the evolution of the discipline that has come to be dominated by theoclassical economics.

    1. sgt_doom

      “Under capitalism, man exploits man; under communism, it is just the opposite.”
      —- John Kenneth Galbraith

      “If a man be rightfully entitled to the produce of his labor, then no one can be rightfully entitled to the ownership of anything which is not the produce of his labor, or the labor of someone else from whom the right has passed to him.”
      —- Henry George

      (In other words, the only true system for humanity is Economic Democracy — something sorely missing from this planet.)

  13. Christian

    I think that your list shows your own biases. Not insofar as quality, but too much on finance and a little light on macroeconomics and international dimensions. I think that it is important to understand how foreign economies function to provide perspective on our own.

    Instead of the Brenner that you suggest, who I like, I prefer BOOM AND THE BUBBLE. However, I would recommend the late Andrew Glyn’s CAPITALISM UNLEASHED. I would recommend political scientist Herman Schwartz’s SUBPRIME NATION, which is the best book about recent (and not just the crisis) political economy that has not drawn any notice. While I like Jamie Galbraith, I found THE PREDATOR STATE poorly written. I preferred Larry Bartels’ UNEQUAL DEMOCRACY for the same issues.

    The Brooks, Partnoy, & Das offerings seem to cover similar ground and I would choose one and not all three. Similarly, the Greider and Cooper both cover the Federal Reserve and I think that Greider is now somewhat dated.
    I would keep Quiggin and cut Keen. I might even include one of Deidre McCloskey’s works (i.e., THE RHETORIC OF ECONOMICS) here.

    For history, I would recommend and oldie, historian-political economist J.Rogers Hollingsworth’s THE WHIRLIGIG OF POLITICS about the politics and political economy of Cleveland and Bryan in the late 19th century or Thomas Ferguson’s THE GOLDEN RULE.

    I think that something like Fred Block’s old THE ORIGINS OF THE INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC DISORDER or Michael Hudson’s SUPER-IMPERIALISM, Charles Kindleberger’s MANIAS, PANICS, & CRASHES or THE WORLD IN DEPRESSION, 1929 – 1939 should be included.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I like McCloskey a lot but her lit-crit writing style is a tough for a lot of readers.

    2. Philip Pilkington

      Gotta get that McCloskey quote in:

      “The progress of economic science has been seriously damaged. You can’t believe anything that comes out of [it]. Not a word. It is all nonsense, which future generations of economists are going to have to do all over again. Most of what appears in the best journals of economics is unscientific rubbish. I find this unspeakably sad. All my friends, my dear, dear friends in economics, have been wasting their time….They are vigorous, difficult, demanding activities, like hard chess problems. But they are worthless as science.

      The physicist Richard Feynman called such activities Cargo Cult Science….By “cargo cult” he meant that they looked like science, had all that hard math and statistics, plenty of long words; but actual science, actual inquiry into the world, was not going on. I am afraid that my science of economics has come to the same point.”

      I’ve often wondered how her and Mirowski find gainful employment – and how I can get on in the scam!!!

  14. Philip Pilkington

    Erm… Let’s see; on finance and macroeconomics shtuff…

    First one is a bit obscure, but its really stood out to me in the recent past:

    Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff’s ‘Economic History As It Happened, Volume IV: Stagnation and the Financial Explosion’


    Hyman Minsky ‘Stabalising an Unstable Economy’

    Michal Kalecki ‘Theory of Economic Dynamics’ (and Keynes’ ‘General Theory’)

    JK Galbraith ‘The New Industrial State’

    And then onto more obscure topics…

    For a history of neoclassical thought – and some novel theses about mathematical economics:

    Philip Mirowski ‘More Light than Heat: Economics as Social Physics’

    And then, to really give your brains a shaking:

    Karl Polanyi ‘The Great Transformation’

  15. Cheerleading Invasions

    When did NPR degenerate into a loudspeaker for the owner ruler class? They’ve long since stopped “investigative” reporting, a non-profit FAUX noise complete with high paid anchors.

    1. Dikaios Logos

      I’ve had both on-air NPR personalities and Execs tell me that NPR aims to keep the big donors happy. Not that this is surprising, but it does valuable to know that some on the inside see it that way.

      And speaking of paid off, I think Niall Ferguson exits solely to funnel some very wealthy interests’ views to the public. Wealthy interests that are seeing declining benefits from similar investments in economics departments.

      Also, as for book recs, I’d also support Kindleberger’s “Manias, Panics, and Crashes”. It has a few things going for it. 1) Kindleberger isn’t a Samuelson/Friedman follower, he comes from an older school. 2) It isn’t intellectually inbred: it draws on thought from other disciplines and even artists like Balzac. 3) It fights the temptation to impress based upon ‘precision’, instead it aims at generalities that are important, but require grappling by the reader.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        And speaking of paid off, I think Niall Ferguson exits solely to funnel some very wealthy interests’ views to the public. Wealthy interests that are seeing declining benefits from similar investments in economics departments.

        Heartening news. I sincerely hope you are right ;-)

        1. Dikaios Logos

          I may have been sloppy. I just mean in the U.S. the economics establishment has co-opted almost everyone they can. But the naive humanists and other middlebrows might be swayed by a ‘dashing’ figure of a historian with a Scottish accent. Not a lot to rejoice about if you ask me.

    2. sgt_doom

      Since their inception. If one turned on NPR in the ’70s, then only turned it on again in the ’80s, then the same for the ’90s and the 21st century, one would hear the same exact story again, and again and again, sans any thoughtful or rudimentary analyses.

      National Petroleum Radio has always been about the propaganda (with a tidbit thrown in once or twice a year to make it appear otherwise).

      Does any educated person truly listen to the Diane Rehm Propaganda Show for bankster and hedge fund think tanks???

      [This was brought to you by AIG’s Starr Foundation, and the John D. MacArthur (“insurance thieves are us”) Foundation, and one of the 35 Rockefeller Foundations, and the hedge funds very own American Enterprise Institute, and the Koch Brothers’ Cato Institute, and every Business Roundtable guy’s fav, the Heritage Foundation.]

      1. Michael H

        sgt_doom says: “Does any educated person truly listen to the Diane Rehm Propaganda Show for bankster and hedge fund think tanks???”

        But there might be a use for NPR after all. For instance, if the Goldman banksters and others are ever arrested one day, and put behind bars. They could be forced to listen to reruns of The Diane Rehm Show 24/7, until they confess to all of their crimes.

  16. Sufferin' Succotash

    “The Unbound Prometheus”, by David Landes
    “The Rise of the Western World”, by Douglass North & Robert Paul Thomas
    “This Time is Different”, Carmen Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff
    “The Passions & the Interests”, by Albert Hirschmann.

  17. Keenan

    I will add Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”, a compact and easily comprehensible volume.

    1. RueTheDay

      Absolutely NOT. Hazlitt’s book is just a dumbed-down version of the worst of the Austrian “free markets are always right” arguments. Exactly the sort of thing Yves and others are criticizing on here.

      1. Keenan

        You may certainly criticize my suggestion, but I find it rather presumptuous of you to speak on behalf of anyone other than yourself.

        1. Christian

          I’ll second Rue’s comments and I think he speaks for most readers of Naked Capitalism and one can easily find previous posts from Yves and others to that effect. I think you are being dense or disingenuous.

        2. RueTheDay

          This particular blog entry is about books that criticize the economic orthodoxy, where that orthodoxy is the view that free markets and free trade provide for the most stable, efficient outcomes. Hazlitt’s book is a defense of that orthodoxy (this may not be apparent initially, as the Austrians have a habit of trying to portray their free market ideology as being the underdog in a “statist”, freedom hating world) directed at the lay reader.

          1. Keenan

            Ed Harrison, who occasionally sits in for Yves during her travels, recommends several works of Rothbard – a close associate of Hazlitt and austrian proponent – in his Credit Writedowns reading list.

            Rob Parenteau, editor of the Richenbacher Letter, who has collaborated on at least one NYT Op Ed with Yves and occasionally contributes to NC, appears to have a degree of austrian inclination.

            Is it all things austrian, or just Hazlitt that you seem to despise ?

          2. RueTheDay

            Keenan – It depends on the Austrian and the topic they are writing on. Schumpeter was outstanding on creative destruction and long term technological progress. Hayek was great on the use of knowledge in society and markets as information processing mechanisms. I can’t say many good things about Rothbard, apart from his “Mozart Was A Red” essay, which was an attack on Ayn Rand. When it comes to writing on methodology, they’re all pretty atrocious – praxeology, the notion that everything worth knowing about human action can be deduced almost syllogistic-ally from a small number of “self-evident axioms” is just abject nonsense. The problem is that the positive contributions made by Austrians are overshadowed by their doctrinaire “the free market is always right, all economic problems stem from government interference in the economy” political ideology. Hazlitt was a journalist, with no real economics training, who was largely just parroting Mises, and primarily parroting just the political economy.

          3. Deus-DJ

            Austrians have to be the dumbest mother fuckers around. Their cry for being outside of the mainstream, when neoclassical economics essentially calls for the same policy prescriptions, is so utterly preposterous and insane that it makes one cringe.

    2. Philip Pilkington

      Yeah, can’t emphasise this enough… the Austrian schoolers are neo-classicism + boatloads of wackiness and Hazlitt is them at their most watered down and trashy.

      Basically their stance runs something like: “We figured out that the neo-classical doctrine is actually pseudo-scientific pants, but we nevertheless defend it on moral grounds. This gives us a mandate for coming across as against the status-quo – but ultimately we are just free-market moaners, waxing lyrical about how reality comes up short to the pictures of utopia we cling to in our heads.”

      And with that I’ll allow Encyclopedia Dramatica a short-summary of the Austrian School system and its adherents (note that this was actually referring to Randroids, but it works either way):

      “It’s the closest experience you’ll have to arguing with a Communist during the late 60s”

  18. Paul Tioxon

    I would add, John Dewey, “The Public and Its Problems”. Why this book is so vital is because the economic system that provides so many ills then is operational today as well. But more relevant to the matter here, it was the first encounter with an intellectually sound analysis of classical economics, its philosophical lineage and a clear description of what ails participatory democracy. It came out in 1927, before the collapse, but the problems of a booming economy, the effect of science and natural laws serving as as cover for economics, elevating it from mere man made laws of politics and its flawed biases, not pure and true like economics, was my first eye opener that something was rotten in the state of Denmark.

    1. Deus-DJ

      By that measure, Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Moral Man and Immoral Society” is prescient in it’s analysis of class conflict and what happens when there isn’t countervailing power at work. Read Yves’ book and then Niebuhr’s and you will be absolutely amazed…

  19. RueTheDay

    All three of Hyman Minsky’s books:

    John Maynard Keynes
    Stabilizing an Unstable Economy
    Can It Happen Again

    Richard Koo’s Holy Grail of Macroeconomics

    Irving Fisher’s 1933 Econometrica article, The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions

    George Cooper’s, The Origin Of Financial Crises (one of the best but most underrated of the recent books)

    I’d also recommend Basil Moore’s, Horizontalists and Verticalists: The Macroeconomics of Credit Money. This is ground zero for endogenous money, without most of the chartalist nonsense that pervades most popular MMT out there.


    Mandler’s Dilemmas in Economic Theory: Persisting Foundational Problems of Microeconomics. This will be a little challenging for the non-mathematically inclined, but it is a rigorous historical treatment of many of the issues receiving a more popular treatment on this blog and others.

  20. praxis22

    I think Michael Lewis gets a bad rep, the big short may not be a deep journalistic endeavor to explain the crisis, but it’s a rollicking good narrative and *hugely* funny, I laughed my arse off reading that book, as crisis porn goes it’s fantastic!

    I see people have already recommended, “the great crash” and “the worldly philosophers” to which I would concur. But for large economic ideas in a small book, I’s have to go with Krugman’s “the return of deppression economics” (first ed) for a simple exposition of deep macro ideas, you may disagree with his politics, but his economic exposition is spot on. The only real eureka! moment I had, I had while reading that.

    Also “in fed we trust” by David Wessel is very good, with almost unparalleled access to the cloistered world.

    Finally “When genius failed” by Roger Lowenstein is excellent.

    1. sgt_doom

      Jesus H. on a Harley! I just knew someone would mention Krugman.

      If anyone wishes to be more ignorant after reading something than they were prior to taking a book up, be sure to read Milton Friedman, Thomas Friedman, Krugman and Chomsky (after his Transformational Grammar — he became the institutionalized non-radical radical).

      You’ll be guaranteed to be dumber than before the reading.

  21. Bruce Johnson

    Missing from all economist’s book lists is any discussion of the fact that economic data represents a non-stationary random process when things get interesting. Nearly all economic theories assume a stationary random process so probabilities can be assigned. Thus extreme events defeat quant modeling. Wake up and read:

    Random Data: Analysis and Measurement Procedures By Bendat and Piersol

    1. Jim Haygood

      Interesting reco Bruce; thank you. I’m afraid the math is likely to be way beyond most economists. But (for better or worse) this is meat and potatoes to financial engineers.

      Give me a lever and fulcrum, and I’ll crash the world …

    2. financial matters

      I would say that Stiglitz ‘Freefall’ and Taleb ‘Black Swan’ also recognize a moving target and the necessity of taking into account extreme events which happen more often than we like to think and defeat modeling..

      Modeling is alright for a model, just don’t believe it for real life..

  22. John Protevi

    This may be completely naive, as I am not very well informed in this area. But what is the reputation of Doug Henwood’s __Wall Street: How it Works, and for Whom_ (Verso, 1997)?

    1. scraping_by

      Doug Henwood’s After the New Economy is a great primer on the destruction of the real economy on the pretense of moving from production to financial engineering. John Cassidy’s dot.con: The greatest story ever sold also shows the fraudulent sales job that’s the heart of the protected part of the US economy.

      Thomas Frank’s One Market Under God is a survey of the free market cult that emotionally powers the intellectual dishonesty of the Neoliberals and Neoclassicals.

  23. sharonapple

    Some books I’ve enjoyed reading…

    How Markets Fail by John Cassidy
    Economyths by David Orrell
    23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang (His book, Bad Samaritans, is also an interesting view on free-trade… and how it’s not great to push six-year-olds into the labour market.)

  24. Justicia

    I’m now reading Economyths: Ten Ways Economics Gets it Wrong by David Orrell (Oxford PhD on prediction of non-linear systems). So far (p. 103) it’s excellent. Well written and, occasionally, humorous.

    Another book that I highly recommend is Robert Nadeau’s The Wealth of Nature: How Mainstream Economics Has Failed the Environment

  25. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    Hyman Minsky’s STABILILZING AN UNSTABLE ECONOMY is, as others have already noted, essential reading, particularly since it was published in 1986 – 20 years before the great free for all.

    The only other two books that I haven’t seen mentioned yet that are worth reading for historical/economic perspectives are:

    Rudolf Hilferding FINANZKAPITAL


    What is or will become the engine of growth in mature capitalist political economies no longer able to rely on credit [financialization]? And is more economic growth itself the solution – not that it ever was?

    Can anyone recommend books that attempt to come to grips with these two issues. Dani Rodrik perhaps. Any others?

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Yves has already pointed to the key book that makes a strong case for WHY this financialisation has occured (Robert Brenner’s ‘Economics of Global Turbulence’). As to what is going to replace this… well, if you ever figure that out, write a book yourself and I’ll be the first to buy it.

      The best I can come up with is Giovanni Arrighi’s ‘Adam Smith in Beijing’. There he argues that the current move to financialisation that Brenner points to is actually the result of a gradual shift in geopolitical power currently taking place. So, I guess he sees the present as a transition period…

      1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

        I’ll give Brenner’s book a read.

        But if the expansion of credit itself – financialization – is the engine of growth, what happens when the credit spigot is turned off or becomes a trickle? Impact on the real economy? And to the extent that financialization facilitated the hollowing out of the real economy and its relocation offshore, mainstream economics is likely to prove wanting as it has traveled down this road too far to have any credibility. More of the same is simply not going to work.

        But it’s on to Brenner. Thank you.

        1. Philip Pilkington

          Yer, well that’s sort of what Brenner argues… But it doesn’t bother him that much, because he’s a card-carrying Marxist-Leninist. So, as far as he’s concerned, once the masses realise that their capitalist masters have moved their jobs overseas – and once the capitalist masters realise that their profit-rates are in terminal decline… well… I dunno, I think that’s when Brenner and his mates step in and form a Party, Politburo and Gosplan and save us all.

          I said it once in a summary of Brenner’s book. Marxists, when they’re not trying to get you to sign-up, are great for giving you the most unpolished version of economic reality they can possibly provide. When it comes to solutions… eh…

    2. Deus-DJ

      Schumpeter’s book is a tough read, I never managed to get through it…both times I went through I could only go halfway through before I lost it.

      1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio


        Yes, Schumpeter is difficult. Try reading one chapter or section at a time and then mull it over before proceedng. It’s not a book that can be read like most others and I suspect the original German translation would read better. But… Moreover, what he chooses to discount as beyond the scope of his inquiry is, at times, disconcerting. But he’s worth plodding through. He is eclectic and no fool.

        His commentary regarding ‘capital’, ‘bank/finance’, and ‘entrepreneurs’ as agents that upset the ‘circular flow’ from within the economy is what I found interesting as it anticipates much of what has come since. Schumpeter recognized that equilibrium theory was unable to explain why there were periodic disruptions in the economy and sought to provide an endogenous explanation. That in itself distinguishes him from others. He also recognized the importance of Marx in understanding the phenomenon of creative destruction in CAPITALISM, SOCIALISM, AND DEMOCRACY, an acknowledgement that many other economists choose to ignore or overlook for “ideological” reasons.

        He’s worth the read…

  26. Jim Haygood

    Greider’s Secrets of the Temple is engaging, but focuses mainly on the Volcker era at the Fed. A more comprehensive history of the Federal Reserve, going back to its founding, is G. Edward Griffin’s The Creature From Jekyll Island.

    The irony-proof Fedsters inadvertently delivered a hat tip to Griffin by holding a self-congratulatory conference on Jekyll Island a few months ago, to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Fed’s genesis in a secret conspiracy of plutocrats. Griffin, needless to say, wasn’t invited.

    Murray Rothbard’s The Mystery of Banking is a straightforward, step-by-step tutorial of the double-entry bookkeeping underlying credit expansion through fractional reserve bank lending. Reading Rothbard’s tutorial provides a lifesaving vaccination against the brain-hollowing intellectual prions of the Chartalist cargo cult.

    1. lambert strether

      If I recall correctly, the cargo cults never actually succeeded in obtaining anything material, let alone prions. It’s a shame when ideological antipathy leads to just plain sloppy writing, don’t you agree?

  27. Eleanor

    I agree with the people above who recommend the Monthly Review writers: Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff. I have reread Stagnation and Financial Explosion (Sweezy and Magdoff) several times in the past couple of years, also The Great Financial Crisis (Foster and Magdoff). I also like another Monthly Review author, Michael Perelman — his Railroading Economics and The Confiscation of American Prosperity. The first is about the development of neoclassical economic theory during the railroad age, in response to the economic problems of the age. Historical, but I found it very interesting. The Confiscation of American Propserity is about more recent times, the lead up to our current mess.

  28. Nathan Tankus

    without a doubt Michael Hudson’s super-imperialism and America’s protectionist take off 1815-1914, i would also throw on Minsky’s John Maynard Keynes or Stabilizing an unstable economy.

  29. Bev

    I like anything by William Black and James Galbraith because both said it was time for economists to take a step back and let prosecutors come forward to restore trust in the system again.

    I like Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

    I like the effectiveness and decency of Michael Hudson who as Iceland’s economic adviser helped them resist the fraudulent and enormous debt burden of their banks, and so they are beginning to really recover ahead of the rest of the world. All other countries should follow his advise to recover.

    If Congress does not take back control of money as Debt Free money, then I like the profitable-for-all effectiveness of the Public Bank/State Bank as seen in North Dakota’s State Bank whereby money is treated as Non-Debt Wealth not burdensome Debt. And, the best at telling this idea is Ellen Brown’s Web of Debt ( )and Bill Still’s The Secret of Oz ( ). Six U.S. Presidents followed this method on the Federal level to get money (whether backed by cheaper silver or nothing at all) back into the hands of the entire population which spurred times of great advancements. All those presidents where either warred against or assassinated or the attempt was made to assassinate. These were among our best Presidents: Washington, Lincoln, John F. Kennedy among others. This is deadly business. This is a lot of money at stake and the future of our country.

    And, I like Patrick Byrne’s because of his bulldoggedness against naked short selling–a form of selling/counterfeiting stocks that do not exist–in his effort to clean up wall street.

    1. nowhereman

      Bev; I agree wholeheartedly with your recommendation of Ellen Brown’s Web of Debt. It is the only book that thoroughly exposes the scam of fiat money, and the only book that shows a rational way out of the mess we’re in.

      1. Bev

        The problem is not fiat currency–paper money not backed by gold or silver. Internally and globally the problem is the debt based money system that benefits banksters while bankrupting people, cities, states, nations and companies. Too much debt for the benefit of predators. Money should be wealth, not bankrupting debt.

  30. Mark

    JK Galbraith – A Short History of Financial Euphoria

    Galbraith packs more insight into a hundred pages than any other book I’ve read at any size. No formulas, no charts. Succinct easily understood prose this full of wisdom.

  31. wphurley

    Anyone familiar with Bichler’s and Nitzan’s “Capital as Power”?

    Not an economist, but play one on TV. I’ve read some of their essays and viewed talks, leading to my interest being piqued.

    Any comments/feedback appreciated.

  32. Bev

    I forgot to add, if our President and Congress do not take control of money so that it becomes debt free and abundant enough for everyone to spur another industrial/green revolution, and if the states do not follow the Public Bank/State Bank example of North Dakota (the state has a budget surplus, is adding jobs, has the lowest unemployment and low taxes–what more could you want to recover) then there may be just one option left which is to protect yourself the Max Keiser way– BUY SILVER.

      1. Bev

        And, BUY SILVER means one should take delivery of physical silver coins or bars. As it appears silver may be hugely fractionally leveraged, or naked short sold (selling what they do not have), buying a little silver takes a lot of leverage out of the system.

    1. Allen

      If you want to really hurt the banks, take out your money in cash. If you have a lot of money, be prepared to go to another bank as the do NOT want to give customers large quantities of cash. Think about the situation.

      1. Bev

        Coin dealers still take checks.

        The point about silver…well, there are many fine and amazing points to silver…is that it looks to be in the process of being monetized, becoming money while also a rare(r) earth element.

        So, it serves as a store of value under your control, not the banks, and therefore, worthy to trade in electronic money and paper money for a money (now/future) that in itself is its own value, out of the banking system, to you.

        Also, it’s called frontrunning by the masses before silver may be too expensive or rare or unattainable. Especially useful while the open policy (still in place?) is to devalue our dollar currency as a way to protect the status quo to pay off the bankster’s quadrillion dollars of derivative debt with trillion dollar bills. (Is my guess.)

        Oh, and I am not a financial, economics person, so you have to decide for yourselves how to proceed.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The Making of the English Working Class is a great book.

      If we are going more in the sociological direction, I’d add Barrington Moore, The Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy.

  33. Hugh

    There have been many threads on what NPR stands for. I think Nice Polite Republicans is about the best because it captures both the tone and the content. My own favorite is No Pap Refused although in terms of the present discussion maybe Neoclassical Philosophy Required would be more apt.

  34. Hugh

    The best book on current economic practice is Kleptocracy: A How To Manual. Unfortunately, it is not available in print. In fact, it has yet to be written.

  35. Elliot X

    Yves said: “If nothing else, this tally should dispel any idea that NPR is left-leaning”

    I’ll say.

    Just look at what these NPR “libs” consider recommended reading: Greg Ip of the Wall Street Journal? Goldman Sachs’ defender Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of such columns as “Some Backup for Goldman” and “A Crowd with Pity for Goldman” and so forth, during the Goldman/AIG scam.


    And Milton Friedman?!? Chief architect of what Naomi Klein refers to as disaster capitalism. And advisor to the fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet who recommended to Pinochet that he employ economic shock therapy against the people of Chile.

    If NPR can still be considered left-leaning, yet these are the authors they recommend, then to counter that, I’ll go out on a limb and recommend Alain Badiou’s “The Communist Hypothesis” instead, which at least gets part of it right, as in the following excerpt:

    “In many respects we are closer today to the questions of the 19th century than to the revolutionary history of the 20th. A wide variety of 19th-century phenomena are reappearing: vast zones of poverty, widening inequalities, politics dissolved into the “service of wealth”, the nihilism of large sections of the young, the servility of much of the intelligentsia….”

    By servility of the intelligentsia, he couldn’t possibly mean those Nice Polite Republicans that Hugh refers to above, could he?

    Nah, those are independent, no holds barred, hard-hitting, left-leaning journalists, and the Powers That Be are just *terrified* of them.

  36. Obsvr-1

    The Creature From Jekyll Island should be a must read by all of the congress in addition to reading and more importantly upholding the US Constitution.

    Steve Keen is a must, his model of the Minsky Hypothesis and work explaining the Debt based MMT is exceptional and spot on in predicting and explaining the financial crisis.

    Ron Paul’s End the FED

    For a good read check out Prof Hudson’s paper
    “From Marx to Goldman Sachs: The Fictions of Fictitious Capital”

    The global economic system is sitting on top of a broken foundation based on the fiat debt based USD – totally corrupted by the cartel of banksters and the FED. The collapse (destruction) of the system started in 1913 when the FED was created.

    The American masses need to support those who espouse a sound money system by Ending the FED, taking the monopoly of money creation away from the private bankers, Nationalizing the Money supply and restoring a free and competitive banking system.

    A huge debt enema will have to been administered to restructure (mark down) the crushing debt load that is suffocating an semblance of a free and competitive market.

  37. readerOfTeaLeaves

    One of the economic problems of greatest interest to me is the problem of externalities, which conventional (neoliberal) econ doesn’t realistically address. So I tend to seek out tomes that explain processes, and have a lot of good footnotes; or else provide interesting historical chronologies, or a focus on the ‘social’ aspects of economic behavior.

    I’ve found the following well worth my time under “economics – must read” titles:

    Easy reading:
    “Adam’s Fallacy: A Guide to Economic Theology” by Duncan Foley (2006). A kind of ‘highlights of significant economists’ in a quick paperback. Makes the point that Adam Smith divorced moral judgments from economic decisions in a way that I think is extremely important.

    Not so easy reading, but well worth the time:
    “A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation”, by Richard Bookstaber (2008). It provides a terrific background to the technical innovations of computing – along with the rise of telecomm and the Internet – of the late 20th century. He includes physics, but it’s very easy to follow and extremely informative to the larger narrative. This book also gives insight into how the culture of Wall Street utilized (and was reshaped by) the financialization that computer technologies enabled. He even manages to make the lowly cockroach worth paying attention to, but I don’t want to spoil it by explaining how he manages this feat.

    “In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988). “, Shoshana Zuboff. (“The Support Economy”, which is about the end of managerial capitalism, was also well worth my time.) Zuboff has a background in social psychology, and because in my own mind the economics field — the Paulsons, Greenspans, even Volkers — fail to view economics as primarily a **social** activity, I don’t find them all that informative, particularly in an era of global communication (which in my view, enhances the ‘social’ in economic behavior; can you say “Facebook”?)

    “The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror”, George Soros covers the topic of ‘externalities’: their complexity, the implications of mispricing them, the disequilibrium they create, their far-reaching economic (and political) consequences better than any ‘economist’ that I’ve ever read. Soros also places social psychology prominently in his economic analyses; his thinking dovetails with Zuboff’s in some interesting ways.
    (I also found “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets” fascinating.)


    Titles no one else seems to read:

    “The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else”, Bernardo De Soto (2000). In my view, De Soto’s work probably served (inadvertantly perhaps) to underpin some of the securitization movement, due to his claims that the way in which we re-present ‘assets’ and convert them into ‘property’ with legal rights lies at the basis of wealth creation and capitalism. I happen to have a strong background interest in literacy and its roots, so this book simply bowled me over — De Soto grasps the cognitive, psychological basis by which people create and treat property. If economics had a subfield of cell biology, this Peruvian thinker would be one of its Francis Crick’s, I suspect.

    “Other People’s Money” by Nomi Prins. Terrific footnotes; the book blew my mind.

    Oil Crusades: America Through Arab Eyes“, Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum (2007). The best explanation that I’ve ever read about how oil underpins financial markets (which was evident during the speculation spikes of July 2008). This book offered me a completely different perspective from anything else that I’ve read – and so that’s a good reason for me to note it here. I figure that anything that opens my eyes to a view of the world that is different from my own is of value to me. Zalloum makes a very interesting case that (from the perspective of many Arabs, or of Islamic beliefs) contemporary neoclassical capitalism divorces ethics from economic behavior (Duncan Foley makes precisely the same point, FWIW, and arguably Yves and other contemporary writers make the identical point). He makes some very interesting observations about fundamentalism – both Christian and Islamic – and the economic conditions in which these have arisen post-WWII. So it’s not about monetary theory at all, but it’s a darn interesting read on the general topic of ‘economics’, in today’s world.

    Finally, “Not One Drop”, Riki Ott, about the ExxonValdez oil spill of 1998. It’s not a conventional economics tome, and only certain sections of the book focus on economics, per se. But nothing that I’ve ever read covers the whole issue of economic ‘externalities’ with the detail and long timeline, and global perspective, of this PhD in marine biology.

    Econned. Compendious, terrific dry wit, and searing insights. Just love it.

    Very kind of Yves (and any readers who might chance on this item) to indulge such a long, eclectic list.

    I have a feeling that Bruce Johnson’s rec, above, is probably one of the most timely, paradigm-shifting items on this thread.

  38. ChrisPacific

    Timely topic as I recently decided I needed to educate myself a bit better on this subject.

    I took a look at the economics section in the local library this weekend, recognized a few names, and decided to go with Keen to start. I’ve read him online occasionally and he seems willing to think and reason and to test his hypotheses against real world observations, two qualities I have found notably lacking in orthodox writing. I was interested to find that not only did the library have a copy of Econned but it was currently on loan. Obviously people are reading it.

    I had actually been planning to start at the beginning with Adam Smith, but was unable to find him. I’m also interested in reading Keynes if only to find out what he actually said (and gain a better understanding of why his devotees seem so prone to nonsensical proposals like blowing up a million houses).

    I remember they had quite a bit of Galbraith so maybe I’ll try him next, as I see he has been recommended in the OP and some of the comments.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      JK Galbraith is, by far and away, the easiest to read of the major 20th century economists. Not because his ideas are particularly simple – au contraire – but because he was a fine writer (a rarity among 20th century economists – even Keynes, as high-flown as his prose was, it was often remarkably unclear).

      If you want to go back to the origins, maybe you should try Galbraith’s ‘A History of Economics’ (published in 1987, as was I – and thus pretty much up-to-date). Penguin has a nice paperback bind that doesn’t cost much; his writing is concise and its interesting to read the perspective of someone who was front and center of about 30% of the history he writes about.

      1. ChrisPacific

        Thank you, that sounds exactly what I’m looking for.

        Readability is an important criterion for me – I’m all too familiar with the typical academic writing style and this is not a topic I need to know about for my day job. Realistically if I don’t find a book at least somewhat interesting, I’m unlikely to finish it (or retain much of it even if I do).

  39. solo

    Ms. Smith’s criticisms are spot on. I would add only the convergence of the “crowd pleasing” slop with neoclassical economic slop, whose “crowd” of succor is bourgeois ideology–capitalism is a good deal for all, etc. Likewise the overall theme concerning “the economy”: Thou Shalt Not Be Aware. (Go home after your rat race day, turn on the TV and see what “the economy” did that day.)

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I really like Heilbroner, not having him on the list was a big oversight.

      Another good book of his is Behind the Veil of Economics.

  40. lxm

    Nice thread.

    I don’t know why there is so much hostility to NPR. I like it. Best radio on the air. By far. I thought Planet Money and This American Life did some excellent reporting early on in the financial crisis.

    I really enjoyed Taibbi’s Griftopia. Great read, though more about power than economics. And I found Taleb’s The Black Swan eye opening.

  41. Allen

    Let’s not forget:
    “Beyond Our Means” (1987!) by Alfred L. Malabre
    “Bad Money” (2008) by Kevin P. Phillips
    “The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior and the New Science of Socionomics” by Robert R. Prechter, Jr.

    Every other economic interview on NPR is with good old Mark
    Zandi of crash-facilitating Moody’s; that zeros out their
    credibility with me.

  42. TDK

    One that hasn’t been mentioned yet is Marjorie Kelly’s “The Divine Right of Capital”.

    And I’ll second the recommendations on Chang’s “Bad Samaritans”, Galbraith’s “The Predator State”, and, of course, “ECONned”.

  43. Dennis

    What do you have against All the Devils are here Yvves?
    I thought it was a pretty good book, covers a lot of Rubinite bullshit that went on under the Clinton presidency. I guess it seemed overly focused on Merryl and O’Neal…

      1. Dennis

        I did — But your criticism of the ‘main’ crisis book, the big short, seems to be based on upside down focus of Lewis’ approach in lionizing the hedgies who profited from the crash.
        And I dont think that criticism applies to all the devils are here.

  44. financial matters

    Why eschew crisis books? Yours is the best and most comprehensive. Stiglitzs Freefall is a close second. More general and macroeconomic. Talebs Black Swan is beautiful. Roubini is very analytical in Crisis Economics.. Simon Johnsons 13 Bankers shows us how Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson fought similar battles against powerful banking interests…

    1. Deus-DJ

      Stiglitz’s book has some nice quotable lines but I found it terribly lacking in some respects…for the same reasons I find his other books lacking. The only one that had some degree of substance to it was globalization and it’s discontents

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Can you not read? I have a conflict of interest, and having chronicled the crisis in minute detail while it was happening (I’ve been footnoted in academic papers) I have trouble with a quite a few of the journalistic accounts (including ones recommended in comments). Many have pretty significant errors in the reporting of events and the details of finance tradecraft.

      1. financial matters

        I find that they complement each other. Ecconed definitely wins on financial tradecraft. Stiglitz steps back and looks more at the overall picture (externalities). Simon provides some interesting history even pre WWII. Taleb gets us thinking outside the bell shaped curve..

  45. David R

    RE: Planet Money / NPR — I think it’s important to distinguish NPR reporting generally from Planet Money reporting in particular. They’re both bad, but since PM is a small, (more-or-less) independent group, it doesn’t have as much of an excuse. They could be doing a whole lot better.

    I don’t think Planet Money is full of neoliberal economists — in fact, few if any working there have any economics training at all. The problem is that Adam Davidson ( is so sure of himself and convincing in a “common-sense” way, that the other members of the ‘team’ — well meaning, liberal-arts journalists — fall for it.

    And if all else fails, they’ve got a “oh, everything’s so complicated, everybody shares in the blame” fallback schtick that prevents any fingers from being pointed in the correct direction.

  46. Greg S

    I did not see Peter Bernstein’s “Against the Gods, The remarkable Story of Risk” mentioned. It has done more for my understanding of the current situation than anything else I have come across (except maybe Econned):-).

  47. securecare

    The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence” – Benoit Mandelbrot (yep, the man of fractals; he started looking into the behavior of the Egyptian cotton market & came up with fractals (w/lots of references))

    Political Control of the Economy” – Edward R. Tufte (yep, that design, graphics & statistics guy)

    The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society” – James R. Beniger (the Information Age began w/the railroads & how it changed the economy leading to advertising etc)

    Without Marx or Jesus – Jean-Francois Revel

  48. Bernard

    Just what i was looking for, good books to learn from. thanks a million for having this topic.

    I stopped listening to NPR with the Iraq war. Listening to “embedded” lies and other BS was too much. proved how Nice Polite Republicans would wage a war and speak nicely about it. Sick people.

    It’s good to see what is highly recommended.

  49. Patrice

    NPR (National Propaganda Radio) are peddling what Glenn Greenwald refers to as:

    “vapid notions of “civility” …as a means of justifying what they’re actually advocating (we may be defending repulsive and destructive ideas – we’re cheering on wars and insisting on legal immunity for torturers – but at least we’re doing it in a soft-spoken manner while sitting in plush think tank conference rooms with name plates and pitchers of water, which entitles us to respect and deference).”

    War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

    1. Bev

      I like your description better.

      Though descriptive naming (calling) can alert, inform one of a truer reality, what is needed is the ability to describe in a way to increase the ability to change things.

      Perhaps a better naming strategy is to hold them accountable in an important way–legally–by calling them co-conspirators deserving of being RICOed for their part in this predatory damage. It might be worth a try.

      Important because:

      Republicans’ 2010 election triumph will fuel civilization’s demise, Chomsky says

      By Nathan Diebenow
      Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

      The Republican Party’s triumph in the 2010 congressional elections, coupled with the rapid depletion of the earth’s natural resources, signaled the impending collapse of human civilization, according to a world-renowned scholar known for his left-wing politics.

      “You could almost interpret [the election] as a kind of a death knell for the species,” Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a recent interview.

      But he’s not the only one worried; the US business press is, too.

  50. Deus-DJ

    Ok people enough of the hits against NPR, it is quite clear many of you are unable to distinguish between differing types of liberalism. NPR liberalism is one rooted in an idealism and romanticism that all of us should just get along, in one that is intentionally against pessimism, and that loves the arts(this goes along with the “we should all just get along” ethos). NPR liberalism is simply misguided, but because it is misguided does not mean it is not liberal, so enough…and if you give me an annoying rebuttal you will regret it dearly.

  51. David

    Are there any decent introductory economic textbooks that are reasonably well written, reasonably complete but not too long, and not propaganda ? Hopefully with references and I don’t mind if they are mathematical.


  52. Daedelus

    Cooper’s book is good, but it also endorsed by The Economist, which shows in the content: essentially, that more management, more centralization, more bureaucracy, more power to a ‘system of governors’ is the answer. Is it, really? I smell a rat here.

  53. Stromswold

    One of my favorite books of all time is “The Origin of Wealth” by Eric Beinhocker. Does anyone else have a comment this book? I would give not one, not two, but at least three thumbs up to “The Origin of Financial Crises” by George Cooper, even if I don’t necessarily agree with his ultimate recommendations to solve things. And I don’t know how it would be possible to NOT like “Traders, Guns & Money.”

  54. Bev


    John Perkins

    “HOODWINKED: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets IMPLODED–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them”


    “It is accomplishing an important objective in inspiring people to think and talk and to know that we can change the world.”Confessions of an Economic Hit Man reveals a game that, according to John Perkins, is “as old as Empire” but has taken on new and terrifying dimensions in an era of globalization. And Perkins should know. For many years he worked for an international consulting firm where his main job was to convince LDCs (less developed countries) around the world to accept multibillion-dollar loans for infrastructure projects and to see to it that most of this money ended up at Halliburton, Bechtel, Brown and Root, and other United States engineering and construction companies. This book, which many people warned Perkins not to write, is a blistering attack on a little-known phenomenon that has had dire consequences on both the victimized countries and the U.S.

    John Perkins links to this article:

    31 Ways to Jump Start the Local Economy

    by Sarah van Gelder
    posted May 07, 2009

    How to make it with less, share more, and put people and the planet first


    This Yes magazine article looks great, and what you can direct Public State Banks, cash, or silver toward.

  55. Hugh

    For those interested, here is a not quite complete list of texts mentioned in this thread:

    Alain Badiou: The Communist Hypothesis

    Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy: Monopoly Capital

    Larry Bartels: Unequal Democracy

    Eric Beinhocker: The Origin of Wealth

    John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff: The Great Financial Crisis

    James R. Beniger: The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society

    Peter Bernstein: Against the Gods, The remarkable Story of Risk

    William K. Black: The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One

    Fred Block: The Origins Of The International Economic Disorder

    Richard Bookstaber: A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation

    Robert Brenner: Boom And The Bubble

    Robert Brenner: The Economics of Global Turbulence

    John Brooks: Once in Golconda

    John Cassidy: Dot.Con: The Greatest Story Ever Sold

    John Cassidy: How Markets Fail

    Ha-Joon Chang: 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

    Ha-Joon Chang: Bad Samaritans

    Ha-Joon Chang: Kicking Away the Ladder

    George Cooper: The Origin of Financial Crises

    Satyajit Das: Traders, Guns and Money

    Alexander del Mar: The Science of Money
    The History of Precious Metals
    Money & Civilization
    The History of Monetary Systems
    The History of Money in America
    A History of Monetary Crimes
    Middle Ages Revisited

    John Dewey: The Public and Its Problems

    Thomas Ferguson: The Golden Rule

    Irving Fisher: 1933. Econometrica: “The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions”

    Thomas Frank: One Market Under God

    Jamie Galbraith: The Predator State

    John Kenneth Galbraith: The Great Crash 1929

    John Kenneth Galbraith: A History of Economics

    John Kenneth Galbraith: The New Industrial State

    John Kenneth Galbraith: A Short History of Financial Euphoria

    Charles Geist: Wall Street: A History

    Andrew Glyn: Capitalism Unleashed

    James Grant: Money of the Mind

    William Greider: Secrets of the Temple

    G. Edward Griffin: The Creature From Jekyll Island.

    Tim Harford: The Undercover Economist

    Robert Heilbroner: Behind the Veil of Economics

    Robert Heilbroner: The Human Prospect

    Robert Heilbroner: The Making of Economic Society” (7th Ed.)

    Doug Henwood: After the New Economy

    Albert Hirschmann: The Passions & the Interests

    J.Rogers Hollingsworth: The Whirligig Of Politics (about the politics and political economy of Cleveland and Bryan in the late 19th century)

    Michael Hudson: Global Fracture: The New International Economic order

    Michael Hudson: Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance

    Michael Hudson: Trade, Development and Foreign Debt

    Simon Johnson: 13 Bankers

    Michal Kalecki: Theory of Economic Dynamics

    Steve Keen: Debunking Economics

    Marjorie Kelly: The Divine Right of Capital

    Charles Kindleberger: Manias, Panics and Crashes

    Charles Kindleberger: The World In Depression, 1929 – 1939

    Naomi Klein: Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

    Richard Koo: Holy Grail of Macroeconomics

    David Landes: The Unbound Prometheus

    Roger Lowenstein: When Genius Failed

    Charles Mackay: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

    Alfred L. Malabre: Beyond Our Means” (1987)

    Benoit Mandelbrot: The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence

    Michael Mandler: Dilemmas in Economic Theory: Persisting Foundational Problems of Microeconomics

    Deidre McCloskey: The Rhetoric Of Economics

    Hyman Minsky: John Maynard Keynes

    Hyman Minsky: Stabilizing an Unstable Economy

    Philip Mirowski: More Light than Heat: Economics as Social Physics

    Basil Moore: Horizontalists and Verticalists: The Macroeconomics of Credit Money
    Barrington Moore: The Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy

    Robert Nadeau: The Wealth of Nature: How Mainstream Economics Has Failed the Environment

    R. T. Naylor (the Canadian social economist): Hot Money and the Politics of Debt

    Douglass North & Robert Paul Thomas: The Rise of the Western World

    David Orrell: Economyths: Ten Ways Economics Gets it Wrong

    Frank Partnoy: Fiasco

    John Perkins: Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man

    John Perkins: Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why The World Financial Markets Imploded–And What We Need To Do To Remake Them

    Carlota Perez: Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital

    Michael Pettis: The Volatility Machine

    Kevin P. Phillips: Bad Money (2008)

    Karl Polanyi: The Great Transformation

    Robert R. Prechter, Jr: The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior and the New Science of Socionomics

    Nomi Prins: It Takes a Pillage

    Nomi Prins: Other People’s Money

    John Quiggin: Zombie Economics

    Eric Reinert: How Rich Countries Get Rich, Why Poor Countries Stay Poor

    Carmen Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff: This Time is Different

    Jean-Francois Revel: Without Marx or Jesus

    Herman Schwartz: Subprime Nation

    Nicholas Shaxson: Treasure Islands

    Yves Smith: Econned

    George Soros: The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror

    Joseph Stiglitz: Freefall

    Joseph Stiglitz: Globalization and its Discontents

    Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff: Economic History As It Happened, Volume IV: Stagnation and the Financial Explosion

    Nassim Taleb: Black Swan

    E.P. Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class

    E.P. Thompson: Whigs and Hunters (rents in the 18th Century)

    Susan and Martin Tolchin: Dismantling America: The Rush to Deregulate

    Edward R. Tufte: Political Control of the Economy

    David Wessel: In Fed We Trust

  56. Kit

    I saw two mentions of Kevin Phillips’s “Bad Money,” which I too would recommend. But I also think “American Theocracy” is an outstanding read. Despite it’s title it paints with a wide, historic brush the trinity of energy policy, national debt levels, and fundamentalist religion. Bad Money is a sequel to the debt portion of A.T.

    Phillips gets the big picture correct. It’s more a history book than a wonkish econ book, but I think both Bad Money and American Theocracy are required reading.

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