An old Wall Street adage holds that if all the world's economists were laid end to end, they would never reach a conclusion. Ormerod suffers from no such inadequacy in this vigorous, informed, and thoughtful critique of the dismal science. According to Ormerod, classical free-market economics has not been very helpful during the latter half of the 20th century in explaining, let alone solving, the Global Village's economic problems. Despite the high regard in which they are still held throughout the West, he charges, most if not all economists cling to ossified orthodoxies that provide precious little perspective on an increasingly complex world. In making a persuasive case against the discipline that, broadly speaking, studies the production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of goods and services, Ormerod (an English businessman and former head of economic assessment at the Economist) reviews the work of economic pioneers, arguing that over the years, once-exciting theories or constructs gained the status of doctrine; in the meantime, economists (envious of the certainties vouchsafed their counterparts in the physical sciences) became hooked on math and modeling. Ormerod maintains that society has paid a high price for their tendency to take a linear, mechanistic view of commerce and industry. By way of example, he cites the challenge of business cycles, government spending, inflation, and unemployment, all of which continue to confound policy makers and their principal advisors, the economists. Arguing that there are links between joblessness and price levels that could be discerned and exploited via more insightful, less inflexible inquiries into human as well as statistical factors, Ormerod offers a wealth of proposals as to how creative economics could yield substantive benefits for the body politic. An effective indictment of (rather than an obituary for) a branch of learning that's overdue for renewal.
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