Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reading List for Political Economic Thought

I get the honor of teaching "Political Economic Thought" again this spring.  I taught it also in spring 2011 (discussion  here).  It was an amazingly fun class to teach, as I got to work with some of our best students, to understand and dissect political and economic points of view from both the left and the right.  Several of the books are holdovers from the last time, but there are five new additions.

As of now, here's the tentative reading list:

Friedman, Milton.  “Capitalism and Freedom, Fortieth Anniversary Version.”  The University of Chicago Press.  2002.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engles.  “The Communist Manifesto.”  Signet Classic.  1998.

Sowell, Thomas.  “The Quest for Cosmic Justice.”  Simon & Schuster.  1999.

Sowell, Thomas.  “The Housing Boom and Bust.”  Simon & Schuster.  2009. 

* Stiglitz, Joseph E.  “The Price of Inequality.”  W.W. Norton.  2012

Powell, Jim.  “FDR’s Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression.”  Three Rivers Press.  2003. 

* Krugman, Paul. “End this Depression Now.”  W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  2012. 

* Londsburg, Steven.  “The Armchair Economist.”  Free Press.  2012.
* Cowen, Tyler.  “The Great Stagnation.”.  2011.

Thaler, Richard H. and Cass R. Sunstein. “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Revised and Expanded Edition.”  Penguin Books.  2009.

* Conard, Edward.  “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything you’ve been told about the Economy is Wrong.”  Penguin Books Ltd.  2012

The books with an asterisk (*) next to them are new additions. I cut out 3 books, and am reducing the coverage in Sowell's "The Housing Boom and Bust" to about 1/3 of the book, and Thaler and Sunstein's book to about 1/2 of the book.  

The new books are outstanding, in my opinion.  I definitely think Krugman's is better than the one we had in last time - and he's not nearly as vile or mean-spirited as you see in his blog or NY Times columns.  Cowen's short book is fascinating and has been a big source of discussion over the past 18 months in the econ-blogosphere.  Londsburg's book shows many great ways to think about problems in an unconventional way - and points out many errors columnists made but could have avoided using economic reasoning.

Conard's, however is the addition I'm most excited about.  I actually learned something I was teaching wrong in my principles classes.  He has a discussion of median incomes across demographic groups that is worth far more than the price for the whole book.

As with last time - we have several writers from the left and right, and a couple that are more politically centered.  It should be a great course.

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