Monday, August 01, 2005

Radical Economics Textbook

I was rummaging through some of my old books yesterday and found one of the economics textbooks I used in college, the 1972 first edition of Economics an introduction to traditional and radical views by E. K. Hunt and Howard J. Sherman. The textbook breaks from the Paul Samuelson textbook tradition by presenting a history of economics, a radical critique of capitalism, and a measured presentation of communist and socialist economics as practiced by the Soviet Union and communist China.

The year 1972 was an interesting time for the publication of a radical economics textbook. The U. S. had just abandoned the gold standard for international payments, President Nixon had just imposed price and wage controls, the oil price shocks of the seventies were still in the future, and the stagflation of the seventies was still in its nascent stage.

By the end of the seventies the neoclassical school of economics was on the rise. Some Nobel Laureates in economics were proclaiming the death of Keynesianism. Keynesianism did not die and the more extreme ideas from neoclassical economics do not dominate as they once did for a few years.

Advances in mainstream economics during the past 30 years should not be totally despised. New theories as to why aggregate supply is as important as aggregate demand in understanding the economy, how central banks can alleviate some of the more wild swings in the business cycle via the application of "Taylor Rules", and how global unregulated financial markets can destroy whole economies have been developed and applied.

Scanning the textbook, I find Hunt and Sherman prescient when discussing problems with unfettered global markets, U. S. Imperialism during military build-ups, fair and equitable distribution of income, and the persistent misery in underdeveloped countries.

Two years before studying Hunt and Sherman, I read Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts in Erich Fromm's Marx's Concept of Man for a philosophy class. That made me more open to the ideas contained in Hunt and Sherman.

In 1998 I decided to educate myself about 'modern' economics. I read a lot of books, some of the significant papers from the past 35 years, and graduate seminar lecture notes I found on the Internet. It turned out to be an enjoyable experience. I also became of aware of some of the ideas floating around in the heterodox economic school. One thing I felt from studying economic papers of the recent past is that they have become vacuous exercises in mathematical modeling. What makes heterodox economics interesting is that it applies a multi-discipline approach to studying economics and applies a more realistic research program about our economics natures.

My curiosity is piqued about Hunt and Sherman. It seems suitably heterodox, so I will reread the textbook again.


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