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The Economists' Hour

False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society
Written by: Binyamin Appelbaum
Narrated by: Dan Bittner
Length: 13 hrs and 18 mins
3 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this fascinating character-driven history, a New York Times editorial writer and Pulitzer Prize finalist spotlights the American economists who championed the rise of markets and fundamentally reshaped the modern world.

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 - first in the United States and then around the world as their ideas inspired nations to curb government, unleash corporations, and hasten globalization.

Milton Friedman's libertarian ideals, Arthur Laffer's supply-side economics and Paul Volcker's austere campaign against inflation all left a profound mark on American life. So did lesser-known figures like Walter Oi, a blind economist whose calculations influenced President Nixon's decision to end military conscription; Alfred Kahn, who deregulated air travel; and Thomas Schelling, who put a dollar value on human life.

The economists promised steady growth and broadly-shared prosperity, but they failed to deliver. Instead, the single-minded embrace of markets has come at the expense of soaring economic inequality, the faltering health of liberal democracy, and the prospects of future generations.

Timely, engaging, and expertly researched, The Economists' Hour is a "powerful must-read" (Mohamed A. El-Erian, New York Times best-selling author) about the rise and fall of a revolution - and a compelling call for people to retake control of markets.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Binyamin Appelbaum (P)2019 Hachette Audio

What the critics say

"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 best sellers When Markets Collide and The Only Game in Town)

"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)

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  • Fountain of Chris
  • 2019-09-06

One-sided ridicule of economists

This is not necessarily a criticism of the book, but it almost seems like this was written in 2009, stored on a hard drive for a decade, and then had a concluding chapter slapped on so it could be published in 2019. What I mean is that one should not go into this expecting a detailed breakdown of how what economists did from 1960-2010 got us to where we are today.

As one would expect from a lead writer on The New York Times' Editorial Board, the book is well-written and accessible. It is written for the layperson, but does have a rather obvious leftward bias. That doesn't make it right or wrong, but it is something to be aware of going in. Appelbaum chooses Milton Friedman as his principle antagonist, with a shift toward Greenspan in the book's final chapters.

You'll be left with a generally negative perception of economists, whether or not that was Appelbaum's intention - My guess is that it was. There is no mention of liberal economists like Paul Krugman or Robert Reich, passing reference to Joseph Stiglitz, and nothing said about Thomas Piketty's 600-page bestselling economics book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century".

I thought "The Economist's Hour" as a concept had a lot of potential. There are a lot of growing pains associated with economics as it has come to prominence, but I think Appelbaum let his initial thesis be combined with confirmation bias as he made his case.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-11-04

Fantastic, Engaging, Packed with Knowledgeable Insights!

Heard about this book while listening to NPR Marketplace. Kai said the book was fascinating, and it was! Not something I would typically listen to, but loved it. Great story content, which brought to life economies and the history of markets. Thank you to the author for researching and writing the book and creating a fantastic audio book. The clarity, tone, inflection and pace of the reader was perfect.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Heather Phillips
  • 2019-11-01

excellent narrative explanation

I really enjoyed listening to this. The book is filled with quotes that lend highly relevant perspective on how we got where we are today with regard to economics and economic thinking. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • H. Suarez M.
  • 2019-10-07

Excellent!

One of the best books on the historical relationship between Economists and Politicians in modern tines .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Owen Davis
  • 2019-10-24

Good book, lacking performance

The book is a good popular history of the rightward turn in 20th century politics and the role libertarian and neoclassical economists played in that shift. Avoids some deeper questions over the nature of economics as a discipline and the role of institutions in shaping ideology. But it's a well written and engaging history.

The performance would have been fine if not for some inexcusable mispronunciations, the most glaring of which is Keynes, which the reader pronounces as if it rhymes with "teens." For an economist of Keynes' towering importance -- and whose name comes up scores of times -- this is inexcusable. For those unfamiliar, imagine a reading of a book on classical philosophy which pronounces Socrates as the English words "sew" and "crates." It's that bad. Almost made me turn it off. How did no one catch this?