A Guide to What's Wrong with Economics.

Author:Leathers, Charles G.
Position:Book review

A Guide to What's Wrong with Economics, edited by Edward Fullbrook. London: Anthem Press. 2004. Paper: ISBN 1843311488, $29.95. 323 pages.

This is a collection of twenty-seven essays plus an introduction entitled "Broadband versus Narrowband Economics" by the editor. Edward Fullbrook argues that dating from the 1960s a number of factors resulted in neoclassical economists narrowing the economics curriculum, excluding nonneoclassical economists from employment, and formalizing neoclassical theory to the point of irrelevance. He cites three of those factors: a delusion on the part of neoclassical economists that mathematics alone makes for an exact science; requirement of the belief that neoclassical theory explains all economic phenomena; and a failure to recognize the evolutionary changes that have occurred in the economy which neoclassical theory is incapable of explaining.

None of this is new, of course, to readers of Veblen, Commons, Galbraith, and the Journal of Economic Issues! But to shed more light on what the editor describes as "accelerating momentum for radical change" (p. 5), twenty-seven economists and two mathematicians from around the world contributed essays that were intended to accomplish three things for students: provide some protection against indoctrination by narrow-based neoclassical theory; provide ideas for class discussion; and show that broadband economics is interesting and relevant.

The essays are grouped in seven parts. The six essays in part 1 are under the heading "Basic Problems." Written by leading scholars in evolutionary-institutional and Post Keynesian economics, this is by far the most interesting set of essays in the book. Unfortunately, space permits only samples that particularly appealed to this reviewer. Hugh Stretton sets the right tone with his introductory statement that "[n]othing's necessarily wrong with economics. But there isn't a one-and-only right way to learn it" (p. 9). Anne Mayhew's essay, "Where Do Economies Come From: The Missing Story," makes the excellent point that "[e]conomies are made by human beings interacting with each other in a variety of ways. If they are made by humans, they can be changed by humans. That is the powerful message that is absent from the economics textbooks" (p. 56). Geoffrey M. Hodgson provides a powerful methodological conclusion to this first set of essays by posing (and answering) the question "Can Economics Start from the Individual Alone?" He argues...

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