Shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, a Russian bureaucrat travelled to the west to seek advice on how the market system functioned. He asked the economist Paul Seabright to explain who was in charge of the supply of bread to London. He was astonished by the answer: “Nobody.”
I have to mention a New York Times op-ed in which Roger Cohen can barely contain his glee at the fate of the “masters of the universe” who may now be seeking alternate employement. I sympathize:
Nothing like a good financial mess to underscore just how little anyone really understands the “economy”. By which I probably mean the financial system. I think. There’s also nothing like a good financial mess to slaughter in cold blood any chance I ever had of convincing anyone that economics is not the same as finance.
He added, “Senator McCain – you can’t run away from your words and you can’t run away from your record. When it comes to this economy, you’ve stood firmly with George Bush and a failed economic theory, and what you’re offering the American people is more of the same.”
I’ve gotten used to ignoring iTunes pining for one upgrade or another – seems to happen every other time I start it up – but, this time, the promise of the Genius was too tempting to ignore.
A brief interlude to recommend “Economics From The Heart“, a collection of short Paul Samuelson columns from the 60s through the 90s. Doesn’t look like it’s in print, but you can get it used for cheap on Amazon. It’s entertaining stuff, not just as a document of historical op-ed economics:
From the New York Times:
A few years ago I took a course called “Economics of OECD Countries” with a wonderful teacher, Gavin Cameron, who sadly passed away recently. It was really an economic history course; we took a few big, general, flexible models from macroeconomics and used them to talk about the last hundred years in the rich countries of the world – the Great Depression, oil shocks, the ‘Golden Age’ of growth, the rise of computers, productivity. It wasn’t an especially politicized class, just nuts and bolts economics, but I’ll be forever grateful not just for learning a bit of history but for learning that a little model goes a long, long way.