On Our Shelves Now
A "lively and entertaining" (Liaquat Ahamed, The New Yorker) history of ideas and an unforgettable portrait of power, New York Times editorial writer Binyamin Appelbaum tells the story of the people who sparked four decades of economic revolution.Before the 1960s, American politicians had never paid much attention to economists. But as the post-World War II boom began to sputter, economists gained influence and power.
In The Economists' Hour, Binyamin Appelbaum traces the rise of the economists, first in the United States and then around the globe, as their ideas reshaped the modern world, curbing government, unleashing corporations and hastening globalization.
Some leading figures are relatively well-known, such as Milton Friedman, the elfin libertarian who had a greater influence on American life than any other economist of his generation, and Arthur Laffer, who sketched a curve on a cocktail napkin that helped to make tax cuts a staple of conservative economic policy.
Others stayed out of the limelight, but left a lasting impact on modern life: Walter Oi, a blind economist who dictated to his wife and assistants some of the calculations that persuaded President Nixon to end military conscription; Alfred Kahn, who deregulated air travel and rejoiced in the crowded cabins on commercial flights as the proof of his success; and Thomas Schelling, who put a dollar value on human life.
Their fundamental belief? That government should stop trying to manage the economy.
Their guiding principle? That markets would deliver steady growth, and ensure that all Americans shared in the benefits.
But the Economists' Hour failed to deliver on its promise of broad prosperity. And the single-minded embrace of markets has come at the expense of economic equality, the health of liberal democracy, and future generations.
Timely, engaging and expertly researched, The Economists' Hour is a reckoning-and a call for people to rewrite the rules of the market.
About the Author
Binyamin Appelbaum writes about economics and business for the editorial page of The New York Times. From 2010 to 2019, he was a Washington correspondent for the Times, covering economic policy in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. He previously worked for The Charlotte Observer, where his reporting on subprime lending won a George Polk Award and was a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize.
entertaining...The Economists' Hour is a reminder of the power of ideas to
shape the course of history."—Liaquat Ahamed, The New Yorker
"Appelbaum presents a
series of persuasive recommendations... If policy makers want ordinary Americans
to appreciate the benefits of open trade, they must ensure that displaced
workers have access to training and health care. Because some interest groups
are weaker than others, government should correct the double standard by which
the power of labor unions is regarded with antipathy but the power of business
monopolies is tolerated. Well-heeled professional cartels, such as associations
of real-estate agents who extract 6 percent commissions from hapless home
sellers, should be eyed with suspicion. Progressives should look for ways to be
pro-competition but anti-inequality."—Sebastian Mallaby, The Atlantic
"The Economists' Hour is a work of journalism rather than polemic. It is a well reported and researched history of the ways in which plucky economists helped rewrite policy in America and Europe and across emerging markets."—Minneapolis Tribune
"A compelling new book."—John Hardwood, CNBC
"Highly readable biography of big economic personalities."—Axios
"The New York Times financial writer maps the advance of economists-from the Kennedy administration onward-out of the academy and into government, elevating free markets in the sausage-making of public policy and sparking the inequity that plagues us today."—O Magazine
"A thoughtful history
of the role of economists in U.S. government and public policy debates...This
work offers an intelligent assessment of free-market thought in modern times
and the resultant policies and should prove of interest to those interested in
public policy."—Library Journal
"This thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and critical account of the economic philosophies that have reigned for the past half century powerfully indicts them."—Publisher Weekly (starred)
"Writing in accessible language of thorny fiscal matters, the author ventures into oddly fascinating corners of recent economic history...Anyone who wonders why government officials still take the Laffer curve seriously need go no further than this lucid book."—Kirkus
"I very much enjoyed reading The Economists' Hour, an entertaining and well-written look at how market-oriented ideas rose from the academy and transformed nations. I do not agree with each and every perspective, but found this a valuable and highly recommendable book, which I devoured in a single sitting."—Tyler Cowen, author of The Great Stagnation
"Binyamin Appelbaum has written a powerful must-read for all those interested in reinvigorating the credibility of economics, especially in policymaking circles. Through an engaging discussion of how economists' influence grew and spread, he shows how free-market economics evolved into an over-promising 'affirming religion,' only to disappoint too many of its followers and lead others astray. His insightful analysis also helps us identify what's needed to ensure that the market economy remains 'one of humankinds most awesome inventions.'"—Mohamed A. El-Erian, author of New York Times bestsellers When Markets Collide and The Only Game in Town