A second-generation economist lays out a highly challenging, seven-step framework for grasping mind-bending economic principles.
Palda (Pareto’s Republic and the New Science of Peace, 2012), who, like his father before him, earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, issues a frank warning in his preface. What follows, he cautions, is not predigested economics-made-easy for dilettantes with a momentary interest in the dismal science; this will be the hard stuff, albeit distilled to offer the possibility of understandability. The reward for readers who persevere, he says, will be a glimmering comprehension of economics, not only as a rapidly evolving science, but as one of the crowning humanities, laden with insights into what holds societies together and what brings them to ruin. It’s distinctly disappointing, then, when the opening chapter, on the weighty subject of substitution, sinks at once into a tedious explanation of how price and budget will determine how many cans of caviar and beans a consumer may buy—which unfortunately elicits the cliché of economist-as-bean-counter. Happily, the book recovers nearly immediately, and the concept gradually emerges in its overarching splendor, ably explicated by the author. He backs up his apprenticeship program with liberal references to a select group of economists, including a few Nobel laureates. He then considers questions of time, chance, space and equilibrium from an economic perspective, which leads to final chapters on game theory and control. That said, the book’s often opaque economics jargon can be overwhelming, and whole pages may go by with average readers catching no more than smidgens of meaning. However, the author surely deserves credit for at least occasionally offering clear glimpses into vast fields of economic thought and for making such material a little less alien to committed readers.
A challenging economics overview that may need to be read more than once.